Last week, You’re The Worst hit an impressive high by showcasing the negative effect Jimmy and Gretchen have on the people who enter their orbit. It was an engaging take on just how much a person’s self-delusion can damage other people, intentionally or otherwise, and it signaled a step forward for the series into darker, more personal territory. Though “Equally Dead Inside” attempts to delve into Jimmy and Gretchen’s past, even if it’s to illustrate how banal they really are, it doesn’t quite follow through on the potential of “PTSD.” Don’t get me wrong: “Equally Dead Inside” isn’t a bad episode—it’s pretty funny and has a choice Sandra Bernhard cameo—but it’s not a particularly good one either. It’s fine and all, but compared to “PTSD,” it’s a let down.
“Equally Dead Inside” focuses on Jimmy and Gretchen’s emotional detachment in the face of their newfound relationship. After Jimmy receives a package containing a Manchester jersey from his distant father, he spirals into an alcoholic depression brought on by memories of his childhood. Jimmy sits in a bar with Gretchen and finally opens up about his issues with his father—how he never praised him, how he never congratulated him on his book, how he dragged him to soccer games even when he knew that Jimmy didn’t give a damn about sports, etc. It’s standard daddy issues, and to the credit of writer Alison Bennett, it isn’t played as anything more than that. Jimmy doesn’t have a cathartic breakthrough, he’s just one in a long line of sons who doesn’t have a close relationship with his father. Even though Jimmy’s relationship with his father is probably the key to his narcissism, Bennett purposefully doesn’t take it to that place and plays it as a vapid unloading of feelings.
Gretchen obviously isn’t comfortable with Jimmy’s newfound emotions, so she unsuccessfully tries to distract him from his depression with good humor. When that doesn’t work, she tries to have a threesome with her sexy new work wife Dana (Jeanine Mason) to cure Jimmy of his sorrow, but after he ejaculates prematurely and comes up with an elaborate lie to cover it up, Dana leaves both of them to their own devices. Both feeling dejected, they sit outside Jimmy’s house and smoke while Gretchen begins to open up about her inability to retain female friends before Jimmy tells her to shut up. They decide they’re both uncomfortable with “feelings” and promise not to engage with them ever again with one another.
It’s another tidy, pat ending that doesn’t have quite the same punch as You’re The Worst’s best episodes, but that’s mostly because the plotline leading up to it is pretty undercooked. Yes, Jimmy’s emotional spiral is supposed to be lame, but nonetheless everything surrounding it feels a bit telegraphed. Of course Gretchen doesn’t respond well to Jimmy’s self-pity, of course he wants to take his frustration out on a defenseless Sandra Bernhard at her book signing, and of course this is all because neither of them wants to use the term “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” None of what happens is out of character, but it doesn’t make it any less obvious. Without the special spark that You’re The Worst often brings to the table, it’s tedious to watch yet another example of Jimmy and Gretchen’s childish behavior eventually get resolved by their promise to commit to more childishness.
Meanwhile in the B-story, Edgar and Lindsay have their own little non-adventure at dinner and drinks that Jimmy and Gretchen fail to attend. They bond over their frustration with their friends’ lack of interest in their lives. Lindsay opens up about her one-night stand with Aiden, the Ohioan from last week, and Edgar talks about the double life he often leads. Even though the story doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s saved by Borges and Donohue’s chemistry with one another that was teased in previous episodes but finally comes to fruition here. It’s nice to finally see them get some screen time together as they bitch about Jimmy and Gretchen’s insensitivity to their problems. Plus, the B-story contains the single best scene in the episode: Edgar and Lindsay realizing they’re sidekicks in Jimmy and Gretchen’s story. It can be heavy-handed when a sitcom dives into meta territory, especially when it’s just to flatter the audience’s intelligence, but because it’s done as an aside, it leads to an honest and funny moment between the two.
“Equally Dead Inside” is mostly saved by its comedy—Gretchen’s attempts to rouse Jimmy’s spirits, Jimmy’s pre-written heckles for Sandra Bernhard, the weirdly specific references to Roseanne, just about everything Lindsay says—and it serves as a nice diversion from the darkness of “PTSD,” but it doesn’t quite stand out to me. When You’re The Worst reaches for more than just “fun,” it can be truly interesting, but when it doesn’t, it’s still pretty fun.
- The Sandra Bernhard cameo felt tacked on just to have her in the episode, but it was still a delight, especially how she unexpectedly moved Jimmy with a reading from her novel and then proceeded to insult his forced heckles.
- Gretchen tries to get Jimmy to really wallow in his depression with help from The Smiths and an accented reading from Jude the Obscure.
- By the way, Gretchen’s British and Irish accents are fantastic and should recur before the season concludes.
- Gretchen also thinks that she doesn’t have female friends because her mean cartoon eyebrows intimidate women.
- Lindsay doesn’t respond well to Edgar’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show analogy (“Who are those people? They sound ugly.”) but quickly rallies when he switches to a Flipping Out analogy.
- “You’ve had a threesome?” “I’m an adult male in my thirties, so yeah.”
- “I’ll look forward to your Married With Children cast poetry slam.”
- “Like an experiment, but without the boring science part, like milligrams and elements and shit.”
- “Look! There’s the second worst thing about the ‘80s after Reagan’s trickle-down economics, which immediately caused an 8% rise in unemployment and an explosion in income inequality. Stuff like that.”
- “I’m not a sidekick! I’m Beyoncé, not Kelly Rowland. If I’m on a motorcycle, I’m driving the motorcycle, not riding in that shitty little side motorcycle thingy for poor people and dogs.”
- “You masturbated while walking down the stairs carrying a giant Sandra Bernhard standee and I’m the weirdo?”