“Delivering tragic news is like a kind of service. Sacrificing your own comfort so they can have the gift of truth: That is true nobility,” says brorthopedic surgeon Vernon to a distraught Edgar late in this week’s You’re The Worst. It’s one of the few sincere statements in an episode mostly filled with petty snark and selfish diversions as Gretchen and the gang struggle to inform Jimmy of his father’s death. Instead of facing the problem head on, they run through the usual behavioral gamut: Avoid it, pass the buck, and shirk general responsibility. It’s easier to do nothing than risk being vulnerable. It’s easier to ignore the issue staring at you in the face than take the leap to address it. It’s easier to focus on the Famous Pets of Instagram Cruise than to deal with any kind of tragedy.
This is standard thematic ground for You’re The Worst, but “Bad News: Dude’s Dead” brings a farcical spin to the material by integrating the series’ large ensemble into a tightly plotted, subtly emotional affair. Credited writer Eva Anderson brings the best out of the series’ characters by demonstrating how far she can push their established personalities into new directions. It’s a very funny episode with quick-paced one-liners, absurd sight gags, and even a flashy montage, but it also throws a new dramatic wrench into the series’ central relationship. How much truth can Jimmy and Gretchen constantly sacrifice in an effort to maintain normalcy, especially after it almost slipped away from them?
Anderson and director Wendey Stanzler run wild with the episode’s simple premise: Gretchen doesn’t want to inform Jimmy of his father’s death because she’s frightened of seeing him in an emotionally vulnerable position, so she throws a party and invites their friends so they can tell him for her. On some level, it’s an excuse to pack the episode with recurring characters that have yet to make an appearance this season (Vernon! Becca! Killian!), but Anderson employs them well, either for comedy, e.g. Vernon constructing a beer bong out of an I.V. bag, or to illustrate how Gretchen routinely spreads her emotional responsibility to others so she doesn’t have to assume it herself.
Of course, Jimmy doesn’t make it any easier by being completely obsessed with his recent success. He’s already shooting jacket covers (“The look we’re going for is jocund but profoundly tormented”), attending brunch meetings with bottomless mimosas that don’t live up to expectations, and simply assuming that people are in his house to celebrate his triumph (“We tend to gather around a fire,” he smugly notes.) Gretchen strains to drop the news in between his ramblings, but almost drops the idea entirely when Jimmy tells her he plans to take her on a cruise, the vacation she’s always wanted but her parents found tacky. However, it’s not just any cruise, it’s the Famous Pets of Instagram Cruise, where Gretchen can meet Sombrero Iguana, Bus Stop Goat, Cookie Pig, and yes, Grumpy Cat. “We’re gonna live forever!” she screams, while choking back tears of joy as her grief intervention turns into a cheap excuse to get fucked up.
If there’s one main issue with “Bad News: Dude’s Dead,” it’s that the episode requires Gretchen, and to a lesser extent Jimmy, to be slightly too awful. It’s understandable that Gretchen feels uncomfortable being Jimmy’s shoulder to cry on, but her selfishness in the episode borders on appalling, especially when she repeatedly tries to thrust the job onto Edgar who keeps telling her through a cracked voice that he’s not up to the task. Similarly, Jimmy’s narcissistic blowup at the party guests in the last act when he accuses them of distracting reads as a slightly tired parallel to Gretchen’s meltdown in “There Is Not Currently a Problem”. (“They’re desperately afraid that I will shine so brightly, it will illuminate how dim their lives are by comparison,” he sneers. “This is attempted criminal derailment!”) Again, the episode’s very existence all but demands that Gretchen and Jimmy act like this in order to keep the elephant in the room at bay, but it honestly felt excessive at times, and that’s coming from someone who never found either of them to be as bad as the marketing implied.
Yet, that criticism is largely nullified by the last few minutes of the episode that brings Jimmy and Gretchen’s insecurity to the foreground. When a distressed Edgar goes down to tell Jimmy the news while he’s rifling through his Heckle Files, Jimmy, per usual, talks over him and says in so many words that his drive to be a writer was to disprove the idea that he’s just utter shit at his core, and that his father is largely responsible for that feeling. So what does he do? He decides to call him up and direct his ire across the pond. Edgar desperately returns to the group and gives them the update, which prompts Gretchen to almost leave the house entirely. Finally, Paul, walking on crutches because of his stab wound, forced to be only voice of reason, barks at them, “Gretchen, you don’t get to be in charge anymore! Everyone who’s not currently on hobblesticks, go down there and stop him from calling his dead father!”
They’re too late. Jimmy has already called his father, but just as he’s ready to dive into the long-simmering insults he’s held onto for so long, he pauses and stops himself. “I sold a book, daddy!” he excitedly says into the receiver while the gang watches uncomfortably from the stairs. One by one, they all slowly leave, knowing in their hearts that Gretchen is the only one who can tell Jimmy the news, because she’s the only one who made a commitment to the guy. She’s no longer in a position to run away. She has to bite the bullet and deliver the news, and potentially sacrifice comfort and any semblance of indifference in the process.
Amidst the main action, Anderson deftly threads the other seasonal plots into the episode’s background without denying them focus. Edgar is still stewing in his own mental hell, with the weight of his PTSD and recent developments on his shoulders. Though technically surrounded by friends, no one seems to take his problem seriously. It’s Vernon, in all of his bro-obsessed nonsense, who recognizes that Edgar needs to get help. Meanwhile, Lindsay continues to privately atone for the stabbing incident and plans to “incept” herself into loving Paul, i.e. constantly telling herself that she loves him even though it’s not true. But for once, Lindsay finds that she’s briefly, genuinely in love with Paul after he stands up for her honor when Jimmy lays down insults. It’s a nice hat tip to the idea that these characters’ lives continue even when they’re not the main focus any given week, that they’re still struggling and holding on to what they have left.
However, it’s just Jimmy and Gretchen by episode’s end, both of whom forced to face up to the same ugly reality. Jimmy lies and says that he thrashed his father over the phone and Gretchen finally shows him the obituary, leaving Jimmy stunned and Gretchen uncertain of what to do other than to slowly get down on her knees and blow him. It’s another dark ending for the series, but one that’s not yet a teaser or cliffhanger. Instead, it’s a meaningful button for an episode that trafficked in the discomfort of unfettered vulnerability. Jimmy is stunned into silence, devoid of any braggadocio that he previously had, while Gretchen conveniently avoids looking at his face by turning to his dick. It’s a painfully funny depiction of two people who move forward and circle backwards simultaneously, thriving in neutral again and again. Same as it ever was.
- Samira Wiley returns in the beginning of the episode at a coffee shop where Gretchen confronts her about her issues. When Wiley’s character Justina tells her she can’t just show up place, Gretchen shoots back, “Then stop Foursquaring yourself every time you leave the house like the mayor of thirsty town. Also, stop using Foursquare like the Mayor of 2011.”
- Gretchen and Lindsay raid a craft service table by telling a PA that they’re “with the network.”
- After he gave a year’s salary to a woman in the Ukraine, Vernon can only afford hobbies that cost less than $25, so he bought a “harmonica vest,” a vest that contains a harmonica.
- Poor Killian has been living alone: “Last week [my dad and I] were at the Beverly Center, and he told me to go look at puppies while he went to Sunglass Hut. We both knew what was about to happen.”
- Paul gets a laugh literally every time he complains about his wound.
- Some of the cutting-edge new workouts at Edgar’s gym: “Piloxing,” pilates and boxing; “Yogitsu,” yoga and jujitsu; “Spowing,” spinning and rowing; “Zustified,” Zoomba while you binge-watch Justified.
- Three of Jimmy’s old heckles: 1. “Paul, nice It’s Pat cosplay”; 2. “Edgar, I liked you better when you were writing and starring in the hit musical In The Heights”; 3. “Becca, heaven must be missing an angel, because an angel saw your stupid face and blew its brains out.”
- Jimmy calls Gretchen his “mole-lipped Lillian Hellman to my Dashiell Hammet.”
- “But you spent the last two months drinking and jerking it to the Lane Bryant shoe catalog.”
- “Later, I drank my mom’s Mai Tai and climbed up on the table because I forgot it was a grill. That’s why I don’t have footprints.”
- “I work at a hospital, dude. Just because a busload of dead kids rolled up doesn’t make it not Margarita Monday.”
- “I’ll be sure to return the favor and try to sabotage your eventual attempt to do something useful with your life, like finish your GED or dance in your adult tap recital.”
- “Is this about you being molested? Boo hoo. Every neighborhood had a handsy fishmonger.”
- “A couple of weeks from now I have a tan line shaped like Grumpy Cat because she’s been sitting on my lap on the cruise deck!”