FXX’s You’re the Worst has had an interesting run over the course of its four seasons. What started out as a slapstick-y take on the sort of boy-meets-girl scenario that launched a million romantic comedies very quickly took a darkly comedic turn by making the participants of this particular meet cute two of the most repugnant human beings on the planet. The trick, of course, is that, despite being the worst (obviously), Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) and Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) were also a lot of fun to hang out with. Their dark hearts didn’t prevent viewers from wanting to spend time with them, or perhaps, even root for them to make it as a couple, even though the point of the show seemed to be just how slim the chances these two terrible people would actually wind up building a lasting relationship together.
As the series enters into its fifth and final season, however, it becomes clear that You’re the Worst was maybe only superficially about the trials and tribulations of trying to make a relationship work when the two people in it are fundamentally emotional wrecks. Sure, that was an important part of the series’ development, especially when Gretchen was diagnosed with clinical depression (and the show subsequently received a new critical appraisal). But the arc both Jimmy and Gretchen have been on is less about true romance or finding your forever person than it is about simply growing up. In that sense, You’re the Worst has been a stealth coming-of-age series, one that really shows its cards in the final season.
After a rough second half of season 4 (the series sort of dropped off after the superlative, Gretchen-centric episode, ‘Not a Great Bet’), You’re the Worst is back, ready to deal with the pending nuptials of tis two main characters, and the life choices that will define the lives of their friends when the story that the audience gets to see comes to an end. To the series’ credit, there’s not a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to be done here. Series creator-showrunner Stephen Falk and his writers’ room have taken the show pretty much everywhere it can go, and this final season feels more like an inevitability than it does a fateful decision to end the series.
But the first episode, ‘The Intransigence of Love,' doesn’t let that sense of inevitability get in the way of surprising (and maybe even confusing) the audience with its lengthy opening sequence about a pretentious ’90s video store clerk who falls in love with a customer after they bond over his recommended movies section. It’s a deliberately hackneyed bit of television writing that’s also a solid skewering of so many rom-com conventions (especially the part where it takes place during a decade where rom-coms were still being made by studios). And, strangely, it’s not at all hampered by the fact that, for the first few minutes, the audience has no idea what the hell is going on. It’s the opposite of The Sopranos series finale, where instead of the screen going black for 10 seconds, making you think your cable just went out during one of the most important scenes in television history, those watching You’re the Worst might be tempted to check the channel guide to make sure they’re not watching the pilot episode for some new comedy on FXX.
Though it perhaps goes on longer than it needs to, Falk, who also directed, expertly begins to show the seams of this fiction within a fiction, until the plot (and reality) completely unravels until the viewer is left with Jimmy Shive-Overly and Gretchen Cutler, spinning a yarn to some wedding planners, all for some free champagne. It’s both a completely unique way to begin the final season of the show, and very much within You’re the Worst’s wheelhouse. There’s probably some danger in granting so much real estate to what is essentially a deliberately poorly re-written version of the Jimmy and Gretchen story, but ‘The Intransigence of Love’ makes it work by first confusing the hell out of those watching and then paying it off with what is ostensibly a subversive deconstruction of the tropes the two were just lampooning for some free bubbly.
Best of all, though, it feels as if, entering into its final season, You’re the Worst knows exactly what it’s doing and where it’s going. There’s a calculatedness to not only the premiere but a great many of the season’s other episodes two that makes great use of not only Geere and Cash, but also supporting players (and, often, MVPs) Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue). That makes up for neither showing up in the premiere, but it also demonstrates the level of thought that was put into the final season in order to take Jimmy and Gretchen from being the worst to being the worst, but also being adults.
You’re the Worst continues next Wednesday with ‘The Pin in My Grenade’ @10pm on FXX.