“No one wants to hear these things. If you insist on sharing them, you’ll just push everyone away,” Gretchen’s mother, Vanessa, (Rebecca Tilney), condescendingly tells her daughter after being confronted about her parental neglect. She expresses Gretchen’s single worst fear: no one will ever fully accept her because of the burden of her mental illness. The best solution, according to her mother, is to put on a pretty face, bottle up that depression so that no one will ever find it, and act like everything is fine. But Gretchen already knows that plan doesn’t work. She’s tried it for years and the truth always comes out. Except this time, she has Jimmy, who has provided her with the gift of unconditional acceptance, the freedom to be herself without fear of rejection. It might have taken a while, but they’re in a good place now. No, really. They are.
Set on the day before Jimmy and Gretchen’s wedding, “We Were Having Such A Nice Day” addresses the foundation of denial that lies beneath our heroes’ relationship. Though You’re The Worst has always been fond of Jimmy and Gretchen as a couple, the series has never presented their relationship as inevitable, let alone a good thing. These are two stubborn, arrogant people well versed in self-deception who approach a lasting relationship as if it’s something to achieve rather than experience. They undoubtedly love each other, but a part of that means working through their respective and shared issues together, which they all but refuse to do. Instead, they’ve become comfortable with an established pattern: defer the problem until it can no longer be ignored, confess the truth, do absolutely nothing to meaningfully address the issue, rinse and repeat. That’s not exactly a sustainable relationship. It’s more like two people who acknowledge the broken glass in the room but refuse to clean it up.
Written by Sarah Carbiener and Erica Rosbe, the episode isolates Jimmy and Gretchen so that they can confront their insecurities alone. For Gretchen, that means a surprise visit from her mother on what was supposed to be a beauty day for her and Lindsay. Vanessa, a Reagan-loving WASP caricature in a loveless marriage who has clearly poisoned her children, spends almost the entire day alternating between expressing mild affection for her daughter and articulating outright cruelty towards her. It’s immediately clear that Gretchen’s damaged psyche can be partially sourced back to her parents’ ignorance towards their children’s interior lives, including the early signs of clinical depression. When Gretchen tells her mother she tried to commit suicide at age 17, she responds by saying, “Nothing we did was ever good enough for you.” It’s no wonder that Gretchen’s emotional state has frequently been in shambles for her entire adult life.
At the same time, Vanessa has lived with plenty of marital hardships that will likely go unaddressed in her lifetime. (She’s from the generation that copes with emotional distress by taking it out on their children.) You’re The Worst affords her sympathy because, in spite of her near-constant browbeating, she wants the perfect life for Gretchen that’s just out of grasp for herself. She clearly views Jimmy as an impediment to that goal. He’s someone who doesn’t push Gretchen to be her best self and instead accepts her for how she is. On some level, she’s right. Jimmy’s flaws-and-all, non-judgmental affirmation does endear him to Gretchen, who has spent much of her life under a dark cloud and can’t be blamed for wanting a little light. But maybe it’s not enough to only embrace. What’s required is an active investment in becoming fully realized people together, not just reveling in a static state.
Vanessa doesn’t articulate this desire very well, couching it in ruminations on the unique displeasure of raising children. Gretchen, still reeling from her mother’s callousness earlier, wouldn’t have heard it anyway. The vast distance between them, literalized by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts blocking Cash and Tilney far apart in most of their scenes, might be too much to recover. They both want what’s best for the other, but their shared baggage makes it impossible for them to express that. In effect, Gretchen and her mother have the same problem as Jimmy and Gretchen. Even when they’re being “real,” nothing is really being accomplished.
Carbiener and Rosbe pull off a neat trick with “We Were Having Such A Nice Day” by initially positioning Gretchen’s storyline as the episode’s dramatic center. In contrast, the other two stories—Lindsay brokering a deal between Paul and Becca/Vernon about the health of his unborn child and Jimmy and Edgar’s best-man day—necessarily play like comic relief. Jimmy and Edgar’s story in particular felt like an excuse for Jordan Vogt-Roberts and the You’re The Worst team to indulge in stylized montages before the series wraps. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that. All three of them are pretty funny, especially the curling montage set to Trip Lee’s “Too Cold.” It just felt a little too much like lightweight filler compared to the other two stories, a little too much like a needless joy ride.
I was dead wrong. Jimmy and Edgar’s shenanigans were purposefully lighthearted so as to amplify the impact of one of the most devastating scenes in You’re The Worst history. Their fight at the end of “We Were Having Such A Nice Day” truly personifies the episode’s title. Edgar, acting as the Ferris Bueller to Jimmy’s Cameron Fry, crafted a great day for his best friend so that he might be more willing to hear some harsh truths. At the end of that day, when Jimmy and Edgar are having drinks, waxing poetic about their friendship, Edgar gently drops a bomb. He tells Jimmy that he shouldn’t marry Gretchen. Suddenly, the bridge they’ve built together catches fire.
Television works best when it actively engages with its own past. Gretchen’s confrontation with her mother is plenty affecting, but it’s necessarily blunted by the fact that Tilney is a guest star. We’ve only been afforded limited access to Vanessa and thus the emotional weight of their fight doesn’t carry with it as much time or on-screen history. In stark contrast, Edgar and Jimmy’s fight feels startlingly real, like watching two close friends tear apart their relationship in real time. Edgar believes he’s doing Jimmy a service by giving him an out because he knows that there’s only more pain on the horizon. Jimmy just sees a friend sucker punch him by invalidating his relationship with his soon-to-be spouse. Hearing Chris Geere go from gentle to downright cruel, from “You are, have always been, my best man and my best friend” to “You’re pathetic. You’re nothing!”, puts a pit in my stomach.
It would take up too much space to unpack every element of the simple, short scene, but I want to highlight Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ alternating low-angle close-ups of Geere and Borges. They’re obviously designed to keep the audience uncomfortably close to the tension between Jimmy and Edgar, but more practically, they literally display the tears brimming in Geere and Borges’ eyes. Even before Edgar eases into the difficult conversation, you can hear the catch in Borges’ throat; Vogt-Roberts films Geere’s reaction shot and you can see his eyes moisten just a little bit in response. Both are keenly aware that they’re about to embark down a road from which neither will return. Later, it’s overwhelming to watch Jimmy, through a cracked voice and a quivering lip, beg Edgar to stop talking when he tries to explain he can get half his deposit back. Eventually, Jimmy tells Edgar that he never wants to see him again, and that if he and Gretchen are bound to destroy each other, there’s no way he’d rather go. Seemingly once and for all, the only person who has stuck by Jimmy’s side through everything has been cast out.
Considering the flash-forward, Edgar turns out okay. It looks like he has a daughter with whom he plays hyper-realistic hide-and-seek games. But Jimmy and Gretchen are a different story. Gretchen stepping on the broken glass she purposefully dropped at the beginning of the day feels like a bad omen if there ever was one. She claims Jimmy doesn’t have to fix her problems, but whom else was going to pick up the glass? Jimmy argues Gretchen is a tough girl, but how many more hits can she be expected to take?
There’s a big day coming. Only time will tell if the sound in the air is wedding bells or a siren.
- Gretchen’s secrets she thought her mother didn’t already know: 1. In high school, she had more sex in her mother’s bed than she did; 2. Granny’s Winslow Homer painting that’s been in the family for decades is a fake; she sold the real one to buy acid; 3. She said her piano teacher “bad touched” her to get out of a recital; 4. The hamster didn’t escape. She forgot to feed him; 5. Abortions? Yup!; 6. She didn’t graduate college.
- Though definitely the weakest of the three stories, Lindsay’s at least ends on a sweet note: she and Paul romantically reconnect over the phone, despite only being a few feet apart. Maybe those two needed to go through a nasty divorce to end up back in each other’s arms?
- Thomas Middleditch returns as the needy, agenda-stealing hipster from the first Sunday Funday! He appears at the private club and Edgar and Jimmy both steal his proverbial thunder.
- Gretchen’s mother had to return to the hotel early. Apparently, Gretchen’s father got into it with the docent at the Reagan library about the Gipper’s handling of AIDS and he’s still wound up.
- “No one’s going to be looking at you. Literally no one. You’re invisible tomorrow. No one gives a fuck. You could die.”
- This episode features some pretty great music, but it closes with an all-timer: Stephin Merritt’s “Forever And A Day” from his 2011 compilation album Obscurities. Listen to it below.