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The Dot and Line

Hollyhock Is a Great Addition to ‘BoJack’ S4. She Should Be More Than a Plot Device.

The one imperfection in a nearly-perfect season.

This post contains spoilers for BoJack Horseman Season 4.

Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack loves apples but hates applesauce. She was the captain of her JV soccer team. And she’s one of the strongest elements of BoJack Horseman’s fourth season.

The show gives viewers the smallest glimpse of Hollyhock at the end of season 3, when she’s attempting to contact BoJack through Princess Carolyn, but this season gives her a full story arc, which makes evident that she’s exactly what the show needed. When she arrives in Los Angeles, she’s just 17 years old — yet she sees right through BoJack’s facades, refusing to let him use his shittiness as an excuse to treat her poorly. The adopted daughter of eight polyamorous fathers, she informs him right off the bat that she’s not looking for a ninth dad in BoJack—who, thanks to the results of a Todd-facilitated DNA test, she believes to be her biological father.

In fact, Hollyhock doesn’t need BoJack at all. She’s looking for her mother. And she won’t take no for an answer.

But Hollyhock contains multitudes. Though she doesn’t need BoJack, she still cares for him, attempting to make him breakfast as a thank you for letting her stay in his house. Though she doesn’t need a grandmother, she insists that BoJack be there for his mother, Beatrice, and attempts to get to know her by patiently sitting with her even as Beatrice insults her figure. And, while she is unafraid to set boundaries with BoJack, she’s forgiving when he regresses into acting in his old ways by lying or putting his foot in his mouth.

That’s not to say Hollyhock doesn’t have fears. She’s an anxious teen, constantly checking her own motives (“I don’t need a mom!…That means my dads weren’t enough for me! And they are!”), dealing with body image issues, and trying to reconcile her biological past. But unlike most of the BoJack cast, she’s ready to confront those fears. Though she wonders whether she’s worthy of love (“Do you ever get that feeling that like, to know you more is to love you less?”), she’s undoubtedly the mentally healthiest of those closest to BoJack because she deals with her emotions upfront. She knows that it’s OK to cry. She knows that the quest to find her biological mother could be painful—but she also has the tenacity and willpower to pursue 23 different women all on her own to uncover the truth.

Yet there’s one major flaw in Hollyhock’s arc that’s of no fault of her own: she’s essentially used as a narrative tool throughout the series. Hollyhock’s actions almost always result in a reaction in BoJack that slowly leads him to some impressive personal growth. She is, for instance, the reason why BoJack visits his mother—living alone with dementia in a nursing home—in the first place, let alone brings her back to his home, as well as the reason we learn much about Beatrice’s past.

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But much of the second half of the season focuses so heavily on the relationship between Beatrice and BoJack that Hollyhock fades into the background—making her storyline, in some ways, a weak point. Hollyhock is present in relatively few episodes, so it’s difficult not to see her as a device used to push the plot further. This is at best a shame and at worst a disservice, considering her strength as a character coupled with all of her extremely relatable human issues. It almost feels as though she’s barely even in the series, but she stands so well on her own that her absence is sorely missed once her role is minimized in the later parts of the season.

But Hollyhock’s character is so compelling that even BoJack, a chronic self-destructor who gives up at the slightest sign of trouble on a relationship’s horizon, can’t stay away.

“She looks like me,” he says, trying to persuade a skeptical hospital employee to let him see her after she collapses. “And she loves apples but hates applesauce, and she’s funny. But she isn’t mean, which is pretty remarkable, ’cause a lot of 17-year-olds think you have to be mean to be funny, but Hollyhock is very sweet. Even if she can be sarcastic. But she has this smile…”

Hell, Hollyhock is so memorable that even Beatrice remembers her. And judging by the smile on BoJack’s face, when he finally realizes it’s not a daughter he has, but a sister—and not only a sister, but this sister—he will, too. Hopefully next season, Hollyhock will get the screen-time and fleshing out that she deserves.

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