Mr. Corman season 1, episode 3 recap – “Happy Birthday”

August 26, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Apple TV+, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Happy Birthday” cracks a window into Josh’s strained relationships with his mother and sister, amounting to a low-key though quietly tragic conclusion

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3.5

Summary

“Happy Birthday” cracks a window into Josh’s strained relationships with his mother and sister, amounting to a low-key though quietly tragic conclusion

This recap of Mr. Corman season 1, episode 3, “Happy Birthday”, contains spoilers.


I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Giri/Haji – it was a BBC production that you can stream on Netflix – but I was reminded of it in “Happy Birthday”, the third episode of Apple TV+’s Mr. Corman. That might be overselling things, obviously. But there’s a moment in Giri/Haji, which is otherwise a serious crime drama, in which all the major characters perform an interpretive dance sequence completely out of nowhere. It’s a shock, at first, but it’s so poignant that it eventually moved me to tears. I can’t say that Josh performing a song-and-dance number with his mother here is quite the same, but it at least followed the same trajectory of immediately ridiculous and then gradually, surprisingly touching.

Mr. Corman season 1, episode 3 recap

Of course, Mr. Corman has already established that it isn’t afraid to be weird and a little bit surreal; each of the first two episodes had similarly dreamlike interludes that seemed to take place in a kind of pocket dimension where the reality of the show didn’t apply but the emotional undercurrents had come to the boil. That’s most obvious here in a scene that plays out in a great torrent of truth… until crash-landing back to reality leaves it all painfully unsaid.

Ruth (Debra Winger) seems like exactly the kind of mother Josh would have. She’s impatient and snappy and seemingly convinced that at any moment he’s going to ruin something. With details of Josh’s childhood still thin on the ground, though the specter of potential abuse hovering close, it’s hard to know what to make of Ruth when we still don’t really know what to make of her son. She’s exasperated, sure, but perhaps she has good reason to be. Josh, after all, can’t help but be himself, even when it’s painfully obvious he’d be better tamping some aspects of his personality down.

His obvious distaste for his brother-in-law is one of those things. His equally obvious love for his niece is nice, though, even if he can’t quite help but share his thoughts on God with her when a more diplomatic answer would clearly have sufficed. There’s no wonder Josh’s mother and sister are worried about him. Perhaps it’s clear to us, having seen his anxiety attacks at their worst, that what he really needs is empathy. But to them he must just come across as arrogant, a whiner, someone who can’t help but cause trouble.

Josh and Ruth working through their issues in a song isn’t just a cutesy stylistic choice. It’s a fanciful way of showing that they can’t say the things they need to say to each other. The song – written by Gordon-Levitt and Nathan Johnson, the show’s composer – is deliberately sentimental, all the better to get how you really feel off your chest. It’s the kind of thing a character in a musical would sing, but not stuff you’d ever say in real life. That’s probably why neither Josh nor Ruth do. They leave their truth unspoken, and the drive back home is in silence.

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