The following contains spoilers for Mr. Corman S1E4, “Mr. Morales”
Mr. Corman S1E4 switches gears (and perspectives) as “Mr. Morales” focuses on Josh’s roommate Victor (Arturo Castro). What is brilliant about the way in which this is done, however, is that I immediately almost feel bad for describing Victor that way. He’s not just the main character’s roommate; he’s his own person with his own rich inner life and problems, and by leaning so totally into this as to change the title card, Mr. Corman practically becomes a different show.
Now it’s Josh (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is presented as the roommate, interloping on Victor cooking lasagna for his daughter and staring awkwardly out a window in a moment of anxiety as Mr. Morales arrives home with Gabi (Miley Delgado). He’s even spoken about and laughed at in his absence in the scene with Caroline (Jen Van Epps). It’s not malicious, and not something we should expect to become any kind of plot point that creates drama in future episodes; it’s a simple human moment from perspectives on Josh other than his own.
The truth is others know us in ways that we cannot know ourselves, and that’s not always a bad thing. TV shows can have a tendency to follow one protagonist to such a degree that we’re never given other perspectives on the events that unfold, and that’s largely OK (even if sometimes it seems to cause some people to overidentify with a character who is in fact a terrible person). By choosing to tell us a story about Victor, from Victor’s point of view, however, S1E4 shows that the scope of Mr. Corman is far broader than we might have previously thought.
We start from the point of view of someone else entirely, however—several someones in fact, as “Mr. Morales” begins with Victor on his UPS route, but from the perspectives of those to whom he is delivering packages. This serves as a nice bridge, such that when we get to Victor singing along with the music in his van, we feel relieved to at last be in this private space with him. It’s much more effective than if S1E4 had opened with Victor waking up to his alarm clock in the morning.
We’ve met Victor before this, of course. What S1E4 provides is a deepening of his character as we see him struggle with his teenage daughter, Gabi. She calls him out variously for being old and not getting it, and he may not always be sure whether she has a point, but he’s a bit more confident than we’ve seen Josh be with his young students.
In this way, though, “Mr. Morales” fits as an episode of Mr. Corman—the show isn’t just about Josh but something broader about being a millennial entering middle age. Victor and Vanessa (Michelle Ortiz) wonder if they are messing everything up when it comes to their daughter, and while they laugh about doing a better job than their parents did, the truth lies in Victor’s response that they’re surely messing up some of it.
I don’t mean that they’ve definitely made mistakes, as if to point to parenting moments in this episode and judge them; I mean to suggest something about the truth of their existential position. How could anyone our age have any certainty about being a good parent? Is Victor right that Gabi should ignore her phone for a day, or is she right in thinking that functioning in this world now demands a kind of constant attention to such things? Is it somewhere in between?
Our parents might have been able to have some kind of certainty, though that’s questionable. We’ve just seen in “Happy Birthday” how Ruth (Debra Winger) doubts herself as a mother, but at the same time perhaps we should focus on the way she was willing to delude herself (if it’s fair to use that word). She calls Josh out in S1E3 for undermining her tenuous belief that she’d done a good job at being a mom. Victor and Vanessa tarry more in a space where such a belief is lacking. But they’re doing the best they can.
In many ways, I’m tempted to say that “Mr. Morales” presents us with a portrait of a healthier way of operating in this (post)modern world. Victor likes his UPS job and he’s good at it. He knows life isn’t about getting Air Jordans. He cares deeply for people and wants to help.
Of course, he’s also divorced and a grown man with a roommate, who struggles to connect with his daughter, to discipline her or to teach her life lessons. But he’s doing the best he can.
As for Josh, we only see him briefly in S1E4: once when Victor is making lasagna, and again when he brings Gabi home. In that latter instance, we hear the tolling bell that ran through “Don’t Panic.” I’m not sure where this is supposed to fit into the timeline of events of Mr. Corman, as there is no reason this couldn’t have occurred prior to the party in “Happy Birthday,” but the more noteworthy thing to me nonetheless is the way in which this brief scene manages a perspective on Josh’s anxiety from outside in a way we hadn’t quite gotten before. It’s not unsympathetic, but we’re led to feel with Victor how his roommate is weirdly staring out the window, and he doesn’t want that when Gabi comes in.
In “Don’t Panic” we saw Victor trying to help Josh with his anxiety, but also desperate for the problem to be resolved. My primary thought at the time was that this couldn’t be helpful—the anxiety underlying the panic attacks couldn’t be made all better through a homemade “weighted blanket” or anything like that. But now I think there is another dimension to this—that Victor feels that same kind of existential anguish as Josh, but he has to keep it away.
And he seems to do that fairly well. He likes his job. He’s good at it. And while we might question that from a certain point of view like Gabi does, isn’t that also part of what we all aspire to achieve? I think I might hazard to say that Mr. Morales is happy.