Origin stories can be a mixed bag. They often traffic on an audience’s desire to see their favorite characters meet each other for the first time all whilst acting naïve and wearing crazy haircuts and even crazier clothes; in other words, it’s a cheap way to engage with nostalgia of fictional people. But when they work, they offer new insights into characters by illustrating how their past informs their present. It can be an effective way of writing around exposition dumps through glimpses of history and ultimately provide a better perspective on characters we’ve slowly grown to know.
But “Constant Horror and Bone-Deep Dissatisfaction” does something a little different: It makes the argument that Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship actually grew them up and made them somewhat better people. Sure, we get to see Jimmy do promotional work for his book, a coked-out Gretchen stumble into her publicist job, and poor Edgar in the throes of his PTSD without a pot to piss in, but most importantly, we get a brief look at how Jimmy and Gretchen’s lives might have turned out if they had never met each other. In many ways, it’s the best defense of their relationship.
See, before the beginning of the series, Jimmy and Gretchen weren’t really that different. Jimmy was a raging, pretentious asshole lapping up praise from an obnoxious radio host and Gretchen was getting high during studio sessions just meandering through life. Their attitudes were pretty much the same and they were being rewarded for it. Gretchen gets a job after offering some sartorial advice to Sam, Shitstain, and HoneyNutz, and Jimmy channels his rage and heartbreak after a failed proposal to Becca into a book. They’re the same, but they’re also a little different, and because no one was checking their behavior, you can see how they would slowly but surely sink into their own narcissism and bad decisions.
Gretchen could have ended up leaving L.A. after hanging on to the half-hearted affection from Ty the Douchebag Director. We see her charmed by his confidence at a film premiere, but it only leads to her getting a DUI and landing in jail after she crashes into a cop car on the way to his house. The next day at Becca’s wedding, she tells a bartender that she’s moving to New York the next day because there’s nothing left for her in L.A. once all her friends grew up without her. What we learn is that it’s because of Jimmy that she decided to give L.A. another shot. Jimmy is the reason she didn’t abandon an entire life because she found someone who wasn’t done toiling in adolescence either.
For Jimmy, it’s a little bit different. Sure, he’s pretty broke after his book didn’t sell that much and he’s got Edgar to kick around, but he’s also a ball of rage and crushed emotion waiting for the right moment to vomit that onto the next unsuspecting person. When Becca, Vernon, and Paul are watching the video from the wedding night, the camera catches Jimmy forlornly staring at Becca, and in that moment, we see that the sincerity and optimism is slowly drifting away from him. We also finally hear what he told Becca to get him kicked out: It wasn’t a vulgar outburst, but instead it was a whispered promise that they’ll sleep with each other sometime soon. It’s still a fucked up thing to say to someone on their wedding day, but it suggests something more broken on the part of Jimmy. He’s so desperate to bring other people down to his level that he uses the only weapon at his disposal (words) to gently hurt someone he once cared about. Without Gretchen to call him out on his shit, we can see him repeating the same cycle over and over with different women, all because no one’s ever challenged him to be better.
Then we cut to the present and find Jimmy and Gretchen falling into old patterns, but this time, both of them get wake-up calls from people in their lives. Jimmy goes on a tear about how he needs to suffer in order to be creative and finally Edgar snaps in a fit of righteous indignation. He tells him he’s moving out because he’s not going to watch Jimmy slide back to being an insufferable dick. He tells Jimmy how much it hurt to be abandoned at Becca’s wedding even when he knew that social situations were difficult for him. “You brought me as a prop and then you forgot about me,” Edgar sneers viciously, which incidentally is the best description of what the United States does to its veterans after they come home. Then Edgar leaves him at the bar, with the added knowledge that he never read his book, and Jimmy is finally and truly alone.
On the other hand, it’s Sam who calls out Gretchen after he catches her railing blow and acting obnoxiously during a recording session. When Gretchen protests that she does the same dumb stuff as him, he reminds her that he’s 21 and doesn’t have much of a life to piss away. She’s 30 and still acts like she doesn’t have anything to lose because she doesn’t really. That’s when Gretchen realizes it’s no longer cool for her to pretend that adulthood is some lame rite of passage and bails on Lindsay, who’s actually throwing her family away for drugs and pipe dreams about moving to New York.
You’re The Worst has always been about the small steps we take to abandon our old habits and how the right person can pull us up from a tailspin. Jimmy returns home and clumsily starts composing a song about his break-up when Becca arrives at his door looking for sex. To Becca’s surprise, Jimmy doesn’t even remember what he whispered to her at the wedding and turns her down because she’s married and he’s not ready to jump into bed with someone. Gretchen finally cleans her apartment and uses her new food processor, an item that Paul describes as “[an investment] in your future.” Yes, Gretchen is just processing ice and vodka, and Jimmy’s song is probably going to go unfinished, but they’re finally moving forward instead of backward. They’re finally accepting that their relationship wasn’t just another bump in the road, but something meaningful that fell apart. They’re finally growing up just a little bit.
- Jimmy quotes Charlotte Bronte, Rosalind from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and yes, The Notebook during his proposal to Becca, which is surprisingly sweet even though you can see the hope shut out in his eyes after she turns him down.
- Shitstain goes to the Farmer’s Market because of course he does.
- How do Sam and his crew dress like when they’re not cultivating a street look? They dress like “annoying white skater kids from Venice at a rave.”
- I feel quite bad for Lindsay who’s still putting off telling Paul about her infidelity. She’s trying to pretend like she’s 20 just like Gretchen, but she actually has something to lose. We last see trying to do coke off her own breasts, which is both the funniest and saddest image of the night.
- Edgar had to sit with a bunch of very condescending and unfriendly children who wouldn’t even invite him to the after party at Becca’s wedding. Poor Edgar.
- Jimmy also pre-wrote heckles for Becca’s wedding, which is still pretty lame.
- “That Harvey-Weinstein-on-antibiotics-looking nerd couldn’t be bothered to attend the final mix of my first major album!” “He sent muffins…”
- “Jimmy took a picture of his dingus on every one of our disposable cameras. What a classic heckle. Becca recognized it on account of it having been in her mouth so much.”
- “That’s an interesting question. I think maybe it means you’re investing in your future. You may not use it every day or very often at all, but knowing that at any moment you could make pesto without having to borrow a friend’s or improvising some lesser method, that knowledge, that possibility makes you an adult.”