It may be entering its final season, but there’s never been a better time to catch up on You’re The Worst.
FXX’s caustic comedy about has always stood separate from its exhausted genre. If TV shows about friends muddling through early adulthood gathered at a party, You’re The Worst would be the clique in the corner, throwing back tequila shots and talking shit before starting some real drama.
The deceptively sunny series (it’s set in LA but has a soul so dark Gotham must be seething with envy) is back for its last 13 episodes to see how or even if Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) tie the knot – and what horrors they might possibly stir up along the way.
You’re The Worst premiered in 2014, introducing us to a couple who, to all intents and purposes, should not be together, save for the fact that they’re both described by friends and acquaintances as “the worst.” With that common ground of being generally despicable, Gretchen and Jimmy are drawn to each other, first through sex and whispered confessions of past misdeeds, and eventually into a relationship for two people who flee from the word alone.
You’re The Worst arrived at a time when unlikable protagonists were breaking out. Everyone was looking for a Walter White, a Frank Underwood, or a Hannah Horvath upon whom to hang their show, and YTW was ostensibly putting these archetypes in Los Angeles and adding some jokes.
The show garnered modest ratings (for a niche pay cable network) but glowing criticism, because even though the characters are often reprehensible, they gave us a world to escape to and underdogs to root for.
We could delight in Jimmy’s verbal tirades, his bizarre friendship with his neighbor, Gretchen’s hip hop star clients, or the group tradition of Sunday Funday. The show offered two solid (“solid” here meaning “with the structural integrity of a frittata, on an emotional level”) pillars of B-story in Lindsay (Kether Donohue), Gretchen’s horny pre-adult friend, and Edgar (Desmin Borges), Jimmy’s kind but fragile Iraq vet roommate.
Even in the periphery, the show never got lazy. It takes absurd and somewhat disconcerting skill to make an audience root for Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) or relish the company of Paul (Allan McLeod). Even Becca (Janet Varney), Jimmy’s ex and Lindsay’s sister, considered the worst among the worst, is a treat to witness in every unhinged scene.
And here, in the overexposed color palette we now associate with brunching to stave off existential dread, is a show that beautifully, albeit painfully, balances the light and the dark. There are laughs and zingers of traditional television comedy, but only as a reprieve from Gretchen’s clinical depression, Jimmy’s grief, Edgar’s PTSD, Vernon’s broken spirit, Becca’s self-loathing, and that time that Lindsay stabbed her husband just to feel something.
The final season sees Gretchen and Jimmy heading – perhaps plummeting – toward their nuptials, a harrowing process full of red flags and intercut with ominous flash forwards to the future. We dip into this uncertain abyss at the top of each new episode, for just long enough to let the fear engulf us before we return to the present and try to postpone the inevitable.
The humor is a return to early seasons – perverse amusement rather than the performative cruelty that made Season 4 unwatchable (new viewers would do best to skip that one entirely). And as with those early seasons, you root for Gretchen and Jimmy. After everything they’ve been through, a happy ending feels earned. Yet here, more than in any other story, one is not guaranteed.
Five years after You’re The Worst began, television and culture have caught up to the show’s acerbic outlook. Even with the end looming, there’s never been a better time to climb aboard this flaming train.
You’re The Worst airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FXX.