You’re The Worst came to an end tonight, resolving the mystery of its final-season-long flash-forwards and sending the once-mismatched couple of Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) and Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) off into a future where they might not have a marriage certificate, but they do have each other. Read on for a conversation about the finale with creator Stephen Falk, who breaks down the decision to periodically wind the show’s clock ahead, explains why Edgar needed to leave, and reveals the songs that could’ve taken The Mountain Goats’ place under the finale’s closing montage.
The A.V. Club: When did the idea to do flash-forwards arise?
Stephen Falk: It happened somewhere during the beginning of crafting the season. I had a new writers room for the first time. I had great continuity for the first four seasons—the same staff, but finally they got scooped up. So I had a whole new group, and we just started trying to figure out a way to make things a little more tense, a little more structurally interesting, and also bake in a bit of a mislead. The binary question of “Are they going to get married or not?” is not super exciting. But we thought that if we could have some structural fun with it and also get to this mystery of “Who’s not together?”
The main conflict is not between Gretchen and Jimmy, but Jimmy and Edgar, which is the heart of the show for me. Certainly it’s a rom-com and a love story, but I was never totally comfortable with the old trope of the rom-com sidekick. And I thought Edgar deserved a chance to get out of Jimmy’s orbit for good, and this was a way to do it. So it was a lot of different factors that went into planning the flash-forwards.
AVC: At what point did you realize that Edgar was the linchpin of the group?
SF: I think any one of them could be the linchpin. But Edgar holds a special place. He’s the one with the damage that most needs to be healed. Certainly they all have their issues, but Edgar is a victim of the way we treat veterans in this country, which is abhorrent. After training them to kill we kind of just [say], “Oh, thanks. Here’s GI Bill money for college or something.”
He needed to get away from Jimmy, and even from the first season, he tried and he kept trying, without having the courage or the tools or the wherewithal to do it. I wanted Edgar to be able to do that, and I think the only way—and it may have been subconscious—to do that was to hurt Jimmy. Even though he thought he was saving him in the moment.
AVC: It’s a remarkable turn from last week’s episode to the finale, because at the end of “We Were Having Such A Nice Day,” it’s easy to be mad at Edgar.
SF: It’s a horrible thing to do. A friend of mine had that happen to him. A guy took him on a trip, ostensibly to celebrate his engagement, and really the whole purpose of the trip was to say, “You can’t marry this woman.” Needless to say it ruined their friendship. But that always stuck with me. That’s kind of the worst thing a friend can do. You have to let people make mistakes, and you have to let people live their lives, and you support them no matter what.
It’s always really fun as a writer to try to take something that, on the surface, looks horrible—an action, a transgression—and then turn it around and find the deeper meanings and motivation and show that it’s not black and white. If our show has tried to live by any credo, it’s that things are always more complicated than they seem. No one is a villain. No one is a hero. There’s always more to the story.
AVC: And what about the decision for Paul and Lindsay to get remarried?
SF: I think we explored the idea—that I think is very common—that in marriage, there’s always going to be periods where you question [Laughs.] the relationship. And I think that questioning, that longing, that “grass is always greener”-ness is always there and can often be a distraction from actually working on the relationship.
For us, it showed a maturity in Lindsay that she spent a couple of seasons being single and “working on herself”: living alone for the first time and actually having a career of sorts—and thriving in that. And I think only when she was able to reinvent herself on her own terms and really grow a lot, was she able to then see that maybe Paul wasn’t the wrong person after all. Maybe it was just the wrong time and she wasn’t ready. There was always the idea for Paul that Lindsay was the love of his life and it was kind of a great tragedy that she felt differently. And so for us, it’s a nice redemptive thing to give them another shot.
Will they last? Will she immediately want to fuck other guys? I don’t know! [Laughs.] But for the moment they’re back together, and I think it’s sweet.
AVC: What were some callbacks and returning characters you wanted to make sure made their way into the finale?
SF: I would’ve loved to get the original Honey Nutz, Allen Maldonado, in there, but he’s busy starring on five different shows and writing and creating apps, so we weren’t able to get him back. We got Killian, we got Gretchen’s parents—they really had small roles previously, and it was so great to give Gretchen and her mom this final reckoning of really bad mom behavior, and I thought [Aya Cash and Rebeccca Tilney] both did beautiful work. I got to bring back the fro-yo guy, which was just a personal favorite. He’s an actor, Winston Story, who’s been doing phenomenal work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I watched the collection of his scenes from the Halloween episode over and over, and I was dying to get him back all season.
I think everyone’s pretty well-represented. There was stuff we could have crammed in, but I think the danger in finales is it’s always going to seem like fan service: “Hey, remember this? Remember that?” And that’s not our show. That’s just bad writing. So we had to be cognizant of doing things that made some semblance of sense for them to be there in the wedding.
AVC: Are there more verses to the song Lindsay performs at the non-wedding, “The Very Last Dick”? Or is what Kether Donohue performed onscreen all that was written?
SF: There’s a second verse, and Kether was really sad she wasn’t able to do that verse because it’s pretty phenomenal. Some day, we’ll collect all the songs that Adam Blau—who writes all our music—and me—who writes all our lyrics, such as they are—did. But yeah, there’s more, man. Writing music is super, super fun, and our actors love to sing, so they were constantly asking if they could do a musical episode. I would’ve, if I could think of a reason why they’d all be singing, you know. This is not Buffy or Glee.
AVC: What made you pick “No Children” by The Mountain Goats as the soundtrack for the montage that shows what happened between the weddings?
SF: I just wanted a Mountain Goats song there. I didn’t know which one would work. I have loved The Mountain Goats for a long time. I actually got John [Darnielle] to record the Weeds theme—for a couple of seasons, we had different artists do covers [of “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds] rather than just use the original—and we stayed in contact.
I just started playing Mountain Goats songs, and I heard “No Children”—which I knew a little bit, but it wasn’t in the fore in my mind—and I was like, “Oh, no I cannot use this. It’s so fucking dark.” [Laughs.] And then I realized, “Oh yeah, we’re You’re The Worst, that makes complete sense.” I had a couple other songs in mind, but when I shot the montage that spans the two timelines, and played [“No Children”], it was just immediate. It has a lot of movement, it’s sort of uptempo, and it has a fast strumming pattern on the guitar. And then the lyrics make it sound like it was written by Jimmy and Gretchen.
And it is really hopeful. I actually asked John if anyone thinks of it as a romantic song, and he told me that he’s had a lot of fans ask him to play it at their wedding. And when he says, “No, I think that’s crazy,” they still play it for their first dance. Which I think he thinks is a little weird, but I get it. It’s a weirdly hopeful romantic song, in the call for love to become annihilation, which I think matches with the overwhelming feeling you can have at that moment.
One of my editors told me that when he heard that music coming from the other editing suite, he had already been hoping I would use that song—without me ever mentioning it, or ever playing it, or ever telling him how much I love The Mountain Goats. So I realized I was onto something.
AVC: What other songs had you considered for the montage?
SF: I was thinking of using Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End,” but it was too slow. And I was thinking of using “Off You” by The Breeders, which is very slow and is just Kim Deal and her acoustic guitar. But both songs just laid there with the slo-mo and made the whole thing too static.
AVC: You appear onscreen in the finale, as one of the guests at the wedding. What character are you playing there?
SF: [Laughs.] I’m playing Privileged Showrunner No. 1 Taking Advantage Of My Power To Put Myself And My Family In A Dance Sequence. It’s a really long character title, but it’s funny: I just wrote that character title, and then I auditioned people for it, so I decided to do it.
My 3-year-old daughter was supposed to play Gretchen and Jimmy’s daughter, Felicity, but when it came to “Action,” she didn’t want to do it. My other daughter plays the younger Felicity in the montage, and my wife was the head of the makeup department for the whole run, so I just wanted us to all be in there somewhere.
AVC: How do you hope You’re The Worst is remembered?
SF: What is always very important for me is that we’re pretty structurally rigorous. That our storytelling is fairly meticulous, and that things that you see onscreen—even if it’s just dumb shit, and I love dumb shit—feels holistically right, and that the center holds. We work really, really hard in the writers room to have stakes and conflict and story—you know, things that stories should have but don’t always.
I hope to be remembered as a show that was structurally and tonally daring without feeling stunt-y. I want to be remembered as a lot of things, it turns out. I want to be remembered as a really good version of a romantic comedy that both played with and sometimes poked fun at the standard tropes of rom-coms, but at the end of the day actually adhered to them and became a really good example of the genre. And I would also like to be remembered as the place that people first took notice of Chris Geere and Aya Cash and Kether Donohue and Desmin Borges and Todd Robert Anderson and Allan McLeod and Janet Varney.