If You’re The Worst hadn’t been renewed for a third season, “The Heart Is A Dumb Dumb” would have served perfectly well as a series finale. It’s a loose, funny episode that focuses equally on the various relationships in the series, firmly choosing to put a comma at the end of their stories and not a period. It underscores how life is unpredictable and filled with a variety of scary, unknown paths, having someone by your side always helps. You’re The Worst never hides from the ugly reality that relationships are filled with doubts and fears, and that maintaining one takes just as much as time and effort as anything else in life. But as every romantic comedy in the history of entertainment preaches, they’re still worth it. What makes You’re The Worst different is that it earns that lesson by putting its characters through the ringer, having them come out the other side still mostly the same but changed in important, subtle ways.
An unofficial sequel to the first season finale, “The Heart Is A Dumb Dumb” takes place mainly at Becca and Vernon’s “baby gender reveal party” (it’s exactly what it sounds like) and features a host of allusions to the original episode. People confess secrets and fight, hijack attention from Becca, and consume Vernon’s trash juice, which he secretly stored in popcorn containers. While director Matt Shakman emphasized the claustrophobia of Becca and Vernon’s BBQ in “Fists And Feet And Stuff,” this time around he highlights the party’s vastness, as if to suggest the characters’ emotional distance. Jimmy, Lindsay, Paul, Edgar, Dorothy, Becca, and Vernon all bounce off each other like bingo balls, until their emotional baggage comes pouring out of them amidst the booze and the fervor of the party. Though the episode has an active internal clock guiding each emotional beat, the episode still adopts the shambling structure of an actual party to have those emotions sneak up on you in wonderfully unshowy ways.
In fact, what I love most about “The Heart Is A Dumb Dumb” is how low-key it is. Nothing really happens unexpectedly or out of the ordinary. The sum-total of what happens: After Jimmy discovers Gretchen doesn’t take anti-depressants, he publicly blacks out at the party so someone can take care of him for a change; Gretchen goes to meet Nina, aggressively comes on to her, and then leaves; Dorothy and Edgar fight and then make up later; Vernon publicly confesses his financial domination issues; and Paul and Lindsay reconnect because Lindsay put Paul’s needs above her own when she decided not to tell him about his child. On paper, that sounds like a lot for one episode, but in execution, it never feels overstuffed or rushed. Writer Stephen Falk spends just the right amount of time on every storyline, trusting in the characters’ established histories and personalities to do the heavy lifting. And it comes together beautifully.
You’re The Worst has always been an acerbic show given Falk’s biting wit and pointed observations, but if this season has proven anything, it’s that this can be an almost overwhelmingly sweet show when it wants to be. When a lot of shows hit throttle on the sentimentality, it feels inorganic and forced, but when You’re The Worst does it, it aims for the gut and works every time. Take Dorothy and Edgar’s reconciliation, or Lindsay and Paul singing “Don’t Know Much” a la Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, or Jimmy calling Gretchen a “Sunday crossword” without realizing she’s listening to him from behind a tree. These are all scenes that would be overly saccharine if not handled carefully, even with as well-drawn characters as in You’re The Worst, but because this entire season has established a dramatic weight to the proceedings, it’s powerful and cathartic. The last act especially captures everyone at their most human, struggling to become their best selves while still floundering in their own unique personalities.
I think that’s the key to why “The Heart Is A Dumb Dumb” works so well: It accepts these characters for who they are while acknowledging that they have changed, even if it’s ever so slightly. It’s why that strange digression with Gretchen and Nina doesn’t feel out of place. Gretchen may have gone through hell and back with her bout of depression, but coming out the other side, she’s still the same old destructive, impulsive Gretchen who would want to make out with her boyfriend’s fling. Jimmy may have let Gretchen weep on his shoulder in a pillow fort all night, but he still can get gloriously fucked up and ruin parties like no one’s business. Edgar and Dorothy are solid as a rock, but Edgar still lets Jimmy influence his decisions for better or worse. Paul may have committed himself back to Lindsay, but he’s still putting her in the side car, and Lindsay is still riding in it, uncertain if she’ll ever be happy with a man whom she loves but has referred to as “Paul Nye the Science Homo.” Much of this comes down to standard sitcom machinations, i.e. these characters must essentially remain the same for the series to continue on a weekly basis. But it’s also remarkably perceptive of how people actually function. Life happens. We react. We adjust accordingly. We change, but we still remain the same.
Stephen Falk and co. understands that it’s not how much we change, but it’s the ways we change that are important. Jimmy’s frustration with Gretchen’s refusal to take medication stems from his inability to carry her entirely every single time she falters, even though he wants to. Gretchen may think meds will make her lose her edge, but she also acutely understands that the heart is the dumbest dumb of them all, and that she has to share some of the weight if she wants her relationship to flourish. This tension is nowhere near as intense as Jimmy and Gretchen’s emotional separation, but it’s arguably as genuine and grounded. In many ways, You’re The Worst is about letting go of selfishness in favor of spending a life with someone, and part of that means sharing the burdens we carry with others and accepting the consequences that comes with that. Gretchen doesn’t run away when she sees Jimmy drunkenly babble in public; instead, she goes up there, helps him down, and takes care of him.
When Gretchen tells Jimmy she’s going to see a doctor, it feels like a huge step forward because it’s an active attempt to lighten his load. “It’s always just been me, you know,” she says. “But now it’s not anymore.” There’s a bond they have together that now goes beyond toxic personalities and self-destructive tendencies. It’s also about healing and companionship. It’s about the good times and the bad. It’s about a shared life, even if it’s only for a short while. It all comes through so well in that last scene as Shakman alternates between close-ups of Jimmy and Gretchen and the two shot of them together in the frame. For so long they were alone, but now they’re together. I’m glad that we’re going to spend more time with these characters, but if the last shot of the series was Jimmy and Gretchen sitting on their steps, sharing a smoke, and secretly smiling to themselves knowing that they love each other, I wouldn’t have minded one bit. Not one bit.
- I know it seems like I say this every week, but this episode was also really, really funny, demonstrating once again that I fundamentally don’t understand those who believe You’re The Worst hasn’t retained its humor after its first season. Everything from Jimmy’s drunken ramblings to Vernon and Paul’s fight in the bathroom to Gretchen’s entire interaction with Nina. It all contains the well-pitched and perfectly-timed comedy this series is known for.
- My favorite joke of the night? Vernon picking right where Jimmy left off after Gretchen takes him away. “My father was a petty man…”
- Becca’s party was decked out in crazy, Becca-like bullshit, from “Baby Boule Bowling” and “Guess The Baby Food.” Also of note, Becca has an “Anti-Vaxxer Mommy Manual” in her bathroom.
- I like that the series sort of acknowledged the scientific impossibility of Lindsay getting pregnant with microwaved sperm, came up with a reason (Paul’s powerful pre-ejaculate), acknowledged its absurdity again, and kept on moving anyway.
- Another pseudo-meta moment I loved: Dorothy’s incredulousness at the idea that she and Edgar broke up just because they fought, which is something that happens on TV way too often.
- Jimmy refers to Edgar as the “Gremio” to his “Petruchio,” which may be the sweetest Taming Of The Shrew reference ever.
- Also, anyone who’s ever been very, very drunk before will recognize the muted fear in Jimmy’s voice when he says to Gretchen, “Gretch, what the hell am I doing up here?”
- Let me affirm that Kether Donohue has a stellar singing voice. That is all.
- “Well, you said bronze medal. I mean, it is the third best hole. Brownish.”
- “One time, Jimmy spilled a bowl of cereal when Edgar wasn’t home, so he hid under his bed for two hours until I finally cleaned it up.”
- “You don’t know ‘enervating,’ Paul! Come talk to me about ‘enervating’ when you’ve got a goddamn baby on the way that’s gonna cost at least half a million its stupid life. Just give me that money, turkey dick!”
- “There’s a framed poster of G. Love and Special Sauce. I shit you not.”
- “I regret going to see The Babadook. It was so scary, you guys!”
- “Well, this is leading towards something dangerously misguided.”
- I want to thank all of you who have read these reviews and commented every single week. It was cool to discover how good this show was along with you. I have embedded the Linda Ronstadt-Aaron Neville version of “Don’t Know Much” below. See you guys next year.
- Season Grade: A