Todd Robert Anderson as Vernon and Janet Varney as Becca
Image: Byron Cohen (FXX)
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TV shows in their final season historically provide their beloved recurring characters a nice send-off so that audiences can say their last goodbyes. For You’re The Worst, “beloved recurring characters” mostly amounts to Paul, Vernon, and Becca, the three broken souls on the outer orbit of Jimmy and Gretchen’s life. All three characters are inextricably tied to the main gang either through history or blood, but they have all led separate, parallel lives that are absurd as they are tragic. As it stands now, Paul—who came out the other side of a toxic on-again-off-again relationship with Lindsay an avowed Men’s Rights Activist but has since reformed—eagerly awaits a baby from Vernon and Becca, who agreed to host Paul’s child but are now faking artificial insemination treatment for the cash because Vernon’s malpractice suit has crippled them financially. Though these three are obnoxious snakes to one degree or another, life has put them all through the ringer for various reasons, both self-inflicted and otherwise. The bottom keeps falling out for these three whether they realize it or not.

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Written by Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds, and directed by Alex Hardcastle, “The Pillars of Creation” exists to tie up the loose ends with Paul, Vernon, and Becca, sending them on a right path before the series turns its focus back to Jimmy and Gretchen. It’s a self-contained story set during a weekend getaway to the Pasadena Astronomy Society for the lunar eclipse that tracks the rupturing of their relationship, followed by an unexpected reconciliation. Much of this episode is standard You’re The Worst territory—nasty fights, painful revelations, drunken incidents—but the last few minutes are some of the strangest, funniest, and most weirdly moving moments in the whole series. It begins in a familiar place and ends in uncharted territory.

After the three have some fun on the gorgeous property paling around like family, Paul suggests that they halt fertility treatments, believing that Becca’s advanced age and “geriatric womb” make insemination an improbable outcome. Outraged by Paul’s sly insult, she callously reveals their scam, which prompts Paul to announce that he’s already found another surrogate and to sever all ties with Vernon and Becca. This eventually causes Vernon and Becca to air their respective dirty laundry: Vernon calls Becca “a black-hearted witch” and questions why she even married him, and Becca reveals that she only married him because he was a doctor and she wanted to make Jimmy jealous. Reeling from the emotional blows, Vernon decides to get hammered on absinthe and fight with a little girl over Operation, and Becca begins to flirt with Paul.

Up until Vernon and Becca’s fight, “The Pillars of Creation” was just another You’re The Worst episode that tries to deepen the broad caricatures at the edge of the series. The series has gone down this road before with mostly positive results: the third season episode “The Seventh Layer” delved deep into Vernon and Paul’s respective henpecked neuroses, and Becca received a brief fourth season arc that follows her and Lindsay confronting their parents about their neglect. Yet, generally speaking, Paul, Vernon, and Becca are elastic characters, ones that can be grounded or wacky whenever the script calls for it. This makes them fun to watch, but also difficult to emotionally invest in their flaws or issues on a long-term basis. Their history is deep but, necessarily, it can only be mined so much. After all, it’s not their show.

So it’s pleasantly surprising that the back half of “The Pillars of Creation” finds semi-new avenues to explore their plight. Vernon has always been defined by his limitless self-esteem and a frat-boy personality that belies his good heart, which stems from him being born dead for 15 minutes before being miraculously resuscitated. But after being financially extorted by a dominatrix, the suspension of his medical license, and years of abuse from Becca, Vernon finally snaps when he’s unable to beat Operation. All of that boyish charm curdles into nightmarish self-loathing as he stares down a miniature version of his professional failure. He ultimately decides to drown himself in a nearby riverbed.

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Meanwhile, Becca does her best to reconcile with Paul and their conversation becomes sexually charged. It’s a fascinating scene that tries to refuses to clarify either party’s intentions. Is Paul trying to get back at Vernon by making subtle gestures towards his wife or is he caught up in the moment? Similarly, is Becca trying to possibly secure a more comfortable life by sleeping with a financially secure man, or does she just feel vulnerable and guilty? Becca unintentionally strikes a nerve when she suggests to Paul that their arrangement was a bad idea because it would have kept him attached to Lindsay. Paul has been subconsciously trying to retroactively justify his marriage and agreeing to use Becca as a surrogate was a surefire way to do that. At the same time, Paul’s perceptive comment about Becca having the same ears as Lindsay and his suggestive touch threatens to spark something inside her. These are two people who have never particularly liked each other, but because they have so much baggage and history, they can make the other swoon or inspire them to reflect.

Vernon doesn’t kill himself; he changes his mind at the last second and Paul helps him pull the rock tied to his leg out of the water. Afterwards, Becca and Vernon reconcile on good, yet shaky terms, even if Vernon’s eyes are still set on that silly Korean medical food truck. This represents the organic end of the episode. Everyone has found their way to solid ground and has mostly reconciled. Paul, Becca, and Vernon have walked up to the brink, peered over the other, and returned back slightly changed. Cue lunar eclipse. Cue sounds of awe. Fade to black.

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But the episode doesn’t end there. Instead, they have a threesome.

Hardcastle stages the last few minutes wonderfully. Paul overhears Vernon and Becca in the adjoining room from their shared bathroom and decides to take a peak. He indulges in a brief Jeffrey-in-Blue-Velvet moment of voyeurism and proceeds to close the door, but, like Vernon with the rock, he changes his mind and instead opens it wide enough for the couple to see him. A split-second of discomfort becomes an open invitation for Paul to join them. The actual sex scene treads the line between over-the-top goofy and uncomfortably sincere, and Hardcastle treats it as insemination by way of heretofore-unexplored intimacy. Lindsay might have been that unknowable ghost that Paul chased for so many years while Becca and Vernon laid underneath his nose. Maybe Vernon and Becca needed Paul to begin a new chapter in their relationship, one built on communication and trust. One thing is clear: When the three of them go out to breakfast at the diner, they’ve never looked happier, which, understandably, throws Jimmy and Gretchen for a loop. The final shot of them holding hands under the table suggests that surrogacy might not be enough for these bozos. They need to be a throuple in order to become a family. Can you ask for a better send-off?

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Stray observations

  • Longtime TV veteran Jeff Doucette plays Gilly and it’s quite nice to see his face again.
  • Fun fact: Becca played Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All on the Nickelodeon cruise.
  • Another fun fact: Vernon could have married TĂ©a Leoni. Well, they stood in line at Jamba Juice once. But they shared a moment! She said, “Cool jacket.” Who knows where it could’ve gone from there?
  • A third fun fact: Vernon takes Joe Rogan supplements and can offer Paul a family discount because of course.
  • A final fact: Paul is haunted by the McRib.
  • At one point, Becca channels Trump when justifying her scam to Paul: “There were mistakes made on both sides! Both sides!”
  • “Yeah, it’s like we’re getting to crash at a Pier 1 Imports, or something not quite as fancy but still good like CB2.”
  • “Your gunk? I squired it out the window, but if it makes you feel any better, the ficus in Lindsay’s alley has grown like a foot.”
  • “The Mayans believed that during an eclipse jaguars would come out of the Earth and eat the pale people, people like you.” “At least my little dick’s not hanging out of my shorts. Hah! Stupid.”
  • “Any junk, feelings are stupid.”

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