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A messy You’re The Worst succeeds by leaning on the characters’ emotions

Illustration for article titled A messy You’re The Worst succeeds by leaning on the characters’ emotions
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“Other Things You Could Be Doing” is kind of a mess. It wraps up various season-long plotlines that have developed in the season—Edgar’s improv adventures, Lindsay’s divorce, Jimmy’s emotional/physical affair with Nina, Jimmy and Gretchen’s separation—while also setting up new stories to head into the finale—Edgar and Dorothy moving in together, Lindsay’s surprise pregnancy. It crams in just about every character that has appeared this season. It’s somewhat clumsily structured and necessarily moves quickly from one storyline to another so as to fit everything into its 22-minute runtime. There’s an urgency to “Other Things You Could Be Doing” that’s a bit overwhelming, as if Falk and co. felt the need to tie up every single dangling thread in one fell swoop. It’s an episode that leaves you absolutely no room to breathe.

However, it doesn’t really matter because You’re The Worst’s emotional acuity keeps everything coherent and consistent. This is a show whose characters are so well defined that they can be moved around haphazardly by narrative demands and still shine through anyway. Usually when the seams of an episode make themselves apparent, it brings even its best moments of down because of its ungainly structure. Yet with You’re The Worst, it all falls into place and somehow sneakily floors you with two words and a sob.

Illustration for article titled A messy You’re The Worst succeeds by leaning on the characters’ emotions

After Jimmy’s late-night hookup with Nina ends abruptly, on account of Nina’s toes and her aversion to drunken sex, they plan to head up to Nina’s cabin later that night so they can seal the deal. But when Jimmy comes home, he sees Gretchen lying despondently on his couch only communicating with him through text. Jimmy’s frustration with Gretchen’s depression pushes him to make one last-ditch attempt to salvage their relationship: Call up every one of her contacts so maybe they can convince her to “snap out of it.” Thus, the majority of the second act is a montage of pretty much every supporting character this season speaking directly into the camera, mostly talking about themselves instead of helping Gretchen with their problems. It’s slightly contrived, but it ends up being effective anyway because Falk brings his A-game with evocative, funny one-liners. Yet as anyone could predict, it doesn’t quite bring Gretchen back from the brink.

Throughout this season, and especially in this episode, Falk pulls a brilliant trick by emphasizing how little Jimmy understands Gretchen’s depression without demonizing him. Weaker writers would have demonized Jimmy for being so cruel to his sick girlfriend, and even weaker writers would have shifted the blame entirely to Gretchen for putting Jimmy through such an awful ordeal. Instead, he empathizes with both protagonists—the one struggling with depression and the other living with that person. When Jimmy asks Gretchen to help him understand, it’s as earnest and genuine as when Gretchen tells him she can’t explain it again. They’re both at odds with each other, but neither of them wants the other to cut them loose. It’s even more devastating when you realize the two aren’t exactly the most communicative people in the world. They’re stranded on separate islands, bitter and alone.

So Gretchen sadly gives him the go-ahead for Jimmy to head up to Nina’s cabin anyway because, as she rightly points out, it’s selfish to ask anyone to stay with her while she’s in this state. But when Jimmy steps outside to wait for Nina, he suddenly has a change of heart right when she’s pulling up to his house. In typical Jimmy fashion, he hides behind a bed of bushes and ignores Nina’s string of increasingly frustrated texts until finally he responds with Lindsay’s failed hip-hop anthem, “New phone. Who dis?” Furious, Nina stomps up to the house ready to ream out Jimmy, but when she sees him in the bushes, she just rolls her eyes and leaves. It’s a nice, unspoken moment that redirects Nina’s anger into understated disappointment. She knows why he isn’t leaving with her, and there’s no reason trying to put up a fight.

Illustration for article titled A messy You’re The Worst succeeds by leaning on the characters’ emotions

Meanwhile, in other parts of the episode, Lindsay is on her apology tour after suffering her near-death experience, vowing to move forward with her life. It’s a brief storyline that mostly involves her approaching Amy with the necessary divorce papers while she and Paul are playing Frisbee in the park, but Donohue’s sincerity mixed with righteous anger mostly sells their exchange. It’s telling that her only payback for Amy stealing her husband is throwing her Frisbee in a tree, as if that’s the only move she can make. Unfortunately, she hasn’t extricated herself from Paul’s life entirely as she later discovers that she’s pregnant from what must be her turkey baster experiment. Yes, this is an absurdly implausible development, but I’m willing to tentatively accept this with good cheer simply because the series has built up enough good will that I can’t imagine they won’t address this in the finale.


Then, there’s Edgar’s final improv show and his sweet attempts to prove to Jimmy that he’s more than a freeloading veteran. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the You’re The Worst’s foray into the improv scene, mainly because purposefully bad comedy has its own limitations, even when it’s really, really accurate. Anyone who has ever been to an over-the-top improv set will cringe with recognition at Edgar’s forced attempts to mine laughs from thin scenarios. But while the actual improv didn’t do much for me, Edgar and Dorothy’s relationship is so sweet that it pretty much saves the story. Both of them feed each other’s needs in a really honest way: Dorothy needs someone who’s genuine and willing to support her while Edgar needs someone to tell him to stand up for himself. It feels earned when Edgar offers to move in with her when they’re looking for apartments, as if they both realize that their relationship is the best thing to have happened to them in a long time.

Illustration for article titled A messy You’re The Worst succeeds by leaning on the characters’ emotions

But that doesn’t hold a candle to the final moments with Jimmy and Gretchen. Gretchen wakes up to find Jimmy lying by her side in a blanket-and-pillow fort that he’s made for her. Cash absolutely nails the moment when he realizes that Jimmy stayed with her in spite of everything that has happened. Director Matt Shakman frames her in a tight close-up as her expression moves from incredulous to overwhelmed that someone would make that kind of sacrifice for her. Gretchen weeping and clinging to Jimmy’s shirt is such a vulnerable, familiar gesture that it all but erases any of my lingering problems with the rest of the episode because that’s the moment that counts. It’s the moment that illustrates that these two occasionally toxic, self-destructive kids can’t quit each other despite the many outs they’ve been given. It all comes down to two simple words: “You stayed.”

Stray observations

  • First thing’s first: You’re The Worst has been renewed for a third season! Though early reports claimed FX was very supportive of the show, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath for a renewal given the series’ very low ratings. Obviously I’m thrilled that such a good show has been given even more time to blossom and develop.
  • I loved the shot of Jimmy walking out of the bar into the harsh light of day. It’s a little on the nose, but still quite effective.
  • Some of Gretchen’s contacts: Weird Cummer, Racist But Hot, eight that say “Do Not Answer,” and Henry Rollins, who shows up via Skype in the episode!
  • I love how Falk tries to find ways to make Becca more and more unlikable. This week she reveals she’s an anti-vaccine truther. Chris Geere’s reaction to this is stellar.
  • The people who show up at Jimmy’s place: Sam, HoneyNutz, Shitstain, Becca, Vernon, Cory from Gretchen’s party, and Rob from the “LCD Soundsystem” episode.
  • On a side note, I’m somewhat disappointed that Rob showed up again, mostly because I preferred for him to exist solely in that one episode.
  • Shitstain’s girlfriend Jacqueline has the two of them watching Rectify, which is advice you should all heed.
  • “It looks like these things got caught in the gears of a clock.”
  • “Mom took away my Tamagotchi! It starved to death, Lindsay. Starved!”
  • “I’m sorry I left you at that weird party with Moby.”
  • “Some of the most legendary geniuses of our time suffer from depression. David Foster Wallace, Hemingway, Spalding Gray, “Boner” from Growing Pains…What? Seriously? All of them?”
  • “Relationships are tough, Jimmy. My mom has a new boyfriend. My dad won’t stop crying. He’s been playing ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ on repeat for days. It’s scary.”
  • Finally, the song playing over the end of the episode is “Twigs and Stones” by Siskiyou, which is embedded below.

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