In the strange (and to some, all-too-familiar) world of Hampton DeVille, things are still tenuous at best. For the criminally oversized multinational corporation that forms the backbone of the Comedy Central series “Corporate,” all is still not enough.
Junior executives in training Matt (Matt Ingebretson) and Jake (Jake Weisman) are still trudging through an office environment where breakroom coffee drama can still drive everyone in nearby cubicles to their breaking point. IP rights become a cutthroat game of chicken with Hampton DeVille’s rivals. And hallway gossip of course remains a fixture in all its forms.
For all the existential dread that’s blanketed “Corporate” since its premiere in 2018, at a point when that drudgery should feel more restrictive and hopeless than ever, there’s something about Season 3 that manages to find some peace amidst that daily buildup. Maybe part of it is that this last batch of six episodes is the show’s farewell. It could be that months without offices being a practical or reasonable part of life has put those squabbles into an unexpected perspective.
Regardless of the reason, there’s a certain kind of acceptance of the inevitable in this last season that puts “Corporate” in a slightly different headspace. The show still wrings its share of absurdity out of simple episode setups and there’s still a healthy dose of nihilism that runs through each of Matt and Jake’s daily conversations. For those who have appreciated the show’s particular brand of pettiness as each of these employees look to one-up each other in ways that usually don’t have anything to do with job performance, that’s still there. But the anxiety that marks the show is here channeled toward embracing the way weirdness and stupidity seem to blanket the realities of corporate life.
In finding new ways to torque these office mainstays, “Corporate” has given the rest of the Hampton DeVille team plenty of ways to transform some of that simmering rage of previous seasons into a kind of office-centered goofiness. Lance Reddick remains an episode-to-episode comedic powderkeg, equally delightful whether he’s playing Christian DeVille as a cackling, maniacal CEO or the grinning office weirdo who happens to be in charge. The serve and volley between Christian’s lieutenants Kate (Anne Dudek) and John (Adam Lustick) happens around the same psychological minefield, but here there’s some bonus wordplay, too. Grace (Aparna Nancherla) has become the secret “Corporate” wild card, wielding her HR responsibilities for whatever purpose necessary.
All of this energy is present right at the top of Season 3, with a fever dream premiere of corporate streaming rights battles, dystopian children’s programming, and the cherry-on-top meta-nod to trying to end a TV series in a satisfying way. It’s the special “Corporate” tactic of pairing something fundamental about staying afloat in America (depression or the horrors of the ratings-centric gig economy) with something completely unexpected (a surreal hotel stay or a handful of original songs).
It’s those treks into the “real” world that continue to, in a weird way, keep the show consistent. Even at the show’s end, as it’s feeling out other ways to cope with the signs of a crumbling planet, it’s the idea that Jake and Matt find evidence of everyone’s dissatisfaction with different parts of their work experience that is at once the show’s sharpest weapon and its greatest comfort.
There’s a palette so familiar now to life inside Hampton DeVille that, with three seasons of buildup, the curveball moments in these episodes have become that more effective. The diversions in this season feel less like self-preservation than these characters trying to find something they can control. So for a season of TV that arrives at a time when monotony in the presence of co-workers finally feels like a tiny escape, leave it to “Corporate” to be the useful reminder that it’s OK to want something a little bit more than that.
“Corporate” airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.