“Many Worlds” is surreal and ambitious, but also deeply and powerfully in-character.
This recap of Mr. Corman season 1, episode 7, “Many Worlds”, contains spoilers.
Mr. Corman is a character study, a story of a man living a mundane life he mostly hates. It’s about mental health, in many ways, about how the tendrils of depression and anxiety creep into one’s psyche and soul. As this first season has progressed, though, it has come to focus on the source of Josh Corman’s woes, which seems to be, almost exclusively, regret. He’s mournful of the choices he didn’t make, the paths he left untravelled, the people he left behind as he moved steadily forward to the respectable but bland adulthood the world told him to pursue. He longs for the glitz and glamour of the stage, the beauty of a passion shared with the woman he loves. It was obvious before. But “Many Worlds” makes it crystal clear.
Mr. Corman season 1, episode 7 recap
For a brief moment, I thought the opening of this week’s episode was real; that we were watching a flashback, or that perhaps Josh and Megan had somehow reconciled after their chance meeting at Dax’s funeral and gone off to pursue their music careers as they always dreamed of. Until I saw the hands, that is; two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs reaching to nowhere in particular. If all the world’s a stage, the audience must be a myth, after all.
Josh yawns his way to another reality, a warren of drab office cubicles staffed by more cut-outs; then to car seat shopping with a pregnant girlfriend, browsing aisles that look like they’re stocked with flat pictures from magazines; to a tent; to drinks at a table full of millionaire businessmen. And on and on it goes. The visual effect is striking. Josh is often the only real-looking person or thing in the frame, a real boy wandering through the workshop of imagination. He’s always real, but his various roles and personalities aren’t — they’re imaginary put-ons, the people he might have been had he made different choices. Tellingly, though, in almost every scene, every tableau, he manages to ruin things for himself.
Some people are like that. It doesn’t matter what they do, or what they have; they’re self-destructive in their pursuit of something more or something different. “Many Worlds” is the most obviously abstract and formally daring this show has been, but it’s also, in its way, the most truthful. Even when nothing or no one is real, Josh remains so, as do his anxieties, his quirks, his flaws.
It’s therapy, in a way, Josh working through the personal demons that have crept into his fantasies. Dax features; his sister and mother, too. He touches on all the forms of success — musical, financial, romantic — he has coveted. In these dreamscapes, part imagining and part art installation, he can say the things he always wanted to but never did, and perhaps get the responses he always craved. But things darken as they go. Idyllic suburbia becomes a glass-fronted high-rise looking out over ruins; becomes a Russian nightclub over which Putin himself glooms imperiously.
In the end, Josh isn’t physically present, but he’s there in spirit, as everyone close to him gathers for his funeral. In their grief, they see, finally, that he meant well, for all his flaws. That’s all any person wants others to think of them. We all want to be missed when we’re gone. Of course, in reality, Josh isn’t gone yet, but sometimes he wishes he was or feels that he is. “Many Worlds” is unlike most episodes of television, but it’s one that speaks a language we all understand.