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You're The Worst still scores laughs at the expense of emotional consistency

Illustration for article titled You're The Worst still scores laughs at the expense of emotional consistency
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One of You’re The Worst’s best qualities is its ability to juggle and maneuver between extreme tones. From the very first season, the series could be both snarky and sincere, empathetic and callous, generous and mean-spirited, oftentimes in the same episode and sometimes within the same scene. It could pull this off precisely because it understood the internal contradictions of the characters, how they could be selfish one moment and openhearted the next. There was an implicit understanding that their obnoxious behavior was merely a defense mechanism, something that relationships and self-care would help destabilize. The “Worst” in the title isn’t supposed to be literal.

You’re The Worst hasn’t exactly abandoned that project, but it’s definitely taken a hit this season. Frankly, it has become harder for the series to pull of the tonal shifts because a) we know too much about the characters, and b) some of their antics have grown stale. Case in point: “Worldstar!” is a funny episode that features some classic Vernon one-liners and a truly great runner involving the fictional animated film Birds, but it also encapsulates the emotional inconsistency of the season. Some of the moves the characters make don’t feel purposefully tapped into their rudderless states; they just feel aimless and insufferable for its own sake.


All three stories this week go too far in one direction or another and can’t quite balance themselves out. Take Jimmy’s story: Since he and Gretchen talked well into the night and fell asleep on the phone together, Jimmy believes that it’s only a matter of time before they’re back together. After Edgar and Max tell him about how she invited Boone to Lindsay’s divorce party, he becomes flustered and distraught. He decides to rebound with Katherine (Lucy Montgomery), a girl from his hometown of Manchester whom he believes to be a sad, homely waitress. Jimmy invites her own and does his sickly condescending shtick only to discover that she’s actually a successful entertainment lawyer who thought he invited her out to ask for money. Oh yeah, she also remembers “Shitty Jimmy” and tortures him with memories of his childhood humiliation.

Does Jimmy deserve this on some level? Sure. He blathers on about how he’s “an empath” who can’t stand to use people, but constantly treats Edgar like shit and assumes he’s doing a favor by teaching a girl from his past about scotch. He’s also been a world-class asshole this season. Yet, “Worldstar!” also takes too much glee in Jimmy’s pain, drawing out Katherine’s insults and lingering on Chris Geere’s embarrassed face. Whether or not his nasty behavior justifies this treatment, it feels strangely cruel considering how much sympathy the series has invested in the character. That the two end up having hate sex on the couch doesn’t really inspire much confidence either.

It’s easier to defend Edgar’s story this week, which ends in a bitter, heart-sinking place that ultimately falls in line with the character. Edgar and Max spend the day trying to come up with a parody of Birds, a Pixar-esque kids film that’s seemingly riddled with cute birds committing suicide. They head to Lindsay’s apartment where they order some food, but when the delivery guy arrives at the door, Edgar finds out it’s Ricky (Jeff Bowser), an old buddy with whom he served in Iraq. Edgar pretends he doesn’t know the guy in front of Max but then later privately tells Ricky that he doesn’t tell new people about his combat experience right away because then they see you in a certain light. Ricky takes this as an insult and believes that Edgar is ashamed of being associated with other veterans.

Now, we know that this isn’t the case, but it’s difficult not to see Ricky’s perspective here. Edgar has gone down so far the writer’s room bro rabbit hole that he’s come out the other side a totally different human being. This is probably a good thing for him, considering that he was marinating in mental illness and the weight of an old identity for so long that it was stunting his growth. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily constitute “shame,” and Ricky doubles down on the insults when he returns to Lindsay’s apartment to deliver the forgotten chimichurri sauce. He breaks Edgar’s trust and tells Max that he was in the service and that he was never better than anybody.


So what does Edgar do? He forces Ricky to spread the chimichurri sauce on his steak for $50 and a five-star rating because money is no object to him. Now, Ricky is an asshole, and the scene demonstrates that the new Edgar stands up for himself when people taking potshots at his character (well, except for Jimmy). Still, it feels like an especially bitter move coming from an otherwise gentle character, and possibly signals a permanent move into other ungenerous behavior. Is it okay to financially torture a fellow veteran if he’s a disrespectful jerk? It’s hard to say but it’s nevertheless difficult to watch someone like Edgar do it anyway.

Finally, there’s Lindsay and Becca’s storyline that features the episode’s funniest moments and also the most emotionally tone-deaf conclusion. In short, Lindsay and Becca’s mother Faye (Robin Riker) comes to town and both girls start competing for their mother’s attention. Becca acts truly rancid in this regard, running down Lindsay’s choice to terminate her pregnancy and generally treating her like dirt. But when Vernon is caught masturbating to old home videos of Becca and Lindsay’s mother, Becca breaks down and bemoans her own unhappy life.


Of course, Lindsay consoles Becca and shares in her own misery, and later when Gretchen and them are watching the home videos, Gretchen points out that their mother’s neglect is largely to blame for their current dissatisfaction. While that’s probably true, the consolation scene attempts to write off or justify Becca’s season-long behavior and fails. It’s not that Becca can’t be a sympathetic character. It’s more that it’s hard to reconcile newfound self-awareness with her season-long foul behavior. Becca was always self-involved and condescending, but the writers have taken it to a cartoonish degree that’s unsustainable. Luckily, Vernon is there to spout off genuine wisdom and excitable bro lingo before making an asshole out of himself.

Oh, Gretchen struggles to tell Boone that he’s not ready to go camping with him and his daughter, something that gets resolved over text and is quickly forgotten. Her other major moment is at the end of the episode when she masturbates while watching Jimmy and Katherine have sex. “Seriously, what is wrong with me?” she asks herself. But we already know and it might be getting a little tiresome.


Stray observations

  • The Width of a Peach is doing very well and ranks #1 on Amazon’s Erotica list, Subcategory Historical Romance, and subcategories WWII, UK, and Family Fun.
  • Best Vernon line is when Faye gifts him a Bluetooth speaker and he whispers to his daughter, “Hope you like Sublime…”
  • Faye mentions that she attends parties for people she doesn’t like all the time, such as Bob Balaban, Heather Locklear, and Stevie Wonder. Becca pipes up, “He can see, you know.”
  • “Dude, are you sure Birds is for kids? That’s the second suicide and they haven’t even left the island yet!”
  • “Duck him. When I get a Code Blue and I don’t wanna go, I just fake diarrhea and hide in the morgue.”

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

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