This week’s episode of Corporate, the second of Season 3, titled “Black Dog” opened with a disclaimer as follows:
[TW: This episode and article discusses suicide and self-harm]
“The following episode of Corporate talks about suicide a lot. We talk about suicide so much that people told us to talk to somebody. And we did. And it helped. If you want to talk to somebody call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text START to 741741”
Immediately upon seeing this I knew this was going to be an episode worth watching to see how they handle such tricky content for a comedy series.
“Black Dog” begins with a flashback to Jake’s 12th birthday party where everything is going well, and he is having a great time. After the party, Jake’s parents wish him goodnight and he gets ready to fall asleep. Before he gets the chance, a looming figure appears in the room. This figure, voiced by Bob Odenkirk, was a human sized disturbingly creepy looking dog who called himself Black Dog. He wishes Jake a happy birthday and immediately proceeds to tell Jake all of his self-doubts, insecurities, and starts to pile more and more on to him including telling him he now has insomnia. This is the start of Jake’s mental health issues which will carry with him for the rest of his life.
Flash to present day, we see Jake at work looking exhausted and beat down. Matt tries to get Jake to go to the gym with him to try and get him in a better mood. Jake declines the offer and we see that Black Dog is still with him at work and following him where he goes. Matt heads to the gym and Grace is also there working out on both of their lunch breaks at work. Matt is happy to get Grace to go to the gym with him, but she insists she didn’t go because of him. During their conversation, Grace says that she’s worried about Jake because of all of his jokes about suicide and tells Matt that Jake should go on medication. At first, he plays it off, but he sees where she is coming from.
John and Kate call a meeting and they tell the employees that their company logo, which is a triangle shape, resembles an evil company’s logo in a video game and now gamers are sending hate messages to them. They must now come up with a new logo. They start brainstorming new logos with free association. It goes off the rails quickly. As the two sound off new ideas, Jake makes jokes about death and pain with each picture that gets presented. Matt becomes more concerned.
On the way home Matt suggests Jake try medication and suddenly Black Dog appears in the back seat complaining and egging on Jake. He tells Matt no. Jake gets home after dropping Matt off and his house is a mess. Matt shows up at his door and suddenly he appears as Matty Poppins, a play on Mary Poppins, bringing food for Jake, and Matt starts singing about turning Jake’s life around. He sings about changing his diet, working out, and cleaning up the house. We then see that this was a dream sequence and it flashes back to Matt at the door before he rings the bell. Jake slams the door in his face.
Back at work, Jake and his coworkers see an ad for medication on the break room TV, and his coworkers are surprised to learn that Jake is not on them because all of his coworkers are on them. Jake blames potential side effects as the reason for him not taking them. His coworkers run through all of the side effects one by one, cracking jokes at his expense, noting that none of them would have a profound effect on him but only help. He leaves.
John and Kate call another meeting about the new potential logo design. When Jake isn’t paying attention, Matt pours Vitamin D powder into his coffee, but gets caught. They argue, catching the attention of John and Kate who yell at them. After the meeting, Matt goes up to John and Kate and tells them to go easy on Matt. Now knowing about Jake’s mental state, and fearing legal liabilities by doing nothing, they decide to force Jake to go to the gym. At the gym, everyone tries to motivate Jake but Black Dog appears and tells him he can just stop. Jake stops running and falls onto the treadmill, giving himself a bloody nose. John and Kate think he tried to hurt himself, so they tell him to take time off. He refuses but they say it’s a legal precaution.
A montage of Jake at home through the week plays, showing Black Dog with him the entire time.
Jake gets an email from Matt wishing him well and hopes he’s doing better. Matt tells Jake that he’s always there for him which prompts Jake to write an email back, finally admitting to his mental issues. Black Dog suddenly appears again, and Jake deletes the email and shuts his laptop without sending it to Matt. He storms off, stepping in cat pee which causes Jake to argue with Black Dog, showing signs of him fighting for himself. Black Dog tells Jake that his cat doesn’t love him, finally snapping Jake out of his dependence on Black Dog. He finds old running shoes and despite Black Dog’s attempts to keep him in the house, decides to go for a run. In a last-ditch effort, Black Dog runs off even more insults and attacks on Jake with twisted facts trying to get him not to go for the run. Jake doesn’t cave, goes outside and starts to run, clearly out of shape as people pass him.
12 weeks later back at work, Jake is on medication, clearly doing better. Jake and his coworkers joke about getting Matt on meds to stop his creativity due to him wanting everyone to read his creative writing. At the company meeting, John and Kate announce they have finally agreed on a shape for the new logo. Now they have to pick a color out of hundreds of colors on the next slide, ruining everyone’s excitement.
Matt talks with Jake who tells him that he feels better. Black Dog still hovers in the background, and Jake tells Matt he’s going to have to work on it for the rest of his life, even though the medications are helping. Matty Poppins suddenly appears again and takes the credit for helping Jake as he flies away with his parasol.
For a dark and heavier episode than usual, I swear it was still a pretty funny episode. The jokes weren’t cheap plays on mental health issues. The jokes get more to the truth of who these characters are as employees and basic humans. The series as a whole paint these characters as beat down by their jobs and make fun of their lives because of it. This episode’s plot adds another layer to these characters, showing that there are many things that go into one’s mental health.
Black Dog was a great analogy to the voice inside one’s head telling them they’re not good enough, not to try or having them doubt themselves. Having Bob Odenkirk play Black Dog was a perfect casting decision. In a twisted way, it was funny also seeing John and Kate showing they care, but by ways of the liability of knowing this fact about their employee. Also, their riffing on the logo search was funny. It was hilariously cringeworthy at points. Matt’s insistence of playing a Mary Poppins-like character was so true to who he is and helped break up some of the darker tones of the episode, especially with the surreal ending. I was very impressed with Jake Weisman’s portrayal of Jake in the episode and I’m glad they chose to tackle this issue in a clever way in the final season. I can’t wait to see where they go in the next episode!
If you or someone you know are feeling hopeless or thinking about suicide, help is available. For free confidential support 24/7 Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text START to 741741
Corporate airs Wednesdays at 10:30PM on Comedy Central. You can stream Corporate on Comedy Central’s website or app.