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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
<i>You're The Worst</i> sticks the landing following an uneven season

You're The Worst sticks the landing following an uneven season

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From the beginning, You’re The Worst was about a relationship between two toxic people who need each other to discover their best selves, but it was also about the ungainly process of stumbling into adulthood. The series follows people who live for their own comfort (or, in the case of Edgar, live at the behest of others) and struggle to subsequently undo that selfishness. Part of doing that is taking risks, buying in, and privileging the difficult choice above all else. Falk doesn’t present this as a linear journey, but rather one filled with dead ends and false turns. It’s a frustrating process that doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a necessary one in order to gain some semblance of satisfaction.

You’re The Worst’s fantastic one-hour finale largely reframes the prior season on those terms. It grounds a fairly broad, scattered, and often-cartoonish season into established emotional territory. While a couple previous episodes tried to do this, they weren’t as effective as the one-two punch of “Like People” and “It’s Always Been This Way,” which functions as a reset button with some extra bite. A finale can’t erase 11 episodes of unevenness, but it goes a long way of circling back to the show’s strengths and finally bringing the ensemble back together again.

For one thing, the finale goes to great length to emphasize how the majority of the characters’ behavior was purely reactionary to their prior circumstances. Though everyone on You’re The Worst is existentially “lost” in some way, masking their pain or misery by any means necessary, this is the first season where they all got lost on their own paths. Through personal discoveries and a makeshift reunion, they all learn to chart a better path.

After his breakup with Dorothy and Jimmy’s disappearance, Edgar dove headfirst into his sketch writing career and newfound wealth. He finds a rewarding friendship with Max who expresses more positivity and kindness towards him than Jimmy, a man with no expressed interest in deepening their relationship, ever showed towards him. Yet, the cracks quickly begin to show. He forces Edgar to spend way too much money for Lindsay’s divorce party, and then after hearing Edgar divulge the stories of his past, their boss Doug Benson mysteriously separates the two in the writers room.

In the finale, Max repeatedly ducks Edgar and spends time with Dutch (Steve Agee, always a friendly presence on this series), Doug’s receptionist. When confronted, Max transparently lies and says that Doug asked him to help transition Dutch into the writer’s room. To avoid further questions about Max, Doug “promotes” Edgar to on-set writer, a thankless task that apparently also includes verbal abuse courtesy of Paul F. Tompkins.

Eventually, Max comes clean and tells him that their friendship won’t work because he can’t handle Edgar’s troubled past. He fully admits that he’s a privileged rich kid who wants to chill with simple people that don’t make him sad, and Edgar will never be able to provide that kind of relationship. As a parting gift, Max tells Edgar that he’ll talk to Doug so he won’t have to be banished to set.

However, Edgar isn’t broken up by Max’s decision, and it’s largely because of Jimmy’s advice. The scenes between Jimmy and Edgar in these two episodes are wonderful precisely because they’re predicated upon four years of a shaky friendship. Since Edgar no longer relies on Jimmy for emotional support, the two can talk like old friends with defined parameters. Jimmy advises him to rely on himself, and though that might sound like tired people-are-worthless advice, it actually gives Edgar the push he needs to build himself up. In return, Edgar wishes him good luck with Gretchen and promises not to stop him if he decides to bail altogether. The two are finally on equal footing.

Lindsay, fresh off her divorce with Paul, also fell into her new career as a stylist, but ended up discovering that it didn’t provide the satisfaction she desired. She fails to make friends with her co-workers and takes loads of abuse from her sister Becca, who has fallen into outright alcoholism and threatens to begin a doomed affair with her gay friend Walter. But after listening to Lou Diamond Phillips’ sage wisdom about helping others, she decides to focus on the people around her.

In the finale, she makes two key choices that ultimately have their desired effect. First, she tells Boone that he should dump Gretchen because a) she’s not a stable enough presence for his daughter, and b) that she might not be over Jimmy. Boone insists that he likes Gretchen for who she is, but after Lindsay literally springs out of a trash can (a la Oscar the Grouch) to tell him this, he impulsively acts Gretchen to move in with him. Though admirable, Boone’s act of desperation eventually leads Gretchen to question their relationship.

The second choice is to help her family, which has been torn asunder by lies, neglect, and unhappiness. Since Vernon has been singlehandedly taking care of his daughter Tallulah, he accidentally falls asleep during surgery and nicks a patient’s artery, which is especially bad considering that he let his medical insurance lapse. He destroys his cell phone and hides out from the “hospital cops” in Jimmy’s house. After literally dragging Becca out of a bar, she brings the two of them together where they briefly air their grievances. Meanwhile, Paul comes over as well and asks Lindsay to be his character witness so he can adopt a child, a difficult task since all the reputable agencies have turned him down because of his involvement in “incendiary political movements,” e.g. Men’s Rights and likely white nationalism.

Lindsay comes up with an effective solution: Becca will be a surrogate for Paul, who in turn will provide money for Vernon’s impending lawsuit. Though initially hesitant, everyone agrees to the arrangement because Becca was happiest when she was pregnant, Vernon will be able to fight for his job, and Paul, though still undoubtedly wrong about Thelma & Louise, will be a father. Looking upon her family, Lindsay declares herself a helper (“like the glove that makes hamburgers”), and this time, she’s absolutely right.

Then, there’s our “heroes” Jimmy and Gretchen, who have fallen into bed together but have no idea how to move forward. When Gretchen wakes up in an empty hotel room, she’s furious and hurt that Jimmy might have left again. It turns out that he was just getting breakfast, but she still doesn’t trust that Jimmy won’t just up and leave at the first sign of trouble. Jimmy, who simply wanted to show her a good day, can’t understand why she’s treating him like this. He apologized, after all. He waited. He sat idly by while she did whatever. “This goddamn vacillation, Gretchen,” he snarls. “Enough is enough.”

This argument only has charge because they’re both on solid ground, but neither can quite see the other’s perspective. Gretchen’s vacillating emotions might place Jimmy in unfair positions, but she’s also right that he’s given no indication that he’s serious about their future. For all she knows, he wants her because it’s comfortable, not because he’s willing to fight. Yes, Jimmy tried to perform a nice gesture, but he still doesn’t understand that just apologizing doesn’t cut it. He has to make an active move for Gretchen’s affection and thoroughly explain his prior actions.

The two spend most of “Like People” apart. Gretchen gets closer to Olivia despite Lindsay’s trepidation. Jimmy spends his fun day alone and only receives the ire of strangers in return. Gretchen accepts Boone’s proposal to move in, albeit with strong hesitation. Jimmy decides to move to Cape Coral, where you can apparently swim in Hemingway’s pool. All is set for the final goodbye.

But as the saying goes, these crazy kids can’t quit each other. On a whim, Gretchen sets a fire in Jimmy’s car with her old Christmas lights and vibrator, which pushes him to pick her up so they can go on a drive. On their drive through the hills, the two share old jokes (apparently they had bets on whether Vernon would kill Becca) and cute gags (Gretchen makes a wish when they approach a tunnel and Jimmy playfully fucks with her). It’s a nice return to the old days.

Yet, it’s difficult to ignore the air of finality in their mini-excursion. Of course, we know that this isn’t their last time together, but “It’s Always Been This Way” writers Eva Anderson and Stephen Falk make it feel that way. When Gretchen asks Jimmy about the origins of his car, Jimmy casually tells her that he liked telling her everything. “Me too,” Gretchen says. “You ruined that.” Later when they’re sitting atop rocks overlooking the ocean, Jimmy tells Gretchen that he’d still like to know her, but Gretchen shuts that down. “You know that’s never gonna happen,” she replies sadly. These are moves that TV writers can only make a few times because of the inherent demands of the medium, but Falk and Anderson make it count. It would be believable if Jimmy and Gretchen never saw each other after she leaves his car and heads inside Boone’s house.

But just when hope seems lost, Jimmy storms in and fights for Gretchen, first by punching Neal, Whitney’s new husband, in the face mistaking him for Boone, and then begging for her forgiveness. He tells him that he didn’t abandon her because she was unlovable, but because he was frightened. He tells her that he might not be the symbol of security and acceptance like Boone, but that he’s willing to fight to be that person. In response, Gretchen rejects the two of them, choosing instead to love herself rather than wait for someone to love her. Jimmy, dejected and humiliated, leaves Boone’s house only for Gretchen, who had been hiding in the bushes, pops out and jumps in his car.

Look, it’s understandable if you just simply don’t buy that Gretchen would give Jimmy another shot. Considering his appalling behavior this past season, it’s understandable if viewers don’t exactly want to give him another shot. There’s a version of this story where Gretchen stays with Boone and Jimmy goes off to Florida, and it’s one that conceivably makes more sense.

But I bought it all the same. It’s not just the push-pull chemistry between Chris Geere and Aya Cash, though that’s certainly part of it. It’s also because Falk and company have persuadably argued time and time again that Jimmy and Gretchen need each other for their own sake. If they had never met, there’s a half-decent chance that they’d both be on respective anger and depression loops for the rest of their lives, bouncing between lovers until they’re no longer physically able. Boone wasn’t a bad choice; he’s right when he says he’s “a nice, successful, stable person.” He’s just not the nice, successful, stable person for Gretchen, who does indeed leave a human toll in her wake. The parting shot of Olivia, pissed and disappointed, says more than Boone’s own words on his behalf.

In the end, Gretchen slaps Jimmy and then invites him back into her heart. She puts her ring back on and declares October to be a good month for their wedding. Jimmy, stunned by the revelation that Gretchen even kept the ring, almost makes a break for it before doubling down on their engagement. The two ride off into the distance on a bumpy, windy road that has more than its fair share of obstacles, but for better or worse, they’re together once again.

Stray observations

  • That does it for the fourth season of You’re The Worst! The series has been renewed for a fifth and final season, so I will be back for a final time next year. Thanks for all who have read and commented along the way!
  • Though I treated the finale as a single episode for the purposes of the review, the two are written and directed by separate folks. “Like People” was written by Alison Bennett and Eva Anderson, and directed by Steph Green. “It’s Always Been This Way” was written by Stephen Falk and Eva Anderson, and directed by Falk.
  • It was wonderful to see a grown-up Killian return to the series in a small role. He now dresses up as a leprechaun to advertise for the bar O’Callaghans, the bar where his missing father resides. He’s working to pay off his bar tab. Of course, Jimmy initially treats him like a hallucination.
  • When Lou Diamond Phillips left, Lindsay had to learn how to swim from the dog. ““Is that why you shake every time you get out of the pool?” Gretchen asks.
  • By the way, Lindsay pronouncing the tequila Patron like PAY-TRUN was absolutely hysterical.
  • Jimmy describes Los Angeles as “a coarse mausoleum of vape shops, YouTube Red billboards, and poke restaurants.” Is he right? Discuss.
  • According to Max, Paul F. Tompkins a bad, bad man. He once stuffed a crow in a dishwasher at a party in Venice.
  • Edgar thinks Paul is pretty scary now. “He’s got a tattoo of a cartoon frog on his thigh. There’s nothing tougher than that.”
  • Paul didn’t know what those political groups stood for. He just thought they were a bunch of guys who dressed well and got picked on, too.
  • The worst day of Max’s life was when his dog Clarisse got hip dysplasia. Luckily, his parents got her a drone. (The shot of Clarisse limply being flown around by a drone is a spectacular sight gag.)
  • “This is just like that movie Horrible Bosses. Very disappointing.”
  • “No! Spirit! I’m not the racist Shive-Overly you’re after. You’ll find old Ronny’s ashes spread over Tony Shaloub’s succulence!”
  • “Sorry, man. Doug is meeting with Raoul Castro and Al Franken at the Ministerio del Interior. Shit, I didn’t tell you that.”
  • “Olivia hates me! I overheard her calling me Fatty McFartface. Well, she’s the fartface!”
  • “You fought for me. Besides, you looked so sad when I left, I now realize I have the power to destroy you, and why would I give that up?”

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.