The main job of a season premiere is to remind the audience why they’re watching the show in the first place, or rather, why they’re returning to the show after a lengthy absence. Sometimes it’s the narrative, as a premiere will pick up the story where it left off months earlier, other times it’s the return of a creator’s vision and the mystery of how it will unfold (see: Mad Men), but more often than not, it’s the characters that you’ve presumably missed watching every week. If a show privileges characters over all else in a season premiere, chances are that everything will fall into place, and the audience will follow the show anywhere.
It takes roughly two minutes for You’re The Worst to remind us why it’s one of the best shows on TV, and most of that time is spent with Jimmy and Gretchen as they define “head wigglies,” spout theories about the House Party series, and abuse Poor Edgar. It’s one of the best re-introductions to a sitcom in a long while, succinctly capturing what’s makes Jimmy and Gretchen endearing, and what makes them insufferable, i.e. “the worst.”
You see, Our “Worst” Heroes, Gretchen and Jimmy, have moved in together at the end of last season despite their crippling commitment phobia and lack of healthy attitudes towards cohabitation. So what do they do to cope with the prospect of living together? How do they manage the next big step of their relationship? They go on an insane bender, staying up all night fiendishly drinking and doing drugs to ignore the normal, mundane compromises of sharing space with a significant other, like putting drinks on coasters or getting a cellular family plan.
But we open on Jimmy and Gretchen’s fifth night in a row chugging martinis and consuming narcotics, and by the next morning, they’re wiped. Jimmy is pissing blood and sickly chasing the hair of the dog, drinking beer in the morning like it’s poison, while Gretchen’s liver is seemingly crying through her stomach. But the soon-to-be-divorced Lindsay convinces Gretchen to hedonistically continue on so as not to become boring “sweater people,” who do things like go to bed at a reasonable hour or read a book instead of doing cocaine. So Jimmy and Gretchen soldier through their sixth night with the tentative plan to rail blow and do “butt stuff,” but the hard cut to the next morning to a trashed apartment complete with a stolen DVD kiosk illustrates the good times are long past over.
Creator and writer Stephen Falk uses “Sweater People” primarily to “reset” the series after a first season that spent the entire time bringing Jimmy and Gretchen together, demonstrating how the series’ core thematic concerns about “modern” relationship are the same—paralyzing insecurity, cynicism as a natural check against oppressive societal optimism, complacency breeding spiritual death, the compromise of ego for the betterment of a collective—but their situation itself is different. Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t flailing about in some ill-defined relationship. They’re a couple, for better or worse, that ostensibly loves each other (even if they would never use that “L” word), and a part of that means sharing a life instead of just sharing drugs. As the good-hearted Paul says after he cheats on his new soul mate with Lindsay, “Love is putting someone’s feelings above your own,” and Jimmy and Gretchen are slowly figuring out what that really means.
That doesn’t mean they’re still not Jimmy and Gretchen, two characters who routinely regress into self-destructive behavior at the first sign of “maturity.” When Gretchen and Jimmy plan to have a low-key, Yacht Rock kind of night when they’re trying to get Gretchen on a better cellular plan, the grandiose salesman who pontificates about the implications of the “family plan” scares them back to the bar for shots. But when they are peer pressured into taking a new synthetic drug “Belgian” (used to chemically sterilize horses) by some crunchy youths, they wake up in a stolen Zoiddle car (think Google Street View car) in the woods. Since it’s clear that if Jimmy and Gretchen continue to go on like this someone will most likely end up dead at their hand, they decide to confess that they have to stop. “But I don’t want to be one of the sweater people,” Gretchen whines, to which Jimmy gently replies that they “couldn’t be one of the sweater people if [they] wore ten cardigans each.” You’re The Worst has been labeled an “acidic” or “caustic” show, but those labels never really capture the sweetness at its core. Like its twin protagonists, You’re The Worst uses harsh witticisms and cutting sarcasm to hide its kind perspective at its core. It’s a show about two people who’ve clearly been burned before and are uncertain about how to move forward, but the fact that they’re trying is something, even if “trying” doesn’t mean “not drinking” just sticking to clear liquids. But hey, it’s a start.
- The B-story features Edgar courting Lindsay as she deals with her breakup with Paul. Though it pales in comparison to the Jimmy-Gretchen A-story, Desmin Borges and Donohue play off each other really well, and the scene in the garage is another really sweet moment for the two of them, even if it culminates with Lindsay secretly freezing some of Paul’s leftover sperm.
- Credit to director Alex Hardcastle for bringing the goods to the season premiere. The “aftermath” shots of Jimmy and Gretchen’s drug-fueled nights are stellar, plus the whole aesthetic of the episode has a seductive, yet dangerous feel to it that nicely captures Jimmy and Gretchen’s headspace.
- Chris Geere’s comedic delivery is fantastic, especially his reactions to Gretchen’s sexy outfit (“What are you wearing?” and “Fantastic!”), a mixture of horror, reluctance and attraction. Though my favorite is his delivery of “We stole a DVD kiosk last night” like even he can’t believe it.
- As much as I love Sam, Shitstain, and Honey Nutz, their scene with Gretchen was a little too broad and over-the-top for my tastes. Although, I appreciated Honey Nutz’s frustration with Sam’s lack of concern over their collective financial security.
- The “sex scene” with Paul and Lindsay is really something else. The low angle on Paul’s O-face is burned into my brain.
- In the credits, Jimmy and Gretchen buy stuff from a convenience store before hijacking the Zoiddle car to the tune of “Gangsta” by Bushwalla. Nice.
- Head-wigglies = “When you drink something cold too fast, and your head gets all wiggly.”
- “You have silly things in your vocabulary as well.” “Like what?” “American exceptionalism.”
- “Somehow the House Party series wasn’t popular in my scorchingly racist industrial lead-mining neighborhood.”
- “I didn’t know it was a school.”
- “She’s gonna hate me. I look like a young Roger Ebert.”
- “Sleepy bitches lose their right to use normal people phones. Sleepy bitches only get to use phones made for hookers and drug addicts and irresponsible garbage people.”
- “Shut up, you little bitch. I’ve been doing drugs since I was nine. Eat shit, haters.”
- Let’s close with the salesman’s touching Family Plan monologue: “Ahh. The family plan. Main street. Ginger snaps at the kitchen table. An armoire full of board games. A funny cat video. A ‘Just checking in’ text exactly when you need it the most. The savings? Heck, who doesn’t like to save a buck? But a family plan is about people. People wanting to be part of something bigger in this world that feels…well, too darn big some days if you ask me. Every time you look at your phone, you’ll say to yourself, ‘I’m part of something. I’m part of a family. I’m part of a family plan.’”