Netflix’s ‘Human Resources’ Made Best TV Episode of the Year – And It Was About Heartbreak
Over the course of five seasons, the world of Netflix’s adult animated series Big mouth introduced viewers to many monsters based on human emotions, including excitement, shame, anxiety, depression, and love. Now The Workplace Spin-Off Series Human ressources, which launched last week, continues to expand its universe with more emotional monsters guiding humans through their daily lives. But a monster introduced in the penultimate episode of the first season caught me off guard, representing something that struck way too close to home.
Created by the same team at Big mouth—Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett and Kelly Galuska—Human ressources focuses on a human relations workplace for monsters who are tasked with helping humans cope with their daily tornado of feelings.
Because Human ressources deals with adults instead of pubescent seventh graders, writers can tell bolder, more humanistic stories, while inventing more cartoon creatures to help characters grapple with the emotions that Big mouthThe children of still wouldn’t quite understand the weight of, like grief.
Relatively early in the season in the episode “Practice Day,” Walter the Lovebug (Brandon Kyle Goodman) takes fellow clumsy novice Emmy (Aidy Bryant) on a practice day to help her improve her performance at his job. He introduces him to Yara, an elderly Lebanese woman with Alzheimer’s disease, whom he describes as his favorite client.
Each time Walter arrives, Yara goes to her memory bank and fondly recalls the time she spent with the love of her life, Safi, during the height of her youth. All of this is usually interrupted by the arrival of his son Amir (Ahmed Mawas), who visits him at the nursing home. Although it’s a C-plot given little screen time, the depiction of the familial love the son has for his mother despite her health is surprisingly heartwarming.
The way this kind of reality is portrayed in a show that, deep down, is mostly about being horny and raunchy on the main thing, strikes a chord. This so-called rope turns into an electric fire of the heart when Amir and Yara return in the penultimate episode of the season with a more prominent presence and a more poignant story.
In the ninth season episode, “It’s Almost Over”, everyone in Yara’s sphere, family and monsters alike, must come to terms with her inevitable demise. After Yara breaks her hip at the nursing home, Amir takes on the responsibility of being his mother’s caregiver and brings her home to live with her family.
Logic Rock Pete (Randall Park) arrives to help Amir make concrete decisions about his mother’s care, while Walter helps Yara navigate her day. Walter is informed by one of his co-workers, Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford), that Yara’s time on Earth is about to end. Around the same time, Pete and Amir are visited by a monster in a woolly crow’s-foot cashmere sweater named Keith de Grief (Henry Winkler), who tries to prepare them for the reality of Yara’s impending death. While Walter does his best to keep Yara and her memories alive as she spends the day with her granddaughter Natalie (Josie Totah), Pete and Amir try to escape an ever-changing Keith.
“It’s Almost Over” wears grief on its sleeve through the duality explored in the perspectives of Amir/Pete and Yara/Walter. Both sides try to run from the truth that Yara’s time is coming to an end. The way he is portrayed is a major departure from the series’ normal tone. The more the episode progresses, the more stressful the weight of impending tragedy becomes. Yara’s memory begins to warp and a panicked Walter is unable to maintain control. The same panic applies to Pete and Amir, who try to find Yara while being chased by the monstrous Keith. The opposite metaphor of running away from grief only reinforces the emotions.
For a series full of shameless crude humor, Human ressources portrays this heavy subject matter with a balanced sense of creativity and nuance, which can be attributed to writer Victor Quinaz. “Training Day” and “It’s Almost Over” are written by Quinaz, and the way he introduces these characters to viewers is decidedly more intimate than anything else. Big mouth the universe has offered so far.
Although Yara’s family doesn’t get as much screen time as the other groups of adults the monsters have to help out during the season, the way Quinaz exemplifies their functionality and loving togetherness quickly pierces the soul. It triggered my own new heartbreak, which I’m still working on as I write this.
“The painfully resonant episode was a reminder that the only way out is through.”
Earlier this month, I had to say goodbye to my father, Rendy Jones Sr., who passed away a few days before my birthday. Just like Yara, he was the parent of three children and loved us endlessly with all his heart. It wasn’t something I was prepared for, nor did I want to accept what was happening. It was the first time I had faced this level of grief. I’ve seen many movies and TV shows that touch on the subject, but I was never able to fully grasp or understand it – I was too unfamiliar with the notion. So after my dad died, I jumped and weaved, dodging just about anything that even remotely touched on the subject or dealt with any kind of heavy issues.
I sincerely expected Human ressources to be a light offering that might help distract from my own grief, but “It’s Almost Over” saw right through me and attacked my soul head-on.
Since my sisters and I left the hospital where we had to say goodbye, I no longer have the ability to cry. I traveled between feeling numb and sad. But as the episode drew to a close, with all of Yara’s loving family members gathering to say goodbye and cry around her deathbed, I was brought back to seeing my old man on his own.
It was a visceral reaction that resurfaced and, for the first time since his passing, I broke down and sobbed. At the time, I realized that I was dodging my own grief by seeking all possible distractions in order to avoid the notion of crying. The painfully resonant episode was a reminder that the only way out is through.
It’s surreal that the first medium that made me aware of my own grief was an episode of a Big mouth spin-off, but it’s like Walter the Lovebug says in the final minutes: “Life is so cruel and unfair, and yet so precious.”