After the last few emotionally heavy episodes, You’re The Worst adopts a lighter, but more scattered approach to “A Right Proper Story,” which provides a look at Jimmy’s cruel, uncouth family and set the table for the final part of the season. It emphasizes the various conflicts at play—Jimmy and Gretchen growing apart, Lindsay stubbornly refusing to sign her divorce papers, the rap feud between Sam and HoneyNutz and Shitstain—while also providing some backstory for Jimmy, a character that has taken a backset to Gretchen for the last few weeks. Jimmy’s characterization hinges on his inflated ego and deep-seated insecurity, but because his defense mechanisms are strong enough to keep most of his internal issues at bay, it makes sense why Stephen Falk and co. would shift their focus to Gretchen and the return of her clinical depression. But the return of Jimmy’s family is just the right catalyst for Jimmy’s internal issues to bubble back up to the surface.
Written by Franklin Hardy and Shane Kosakowski, “A Right Proper Story” positions Jimmy’s family life as static and unsophisticated, and largely indifferent to the needs of a sensitive child. But it also suggests that Jimmy assumed both the best and worst qualities of his family. His sister Di (Jessica Chaffin) tosses out vicious insults that resemble Jimmy’s takedowns, only less witty and more pointed. His other sister Fiona (Jayne Entwistle) is obsessed with the inanity of her work just like Jimmy prattling on and on about his “writing process.” His youngest sister Lily (Katie Costick) embodies all of Jimmy’s sweeter qualities that hardly ever surface, but also represents a different path for him, one where he didn’t go to university and stayed to take care of his selfish family. Of course these aren’t neat, one-to-one comparisons, but Hardy and Kosakowski demonstrate that even a family as awful as Jimmy’s can still pass on characteristics essential to one’s character.
Though the subtext of “A Right Proper Story” ultimately rings true, much of the text itself is too scattered and shallow for it to be that emotionally potent. For the entire episode, Jimmy’s family mostly remains caricatures, ones we can laugh at without any emotional investment. It’s absurd to expect that every one-off character that passes through You’re The Worst have three dimensions with rich backstories, but their superficiality still dulls the edges of Jimmy’s resentment. Of course we ally with him because his family is so awful, but they’re also mostly strawwomen designed to gain sympathy for the protagonist. Though Jimmy’s rant against his family largely works because of Chris Geere’s acting, especially the way he forcibly holds back tears almost the entire episode, it doesn’t have the same uncomfortable fire to it as Gretchen’s rant from “There Is Not Currently A Problem” because Jimmy yells at cardboard cutouts instead of flesh-and-blood characters.
The one exception to this is Jimmy’s father Ronnie (David Schaal), who dismisses Jimmy’s rant as nonsense but still goes out to get a drink with him to catch up. The scene with Jimmy and Ronnie in the bar goes mostly as expected: He asks him how he’s doing, compliments his life in America, finally admits he has read his book, and then clams up yet again. But though it’s a little tired in theory, it’s the most emotionally direct scene in the episode, again mainly because of Geere’s spectacular acting. (There’s a shot of Geere’s lip slightly quivering ever so slightly that absolutely killed me.) No matter how insensitive, racist, and impulsive he can be, Jimmy’s dad can still deliver the bare minimum of emotional support, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
That’s more than you can say about Gretchen, whose clinical depression has rendered her bed-ridden, emotionally drained, and uninterested in anything going on around her. For the first time since Gretchen’s illness has been introduced, “A Right Proper Story” portrays how it feels to live with someone struggling to even be awake. Depression has been described as having an anchor around your neck, weighing you down even when you’re fighting to stand. Hardy and Kosakowski keep Gretchen in the background as we see her lie around, hide from Jimmy’s parents, and pass off her work onto Lindsay. It’s clear Jimmy needed some emotional support from his girlfriend the week that his awful family arrived, but Gretchen is unable to reciprocate it as she’s mired in her own personal Hell.
But no matter how sympathetic You’re The Worst is to Gretchen’s plight, it never pretends that Jimmy is somehow unaffected by it at all. When Jimmy’s father tells Jimmy about his recent divorce, something Jimmy was unaware of, he tells him that though their relationship started off great, Jimmy’s mother ultimately fell into a rough patch and never really recovered. “There will always be other girls,” he says to a quiet Jimmy. I don’t think Hardy & Kosakowski are suggesting that Jimmy’s parents have the same relationship as Jimmy and Gretchen, but the story ultimately feeds into Jimmy’s fears that they’ll grow apart and stay together because it’s easier than starting over. They’ll end up like the millions of other couples who resent each other but are unable to leave, choosing to live with co-dependency than challenge it.
It’s why the last couple minutes, like most other You’re The Worst episodes, are so understandably devastating. Jimmy all but begs Gretchen to listen to him vent about his family and she coldly declines saying she can’t, to which Jimmy sneers back that she just won’t. It’s stellar how the sympathies are balanced in this moment, as Gretchen literally can’t muster up the energy to deal with Jimmy while he takes it as a selfish gesture. When Jimmy goes back to the bar to drink away his sorrows, he sees Nina again, and she just can’t wait to hear about Jimmy’s family. But Hardy and Kosakowski don’t depict Nina as a nasty interloper, but someone whom genuinely likes Jimmy. Of course for Jimmy, Nina also has the benefit of novelty. She has all the pleasures of a fresh start, while Gretchen embodies the difficulties of any long-term relationship, ugly baggage and all. It’s a familiar story of divided emotions, evidenced by Jimmy guiltily looking away after checking out Nina’s body, but You’re The Worst doesn’t treat it lightly. Every road eventually has a fork in it, and no path is devoid of pain and regret. A right and proper story indeed.
- The other major storyline this week involves Lindsay helping Sam with a wardrobe crisis. While she’s there, Sam hears Lindsay sing the words “Who dis?” to herself and uses her on a diss track in his endless rap beef with HoneyNutz and Shitstain. It’s fantastic.
- The Lily stuff in general didn’t really work for me, mostly because I found her plight to generally be too sad to work as comedy. Plus, I thought it was a pretty lame way to give Edgar something to do this week.
- Of course Gretchen sent the letters Jimmy wrote last week. Aside the one inviting his family to come stay with him, there’s the love letter to Becca and a donation to BAMLA (a play off of NAMBLA, or North American Man Boy Love Association). Also, Jimmy freaking out about his family coming was fantastic.
- The other phenomenal runner was Jimmy’s family and the gun, mostly because they just (reasonably) assume guns are everywhere. “Just like Shitty Jimmy. Move to America and not own a gun.”
- Nicknames for Jimmy: Shitty Jimmy, Cock Bandit, Cry Baby Fart Face, and Little Jizz Man.
- GQ once called Sam’s signature style “courageously headache-y.”
- “I thought all British people were fancy, but these are like Alabama English people.”
- “Wow! It’s so big and gray!”
- “In my defense, I only pushed you so you’d fall in shit!”
- “Let’s go for a drink. We need to talk, and maybe stop by the bullet store on the way home.”
- “Look, Jimmy. I know I’ve never really been that good at, you know…” “Staying sober past lunch? Not being racist? Gastrointestinal control?” “Talking.”