“And I hope when you think of me years down the line / You can’t find one good thing to say / And I’d hope that if I found the strength to walk out / You’d stay the hell out of my way”
Alcoholics Anonymous employs the motto “one day at a time” to make sobriety feel more manageable. By shrinking the task to a daily one instead of a lifelong commitment, it becomes routine, something that feels possible and within reach. Though obviously not applicable in all situations, the concept of “one day at a time” has purchase on a grander scale because “forever” remains frustratingly abstract. It connotes mortality and presupposes external factors won’t affect the present. Some people can make “forever” work by treating it as a goal that shapes one’s current actions. But other people, a lot of other people, need life reduced to a practical, feasible level.
Similarly, love isn’t a fixed idea. It’s a spectrum that one moves within as a relationship develops. No one loves someone the same amount at every single moment. It brightens and fades at will or at random. There are days when it burns so bright it becomes an all-consuming blaze that makes live worth living. Other days, it’s as cold and dark as a winter morning, and nothing could make you feel less alone. It’s a rancid cliché to say that love is “work” because that implies it can be finished or that it can be put aside for a later date. It’s a fluid feeling, which makes it exciting and maddening at the same time. To love someone forever isn’t to maintain a certain feeling. It’s to accept that, through good times and bad, you wake up every day and choose to live in that spectrum because the other person, in spite of everything, is worth it.
Maybe that’s what Jimmy and Gretchen required the whole time. Maybe someone just needed to give them the permission to ignore the future entirely. Commitment always means the possibility of failure, but for Jimmy and Gretchen, it’s a trap that all but guarantees it. Feelings can change at any time and publicly declaring that they won’t, no matter how ceremonial it might be, just illustrates the inherent lie underneath the promise. Some accept it for ritual’s sake, but not Jimmy and Gretchen. Even as they’ve gone through the rigmarole of planning a wedding, doubt and fear has weighed over the proceeding. Once you say, “I do,” someday you might have to effectively un-say it, and that’s not something that either of them can do.
So they choose not to say it at all, and it’s perfect. Written and directed by Stephen Falk, “Pancakes” allows Jimmy and Gretchen to not-so-gracefully exit their own wedding but still commit to each other. It checks off all the series finale boxes—callbacks, cameos from familiar faces, reveals, disclosures, etc.—while also fitting in enough poetry to send these two “worsts” into the future on a high note. In fact, Falk gives everyone their own happy ending, and it works because it’s earned, because we’ve seen these people fall down, get up, and fall down again and again and again. By the end, they’re all still standing and better for it.
On Jimmy and Gretchen’s wedding day, everything initially goes off without a hitch: the venue is immaculate, the drinks are specialized, and everyone arrives on time and looks great. The one problem? Edgar, sitting in his car in the driveway, passive aggressively waiting for Jimmy to realize his mistake. Edgar might have been trying to help Jimmy when he told him he shouldn’t marry Gretchen in “We Were Having Such A Nice Day,” but it was still a hurtful, friendship-ending move. No matter how “right” he may or may not be, it was still the wrong thing to say, and everyone agrees. Jimmy walks away from him again after realizing he’s not there to apologize. Lindsay firmly tells him that he’s the dumb one who killed the group. But Gretchen, after learning why Vernon has taken the place of Jimmy’s best man, delivers the body blow. She tells him that Jimmy’s one humanizing quality was that he let him stay in his house, but that he’ll never respect him, and that she never respected him for continuing to lick his boots. “I don’t even pity you anymore. I just hate you now,” she says flatly, demanding that he leave. Except that he doesn’t. He stays anyway, hoping that his services will still be needed.
But Edgar’s presence doesn’t hold a candle to what Jimmy discovers later. After delivering her grandmother’s broach to Gretchen’s room, he discovers that she didn’t write her vows and farmed them out to Shitstain instead. (In Gretchen’s mild defense, Shitstain had his first poem published in The New Yorker when he was 19!) This, rightfully, sets Jimmy off. It’s one thing for Gretchen not to plan the wedding at all, to let Jimmy pick the flowers and the caterer and even her dress, but it’s another thing entirely to treat her pledge to him like an afterthought as well. Jimmy realizes that Gretchen’s mother, and, incidentally, Paul, were right. The more he tries to take care of her, the more she resents him. Gretchen will never change. Even when pressed to say definitively if she wants to get married, she responds, snidely, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
So they fight, and it’s the same fight they’ve been having for their entire relationship, only the stakes are higher. Everyone is waiting for them to be married, and they’re outside the venue deciding whether or not to even go back inside. It’s then that Jimmy reveals that his vows are as phony as hers, that he could only write it as a fictional character because he couldn’t believe anything that he was saying. He can’t promise that he’ll love her for “eternity” or “in sickness and in health” or “until death,” and neither can she. So where does that leave them?
Except that we already know. Falk makes the clever choice to resolve the flashforwards well before Jimmy and Gretchen decide to call off the wedding. As present-day Jimmy steps outside to have a smoke, we’re seamlessly thrust into the future where he’s just as perturbed as he was on his wedding day. He’s not been ambushed by Gretchen’s sudden presence at this other wedding, but by Edgar’s. In the interim time, Edgar moved to New York and has been adapting a murder podcast. He apologizes to Jimmy for his actions, and he accepts, admitting that it was a “brave and selfless act.” Edgar tells him it wasn’t selfish, but it was the only way he could cut ties so he could finally thrive outside of his orbit. It was the move he needed to make for a clean break. It just so happened that he made the right call.
Falk delivers so many reveals back to back that it can be a little confusing, but they are as follows: Jimmy and Gretchen are still together and they have a daughter named Felicity, who was previously seen playing with Edgar in last week’s episode. Gretchen was anxious about seeing Edgar again, not Jimmy. They are all gathered at Lindsay’s second wedding to Paul. The florist that blew Jimmy way back when is now their nanny. Jimmy sold the house because it wasn’t safe for kids. Gretchen had been staying at a hotel in the meantime and was trying to stay sober for a month. (She failed.) The flashforwards told the future, but not the whole future. They were mere glimpses of a fuller life that we couldn’t see clearly at the time.
In the end, the finale ultimately didn’t hinge on whether Jimmy and Gretchen stayed together, but rather the status of everyone’s own lives. Yet, Falk still provides them the emotional climax: Jimmy and Gretchen, having bailed on their wedding for pancakes at the diner, decide to stay together and choose each other every day. Maybe one day they won’t. Maybe Gretchen’s depression will get the best of her and she’ll jump in front of a train. Maybe Jimmy will choose to love someone else down the line. Every day they have to choose and live with choice. One day at a time.
But in the end, the permanent out they give themselves to bail at any moment was just the permission they needed to commit. To the tune of the Mountain Goats’ “No Children,” we see Jimmy and Gretchen become parents, something that seemed inconceivable in the first season. They still go out to the bar, but they bring Felicity along with them. There are still sleepless nights, and rough days, but it’s nothing they can’t overcome because they can way away at any point. Except they won’t. They just can.
Alongside them, Lindsay and Paul fall in love once again. Edgar finally builds his own life. Even, Vernon gets his Mobile Vern Unit. When everyone hits the dance floor at Lindsay’s wedding, we see how far this dysfunctional band of clowns has come. Jimmy and Gretchen’s kid dances alongside Lindsay and Paul’s child. Tallulah has all grown up and has a cute eye patch. Becca is pregnant yet again, but this time she responsibly chooses water over booze. These are all in a good place. No matter how long that lasts, it’s worth celebrating.
You’re The Worst was always a love story, but it was also a delayed coming-of-age tale. Everyone in the series puts off growing up because it’s much easier to play the child, someone who depends on others and takes no responsibility for how their actions affect other people. Jimmy and Gretchen blowing off their wedding was their last childish act. In the end, they take charge of their lives by choosing not just each other, but also the people who surround them. Given that every day is a struggle, it’s best to share it with people who understand you than those who don’t. Pancakes always taste better than Novocain, especially when you eat them with someone you love.
- Please check out TV Club editor Erik Adams’ interview with Stephen Falk on the finale! He shares some sharp insights into how the final season was put together.
- People who make guest appearances: The fro-yo guy from the first season, played by Winston Story, who attends the wedding mainly to score tips off of errands; Ben Folds, who gets very drunk off of everything, including Vernon’s trash juice, and mistakes Edgar’s car for his Uber; and Stephen Falk, who can be seen dancing at Lindsay and Paul’s second wedding!
- It’s a shame YTW couldn’t get the real HoneyNutz to make one last appearance, but apparently Allen Maldonado is too busy.
- A cool bit of direction: Falk frequently frames Edgar’s car off center so we can’t see who will enter his passenger seat at any given moment.
- Starlee Kline plays the host of the murder podcast that Edgar obsesses over and decides to adapt. She does a very good Sarah Koenig impression.
- The moment that really got to me was when Gretchen tells Jimmy that she wants to shake the presents at Lindsay’s wedding because they owe her a food processor. That’s just the perfectly sweet You’re The Worst moment.
- Kether Donohue gets to sing one last time, and it’s an original song entitled “The Very Last Dick.” The full lyrics: “There’s Gregory at South By / Justin with the abs / Peter and Reuben from Footlocker / There’s Eugene from the deaf school / And Dylan who sold coke / And don’t forget the singer from Spin Doctors / Bryce who was weirdly loud / Mike who was well endowed / If far longer than thick / Quite possibly piled up, couldn’t beat / The very last dick!”
- “How do you do it? Adult friendships are so hard to maintain. Billy Corgan and I were really close until that year when I got the better green room at Weenie Roast. He never got over that.”
- Thus concludes You’re The Worst reviews at The A.V. Club. This represents not just my very first TV beat, but my very first writing job period. I was still in college when I was writing about the first season. (Don’t read those reviews. I’m sure they’re not great.) This show has been a consistent in my life for the past six years and watching it finally end is a little bittersweet. Thanks to anyone who read and commented over the years, even after AVC switched to Kinja. It truly does mean a lot whenever anyone takes the time to tell me how much they liked these reviews. With that, I bid you all a fond farewell.