You’re The Worst / FXX

After four episodes, it’s become clearer what Stephen Falk and company want to accomplish with this new season of You’re The Worst. Instead of artificially reuniting Jimmy and Gretchen, or even keeping them in the same orbit, the move is to keep them apart as much as humanly possible. This risky approach could only be accomplished this long into a series; after four years, the established environment has expanded enough to explore avenues beyond the initial premise. Theoretically, the series doesn’t need Jimmy and Gretchen to be together, and it’s possible for it to move on from the relationship entirely. There’s enough history for the show to evolve into a new version of itself that just tracks the characters’ lives but isn’t rooted in the original unstable romance.

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While I don’t think that will really happen for a variety of reasons, it’s an interesting gambit in the short term. You’re The Worst must now compensate for the fallout of the relationship by addressing two realities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s break-up: 1. The two have no compelling reason to be around each other, and 2. The core group has splintered almost entirely. So, what’s left? There’s the various individual strands to follow: Jimmy’s trials and tribulations with his new novel The Width of a Peach, self-described as the “sexiest erotic literary novel since Portnoy’s Complaint”; Lindsay’s new career as an assistant stylist and her casual relationship with Edgar; Edgar’s newfound confidence in his personal and professional life; and, well, Gretchen, still on a bender following Jimmy’s return to Los Angeles.

“This Is Just Marketing” isn’t a bad episode by any means, but it’s one that makes me question how sustainable the new approach can be. Though the concurrent plots are pretty compelling, and there are plenty of funny lines to carry it through, it feels a bit like the series is running in neutral for the first time. You’re The Worst succeeds best when the action is more contained, when the characters are bouncing off each other, but to fit a new reality, this can’t occur that frequently. From the outset, season four appears to follow each character’s new post-breakup life, which inevitably means less ensemble scenes and more solo plots. This makes narrative sense, but the burden seems unsustainable.

Of the stories this week, Lindsay’s babysitting adventures and Gretchen’s interview on Vernon’s podcast are probably the best. Becca and Vernon return as new parents and each have burrowed deeper into their own hobbies, which appear to be drinking and podcasts, respectively. As Lindsay takes care of Tallulah, Becca and Vernon talk to Gretchen about her breakup on their podcast Vernon Down The House because Jon Cryer cancelled and they already spent the sponsorship money. Both Lindsay and Gretchen come to odd conclusions after their experiences: Lindsay wants to focus on her job because she wants to actively resist the love she felt towards Tallulah, and Gretchen decides to move back into Jimmy’s place because she doesn’t want to allow him any more victories. Ironically, Lindsay believed she was modeling her life after her boss Priscilla (Kathleen Rose Perkins) only to find out that Priscilla is happily married with multiple children, and Gretchen now lives in the same house as her ex-boyfriend after trying to actively avoid him. Gretchen’s realization makes more sense than Lindsay’s, but both are still flawed attempts to justify emotional impulses, which ultimately falls in line with the two characters’ psychologies.

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Meanwhile, Jimmy meets with his publisher’s marketing team who want to advertise his book as erotica, complete with a cover that features missiles entering what appears to be a fiery vagina. Naturally perturbed, Jimmy abruptly leaves the meeting, but eventually finds his way to a reading with other erotic writers where he eventually embraces his role as an object of desire amongst a fandom community. Again, this logically tracks with Jimmy’s staunch principles and his desperate need for audience approval, but it didn’t muster up much interest beyond clever sex puns—the reading takes place at The Straining Corset—and some mild digs at erotic over-writing.

But by the end, Gretchen has now moved back into Jimmy’s house, speaking in that weird, flat voice, which Edgar describes as “like someone who’s about to do something bad on Facebook Live.” Jimmy, cocky about the relationship’s prospects at daybreak, feels palpable terror by night at the sight of Gretchen in his bed claiming that it’s her room. Gretchen’s move here feels a bit contrived, but maybe it’s a contrivance in the spirit of keeping the ensemble in closer quarters. Only time will tell.

Stray observations

  • The other main thread involves Edgar’s foray into app dating. At first he’s too nice, then he’s too aggressive, but he eventually finds a middle ground. Ta-da.
  • Jimmy believes negging is making a comeback, like pubes and racism.
  • Both Jimmy and Edgar think GTFO mean “Get Thy Fannies Out.”
  • Becca has also slipped into sassy conservatism, cracking wise that Edgar is an illegal immigrant only to justify it by saying that she voted for Obama the first time. Then she and her gay best friend Walter launch into a “Lock her up” chant to a stunned reaction.
  • The series’ commitment to skewering/portraying the realities of podcasting will forever delight, especially just the absurdity of canned “on-air” advertising.
  • “You have to hang out with that ugly-ass baby? That thing looks like Billy Corgan fell asleep in a Jacuzzi.”
  • “Listen, when I ask you if you want all your dinner ingredients delivered to your door, say yes. I mean, I know that seems obvious but for some reason Janeane Garofalo said no.”
  • “I once saw him masturbating to a story written by a 11-year-old.”
  • “I mean, sure, you regularly get outwitted by dogs, but that’s what makes you unique.”
  • “Oh, and amazing news. People Magazine read the book and they want to do a profile because a little white girl hasn’t been murdered in a while, but that clock is ticking.”
  • “Jack FM, like if the worst kid in detention had sex with a radio station.”

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