[This is a review of You’re the Worst season 2, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
The thing about decisions is this: making the ones that matter, the ones that stand a chance to positively shape the path the rest of your life will take can sometimes be impossibly difficult decisions to make. Making bad decisions, however, like getting level-2-and-above drunk at a baby shower, surrendering financial control to a stranger in a bizarre pseudo-sexual online relationship, trying to kiss the bartender your boyfriend recently made out with, or, you know, getting back together with your ex-husband after finding out you’re carrying his baby, those kinds of decisions are frighteningly easy to make. And in its fantastic season 2 finale, You’re the Worst demonstrates the ways in which a person’s ability to make those important decisions, or recover from the disaster that results in making the bad ones, is largely dependent on the people you share your life with.
‘The Heart is a Dumb Dumb’ brings the season to a close with an affecting episode that captures the essence of the series and puts its romantic comedy heart on full display. Like the many characters and their various relationships that now make up the series, You’re the Worst isn’t nearly as cynical and cold-blooded as advertised. The more the series embraces its rom-com DNA, the more it takes the expectations of the genre and works to make them more fulfilling within the context of these self-centered, but complicated and ultimately loveable characters’ lives.
Structurally, the episode mirrors the season 1 finale, ‘Fists and Feet and Stuff’. It manages to put all the key players in the same setting, to better spend time with them all and explore their differences and similarities. But this time around, the party – which is still at Becca and Vernon’s place and still features the malicious presence of trash juice, albeit concealed within tins of “fancy” popcorn – the festivities rely less on the tension that naturally arises from these people sharing space with one another, and more on the sense that the audience understands the weight behind their shared history. That affords the finale the chance to make a statement with regard to its characters, to underline who they were and who they are now, and to make a lasting impression that doesn’t require the show take a big dramatic or comedic swing.
‘The Heart is a Dumb Dumb’ works because it follows through on Gretchen’s recent storyline. Her depression was a traumatic experience for her, and it was an eye opening revelation for Jimmy. Not only did he realize how important she was to him, but he also realized that, even though he may want to, he’s not equipped to carry her through these tough times completely on his own. That makes Jimmy’s freak out about Gretchen never taking anti-depressants or seeing a therapist seem understandable, even though his own follow-through – getting drunk on Vernon’s trash juice and making a fool of himself publically because it’s “his turn” to be taken care of – is not. But it feels entirely true to the character, as do all the other small character moments stemming from bad decisions or indecisiveness that make up finale. These characters have changed but incrementally; they’re still the same people as they were when the show started. So Jimmy gets blackout drunk because of self-pity and anger, but also because he knows that, in the moment, it feels good. He’s aware his relationship with Gretchen has changed him, but it hasn’t fundamentally altered who Jimmy is.
That might be the key takeaway from ‘The Heart is a Dumb Dumb’ and, perhaps, You’re the Worst season 2, as a whole. People can incrementally learn things about themselves, they can start new, healthy relationships, or experience horrific lows in a bout of depression, but these experiences are not some psychological chrysalis from which they emerge wholly changed beings. Take for example Gretchen’s reconnoitering of Nina’s bar. She has just been through an incredibly trying few weeks and although this was the first time she didn’t have to go through it alone, the dark chapter didn’t produce a new Gretch – she still tries to make out with the woman her boyfriend recently kissed and is left mostly perplexed by Nina’s rejection.
The same goes for nearly everyone else. Vernon and Becca are barely holding on; their relationship is as demented and destructive as nearly everyone else’s – with the possible exception of Edgar and Dorothy, of course – but at the end of the day, they’re still going to have a child, and maybe that’s enough to keep them together because that’s who they are. Lindsay and Paul may have reconciled after Lindsay inadvertently put his feelings before hers, but that small, incremental change doesn’t stop her from looking like the sum total of Ben Braddock and Elaine Robinson at the end of The Graduate. “I got a new hobby,” Paul tells Lindsay, proudly showing her the motorcycle and its cute sidecar accessory. Lindsay’s reaction is in part her realization that she’s made a mistake, and, more importantly, that she’s no longer content being a cute accessory, dependent on the engine of someone else to propel her or carry her along – and maybe she was better off learning how to be alone.
You’re the Worst may have nailed its characters’ toxic personalities, but it also nailed how to make their interactions feel emotional and emotionally earned without becoming soupy or undermining the work that has gone into creating and depicting them. Season 1 ended with Gretchen and Jimmy making a decision they were both silently unsure about, but it required them to put aside a measure of their selfishness in order to try something new, something scary (like The Babadook), something that might shape the path their future selves will walk down. As season 2 draws to a close with Gretchen and Jimmy again in silence, there’s a monumental difference between them: they’re both quietly pleased about being in love with one another. That doesn’t mean they’re completely different people; they’re just making those incremental steps that make life interesting and make watching people so endlessly entertaining.
You’re the Worst will return for season 3 in 2016 on FXX.
Photos: Byron Cohen/FX