There is an unwritten rule of most relationships depicted on television. Once the guy gets the girl, or vice versa, and things appear to be perfect, something else will come along and test that relationship. An ex-girlfriend may suddenly be back in the picture, an unplanned pregnancy will happen, “We were on a break”, etc. It’s the nature of the beast – happy relationships just aren’t as interesting to watch as they are when things hit the fan. The frustrating thing is after a while is how contrived and similar these excuses for drama all feel. When an attractive bartender flirts with the guy while the girlfriend isn’t present, the show is telegraphing the upcoming drama a mile away. Nobody in relationships on TV ever consistently acts like people in healthy relationships would ever act. So things feel childish after a while (e.g. Friends). This is why You’re The Worst’s second season, on the heels of a terrific first season, feels like an amazing breath of fresh air. As Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship develops, they face real hurdles, and handle them like adults – although admittedly like adults who still have a lot of maturing to do.
For those unfamiliar, You’re The Worst is a half-hour comedy on FXX (who continues to impress as a network) about Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) and their developing relationship. Initially, it feels as if characters from It’s Always Sunny were shoehorned into a romantic comedy. Jimmy and Gretchen both have more than their fair share of vices, and both are single in their early 30s, which is a warning sign to their judgmental friends and family. However, Jimmy and Gretchen do fall for each other, and slowly but surely come to the realization that their relationship might be worthwhile. At the same time, both fight off their cynicism and their friend’s and family’s sometimes toxic influence. By the end of season one, Gretchen moves in with Jimmy and they’re off to an uncertain future.
Season one really was great. The writing is sharp as hell. Series creator and executive producer Stephen Falk should be proud. The sunny LA backdrop contrasts yet reinforces an underlying melancholy of the show. In addition to being adults who are slowly but surely ceasing to be ‘young’, they also are somewhat unhappy with where they are in life. Jimmy had a successful first novel published but struggles to get a second one off the ground. Gretchen is manages a local rapper, but you get the sense she ended up here by necessity and not by passion. Gretchen’s best friend is going through a divorce after realizing she doesn’t love her husband at all and only got married because of societal expectation. Jimmy’s roommate Edgar is a former soldier who served in Iraq and struggling to adjust to the real world. LA’s incessant sunniness feels like a middle finger to the characters rather than a constantly cheerful backdrop.
But by season two our leads have gotten together and are officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Despite their many flaws, both have to begrudgingly admit they are better as a pair. And while they wear their flaws on their sleeves, it’s clear most people around them are equally screwed up – but are better at hiding it. You’re The Worst shows that many of the people with seemingly happy families, dogs, engagements, pregnancies, and so forth – the people who appear to be where they should be in their lives – aren’t that much better or worse off than those who aren’t. An episode in season two brilliantly, and disturbingly, depicts a seemingly happy couple as putting up a social media friendly image when the reality is they are lying to themselves about how happy they are.
The second season really excels with Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship. Gretchen halfway through the season is revealed to suffer from clinical depression, for which she’s never been properly treated. She has turned to various methods of self-medication over the years including drug use and alcohol abuse. These are the behaviors exhibited to us since the show’s start, but seem to take on a whole new meaning for the character. Suddenly seeing why she hasn’t moved on with her life makes sense, as does her fear that she’ll never be happy. Jimmy doesn’t understand the full effects of the depression through no fault of his own. And he does the seemingly obvious things he can to help Gretchen, which of course are met with the exact opposite response he expects.
The depression storyline is the kind of rare, honest, and genuine storytelling you don’t see on sitcoms. It also feels like the organic evolution of their relationship, and isn’t forced in for obvious narrative motivation. Even when the show strays close to those cliches I listed earlier, it still opts to go for something real and not bombastic for the sake of being dramatic. And the show handles the depression storyline very well and accurately, from both the perspective of someone living with it, as well as supporting someone in that situation. Numerous articles have been written about how well You’re The Worst handles this if you’re curious for more.
You’re The Worst ceases to play it safe in season two. There aren’t easy dramatic arcs that it can easily overcome. There aren’t any of those miscommunications that snowball into epic fights. As a character says during the finale “You thought we broke up? People don’t behave like that, dummy.” The problems the characters on this show face are real, messy, complicated, and there isn’t an obvious answer. But there end up being some really tender and heartwarming moments to come out of it all, and those moments land perfectly. Through it all, the show is still really, bitingly, funny. The characters, despite being despicable at times, are ones you love to root for. It’s challenging, thought-provoking television, and it’s one of the best things to come out of FXX last year. Season two wrapped several weeks ago, so now is the perfect time to get caught up on one of the best shows of last year.