Breakups are a near universal experience. Except for a lucky few, most people can identify with the experience of exiting one relationship and making the messy transition from the mourning period to being ready to date again. Once again Man Seeking Woman begins with Josh in a familiar situation and spices it up by bringing to life all of the feelings and issues that Josh has about his breakup. The pilot was about Josh reacting to the fact that Maggie had clearly moved on from their relationship while he wallowed in his misery. That episode ended in a wild celebration of Josh finally having the nerve to reach out to another person and try to get back into dating. “Traib” is all about taking the next steps and really moving on.
The first step to moving on is fully letting go of the past relationship. Josh might be excited about Laura, the girl from the train, but it’s quickly apparent that he’s hanging onto a lot of things from his relationship with Maggie. The first literal metaphor of the evening involves the (relationship) ghost of Maggie haunting his apartment. Even though Josh tells Mike he’s over Maggie his apartment betrays his real feelings. Literally. Maggie’s belongings start coming out of the woodwork faster than Josh can make up excuses for why he still has them around. All the visual gags are spot on again, and I particularly enjoyed the framed picture of Josh and Maggie together hovering over Josh’s shoulder. All of Maggie’s stuff leads to the first major set-piece of the episode when Josh must exorcise his relationship demons. The image of Maggie’s belongings hovering above Josh as a priest tries to convince him to throw them away was quite funny and another great illustration of how in denial Josh really is.
Once Josh gets rid of Maggie’s stuff he’s ready to capitalize on that number he got, but he has trouble putting together the perfect first text. This leads to a great sequence of him seeking advice first from Mike, then his sister Liz, and finally the Center for Important Emergencies where he gathers Mike, Liz, and various military personnel as well as a couple scientists for good measure. This was easily my favorite part of the episode because I immediately identified with Josh attempting to take in all of these different approaches and impulses and trying so hard to craft the perfect opening message. I’ve gathered friends together before in similar situations, and although we didn’t have extensive emoji research and there was certainly no rousing and strangely patriotic speech about dick pics, I knew exactly what Josh was going through in that moment. Everything was perfectly represented, from the painstaking examination of the level of punctuation use to agony over waiting for a response, it was a fantastic visualization of Josh’s emotional state.
Once again, Man Seeking Woman succeeds at putting us inside of Josh’s head by bringing to life all of his feelings and then exaggerating them in a hilarious fashion. However, even though I always know how Josh is feeling and reacting to the situations he’s in, he’s still a bit of a cypher. I couldn’t tell you anything about Josh other than he just got out of a long relationship and is looking to date again. Right now the only reason I’m rooting for Josh is because of the performance from Baruchel, who manages to imbue Josh with an underlying sweetness that really sells the whole underdog thing. The show has the comedy and surrealist touches down. The next step is to flesh out Josh a bit more, and while they’re at it they could also add a bit more dimension to Mike, Liz, and even Maggie. The team is so good at bringing these bizarre scenarios to life, it would be a shame if it couldn’t do the same for its characters.