You’re the Worst Recap: Popcorn or Trash Juice?

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘You’re the Worst’ Boss on Why Jimmy and Gretchen’s “Big Step” Won’t Change Them.

After a roller coaster ride of emotions in its second season, You’re the Worst ended on quite a happy note: Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) exchanged declarations of love — and this time around, they were happy with where they ended up.After an emotional season, featuring phenomenal performances from Gretchen’s Aya Cash and Jimmy’s Chris Geere, the lil’ show that shows us deep feelings in horrible people just punched us in the heart. But this show, from creator Stephen Falk, delivered something new: an acidic, realistic, and sometimes cynical look at modern love and dating in Los Angeles. Big life changes happen to just about everyone, and after a handful of episodes that saw our beloved awful people idling at standstills, it’s sweet to see everyone pushed a little further. “The Heart Is a Dumb Dumb,” which is the most accurate episode title of the season, centers on Becca and Vernon’s baby shower/gender-reveal party, which throws back to season 1’s finale, in which Becca and Vernon announced their pregnancy at a similarly trash-juiced-up celebration.

The series—a critical smash with a very small but devoted audience—got renewed for a second season, and Falk and his writers didn’t take that opportunity lightly. After news of her pregnancy got out, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) reconciled with Paul (Allan McLeod), who praised his ex-wife for not using the baby to trap him.

Somehow “You’re the Worst,” which was always secretly one of TV’s most empathic shows, managed to be true to many people’s experience of depression and yet retain its irreverence, charm and energy. At the end of the episode, Gretchen reveals that Jimmy drunkenly professed his love for her and she returns the sentiment, much to Jimmy’s pleasant surprise. My favorite aspect of “You’re the Worst” season 1 was the way the show moved through the beats of a traditional romantic comedy while being about two people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching one, let alone being part of one.

But over the course of the first season, creator and showrunner Stephen Falk, a disciple of Orange Is the New Black’s Jenji Kohan who spent years writing for her previous dark comedy Weeds, managed to inject just enough heart into his main characters that those who stuck with the show eventually fell in love. It took all these tired cliches and made them fresh again because they were being filtered through Gretchen and Jimmy’s sensibilities and their profound discomfort with having any of these experiences or feelings. All season, we’ve seen Edgar (Desmin Borges) step aside to let others shine, but in the season 2 finale, he simultaneously takes a step backward and forward. It didn’t hurt that he had two actors who could move seamlessly between comedy and drama in Chris Geere, who plays a one-hit wonder British novelist named Jimmy, and especially Aya Cash, who portrays the severely jaded music promoter Gretchen. I never thought of your show as a public-service announcement, but it was interesting that you showed Gretchen self-medicating with Adderall and cocaine and alcohol, and no one suggests to her that she get help or see a professional.

After Jimmy suggests Dorothy manipulated him into moving in with her, he freaks out and tells her he’s not ready for the things she’s ready for. “Maybe in a few years,” he says, to which she replies, “I don’t have a few more years. Tonally, it shifted things a lot at times — Falk and I talked a lot about this and some of the objections from people who preferred a less serious version of the show — but the end result was that final scene out on Jimmy’s steps, which was as romantic as any moment I’ve seen on TV this year. That Lindsay, in keeping her pregnancy a secret, has finally exhibited her love for him when she puts his need to be happy ahead of her desire to manipulate him. I don’t have time to waste.” He stews in his whiskey and takes on the macho role for, oh, about five minutes, until he realizes he’s being a dumb dumb.

And it was all thanks to a remarkably nuanced performance by New York theater veteran Cash, who, as Gretchen, spent the season publicly battling a disease that is all-too-often kept private: clinical depression. The smile that washes over Jimmy’s face as he processes 1)the fact that, while drunk, he said the three magic words to Gretchen, and 2)the fact that, while sober, she reciprocates was a wonder, paying off not only the depression arc itself, and Jimmy’s commitment to sticking with Gretchen despite her continued invitations for him to bail, but the larger truths of their relationship. Stephen Falk: I’ve had a little time to absorb and prepare but it’s lovely to see the outpouring of affection some people have for the show and the excitement. While their reunion seems like a good idea to her at first, she winds up stuck in his sidecar and realizes that, despite her recent attempts at personal growth, she’s literally right back where she started.

Before Wednesday night’s finale, The Daily Beast spoke to Cash about how she approached this delicate material, while still managing to be hilarious throughout the 13 episodes. When you invest in the show—I know I do—and you’re not sure of its chances, it can pre-disappoint you and make you lose faith and not want to get invested, much like a flaky lover you don’t want to hurt. He runs to meet her at the bus and apologizes profusely. “Dude, we just got in a little fight, and now I’m taking the bus home to show you how mad I am,” Dorothy says when realizing Edgar thought they broke up. “You’re supposed to come after me.” Here, Dorothy serves, as she has all season, as an excellent contrast to our core four.

Edgar’s so used to watching Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay treat people poorly and selfishly that he doesn’t get what a healthy relationship might look like. The opening scene, for instance, finally addressed a question many of you have had about the depression arc: why hasn’t Jimmy, or anyone else, suggested Gretchen get professional help?

It turns out in the end that Jimmy assumed all along that she was on anti-depressants and that they had stopped working, as those meds are known to do. Meanwhile, my fear that the show would wimp out on Edgar and Dorothy and break them up simply because it’s easier proved largely unfounded — though Falk admitted to me that that was originally the plan, before he realized it would be stupid for exactly the reasons I articulated last week. Edgar has his problems, and things could still fall apart between them, but having things end because he stupidly listened to Jimmy again would have ruined Edgar as a character. I’ve worked on shows where we’ve done that for various pregnancy reasons or otherwise but that’s not something that I would pull the trigger on at this point. His basic decency and warmth is what keeps him from just being a sad and pathetic figure, and makes him a good contrast to Jimmy; if he tosses aside a great relationship for stupid reasons, it’d be as worse than just writing him out altogether.

If she had told her parents, her country club parents, that she had depression and she wanted to go see a doctor, that would have been revealing that she’s bad, and then who knows what else would have been revealed? Setting the bulk of the finale at another of Vernon and Becca’s parties gave it some symmetry with last year’s finale, down to Lindsay once again singing dramatically and impressing a man with feelings for her — the difference being that it was Paul, and that she, at least in that moment, was reciprocating. You see a lot in sitcoms where one says it and the other says, “Thank you,” and they spend the episode regretting it or talking about it with their friends. We wake up and we’re in our thirties and we’re like, “Wait, I’m still using the same coping mechanisms that I developed when I was 15 because I had to.” So it was in line with the character, and we also got a good joke out of it in the finale, when Jimmy says, “So you should probably change your medication then.” Not only is it funny that she would not do that and she put Jimmy through all of this, but it makes complete sense.

YTW devotees will remember back in season 1 episode 7, Lindsay said, “If I’m on a motorcycle, I’m driving the motorcycle, not riding in that s—y little side-motorcycle thingy for poor people and dogs.” Yet here she is, in that little side thingy. But she’s saying, “I acknowledge that our lives are tied now in a very real way, and not only do I acknowledge that, I’m willing as a narcissist and a ‘bad person’ to make an adjustment.” It’s almost more important than deciding to move in or any other big step they could take. Yeah, I think that there’s sort of an old misunderstanding about what people are interested in seeing, this idea that you have to keep the “will they or won’t they” going or else [audiences] are not going be interested in what they’re watching.

This episode has one of the most bizarrely sweet openers of the year — Jimmy and Gretchen are just eating cereal, laughing, and Jimmy’s catching her up on his sexcapade with Nina. If we turned into a show about Gretchen trying to figure out her backstory or neurological damage, we may turn into In Treatment, and I’m not sure we could do In Treatment better than they could. She then heads to the bar to check out Nina but ends up throwing back a few shots and trying to kiss Nina. “There’s something so captivating about you,” she says. It’s not a test.” Gretchen is not testing him to see if she’s going to be proven right — she’s really saying, “Go.” All he did was very simple.

Nina gets it, too: these people are wackadoos and deserve each other. (Later, when recounting the story to Jimmy, he’s appalled Nina didn’t want to make out and asks Gretchen if she wore the booby shirt. I used to hate L.A. and was continually mocking of it, and then I realized my hating of L.A. does nothing to L.A., it just makes me miserable when I’m here.

You see when she’s riding away on Paul’s horrible moped with his sidecar — she even said to the audience last season that she doesn’t ride in a sidecar, she drives the motorcycle — we see she’s already decided she’s made a mistake. Jimmy’s understandably pissed when he hears Gretchen is against anti-depressants and takes it out on Becca’s party, where he vows to get at least Level 2 Jimmy drunk. “When’s my turn for people to take care of me?” he asks. “I’m going to get absolutely snozzled.” That’s our new favorite word for drunk, by the way.

He then drinks all the trash juice (trash juice!), makes an embarrassing speech, almost ruins Edgar’s relationship, and apparently tells Gretchen he loves her. Sure, he’s not that bad, but he lands in our final worst spot for the same reason as last week’s Worstie: Everybody’s kind of great in their own effed up ways. The storytelling part of me thinks it’s a little bit of a cop-out to get rid of it, but I very purposefully have tried to normalize abortion in conversation in the show for very, very specific personal, political and gender reasons. Gretchen says she’ll get help, Lindsay didn’t want Paul back just because she was pregnant, and Edgar’s in a legit, committed relationship that’s probably going somewhere.

Now the question is, when it becomes a real thing, then political preference goes out the window and then it comes down to can they stomach that, or is that a choice they’re going to make for themselves? That’s child’s play. [After that commitment,] the real work happens, and certainly it’s harder to make that interesting or fun to watch, but I think it’s more representative of real life. While she did grow up a bit in this season — in episode 207 when Lindsay goes to comfort Gretchen, she shows a very sensitive side of her that we haven’t seen.

I think I have a good internal barometer for the expectations that we’ve set, and for what would feel redundant or feel like we were trying too hard or attempting to recreate something or to puff ourselves up. He doesn’t actually do anything, and we’re not suggesting that by building the pillow fort around that he’s actually clinically done anything to fix her illness. What led her to refer to Paul with all those [awful] names and be a “cockaholic” outside of her marriage and do everything she did, I’m not sure any of those issues are really resolved. So I think they were a representation for her about how to be a grown-up and take her out of her depression, that there is a possibility for a better life in a way that she hadn’t been able to see.

When I first read the first four episodes, I also had the cliffhanger that everyone else did, which is [Gretchen] drives off into the middle of the night and we don’t know where she’s going. Gretchen’s attitude about abortion is very cavalier — she tells Lindsay that they can go for an “abobo and Marie Callendar’s.” Will that subject be explored more in season three? This is less challenging but certainly yes, we are blessed with a lot of riches, which is a curse in some ways, because I want to service all of our characters.

When they’re at the back of the bus, they’re smiling, they’re happy, they left the wedding, they’re now together, then the bus pulls away and the camera keeps rolling. Paul found the perfect woman this season and out of being a moral guy, he followed his own dictum for what love means, and he put Lindsay’s needs — or so he thought — in front of his own, and dumped Amy.

And then, just when you think he is going to ditch her for good and go away for the night with his new bartender fling, he stays behind to be with her. We’re going to represent the ugly truth.” We wanted to be—not negative—but very honest about the difficulties of having an honest relationship, and we’re trying [to] poke a hole in the fallacy of most rom-coms. Only if we come up with a really good idea that doesn’t doesn’t feel like Back to the Future 3 or Wayne’s World 3 — was there even a Wayne’s World 3?

We able to take the sequel-itis possibilities and turn them on their heads by making it a very different and dark horror episode for a good chunk of it. It’s the idea of settling for less than you wanted, trying to make something work — and the question of, when are you not just compromising but forcing something to work? Shakespeare’s the worst, because he often is like, “Oh, these tears,” and you’re like, “Fuck, I have to be crying right now.” But [with You’re the Worst] I really felt like I wasn’t worried, I just sort of let what happened happen throughout the season.

We’re not necessarily Everybody Loves Raymond where we take the off season and write down a bunch of wacky fights that we have with our spouses then turn those into episodes. As I think about the season, I keep going back to Lexi’s speech from episode nine [“LCD Soundsystem”], where she talks about how trying to be cool is ultimately a pose that keeps you from real life. So, I don’t know if you’re heard of Iron Mountain, but that’s essentially where Stephen keeps all of his ideas, locked inside a mountain that you can only enter by password.

It’s both incredibly stupid and silly and, as Lexi says, counterintuitive to organize your life around that, but it’s certainly very, very understandable and universal. Even when he catches Gretchen crying in her car and ends up leaving her there—all of these things are possibly bad behavior, but also we can justify them from character point of view. It is very scary, you know, making these big life decisions That kind of brings the conversation full circle to what I first asked you about, which is — popularity all depends on how you define it.

Chris Geere has said that this year was “Jimmy against Gretchen” and next year he wants “Jimmy and Gretchen against the world.” And I feel like that’s a smart and probable thing. Beyond those egregious things, I think, if you’ve done the work to make sure it’s motivated and it’s believable, then I don’t think you worry too much about what, about whether you can buy the audience back.

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