September 23, 2015, 10:30 p.m. (EST),FXX
Season two of You’re the Worst is, much more blatantly than its predecessor, about the process of maturation. The show’s core foursome are emotionally stunted, willfully obtuse, and wrenchingly unwilling to confront their adulthood head on. Yet the trappings of an adult life have a crushing gravitational pull. Despite their best efforts, Gretchen and Jimmy are in an adult relationship, surrounded by adult people, doing adult things like “procreating” and “not partying as hard.” Its depressing to see your friends do things like that until, suddenly, like a switch has been flipped, it becomes depressing to be the one not doing those things.
“Born Dead” is too obvious in the way it confronts this idea. Gretchen’s friends have settled down, and she sees nothing of herself in them, and nothing of herself in Cory, the lone holdout who recently got kicked out of her shelter for fighting. Her friends have moved off in opposite directions without her, and she is left to look at both ends of the spectrum of what she might become. There are still a lot of good jokes around the margins of this plotline, but it wears far too much of the point on its sleeve. At its best, You’re the Worst is explicitly not about people conforming their lives to societal expectations, but rather about people learning to accept themselves and what they want. Most romantic comedies are centrally concerned with the characters normalizing themselves so that they can become worthy of love. Womanizers learn the error of their ways. Control freaks learn to embrace spontaneity. Flaws are ironed out into bland sameness within 90 minutes so everyone can go home feeling like lessons were learned. But You’re the Worst is not that way, or at least, it didn’t use to be.
What I loved about the first season of this show was the fact that it took these characters at face value. It didn’t say they were good people, but it also didn’t really seem to judge them as bad people. They made mistakes and did stupid things, but the lessons they learned never felt societally imposed. They learned more about themselves and their wants, and more about what it takes to engage with another human being without leaving flaming wreckage in their wake, but the show didn’t demand that they stop smoking, drinking, doing drugs and callously judging everyone around them to find happiness. You’re the Worst accepted happiness as something completely subjective. It encouraged these people to find what they wanted rather than what they’d been told to want.
It’s less that season two is not doing that any longer, I think, and more that the problems it is posing for the characters have answers that come off as more didactic. There’s a judgmental streak running through these first few episodes that was refreshingly lacking in the show’s first season. It’s as if season one was the party, and season two is the hangover. The show feels less like a buddy sitting you down for a tough talk, and more like a parent expressing disappointment. This could all turn around next week, of course, but each episode so far this season has had at least a few moments that felt far more conventional than anything this show was doing before, both in terms of sitcom structure and underlying morality.
The Edgar and Lindsay story also feels more like bad fan fiction than actual storytelling to me at this point. Both characters seem like caricatures of themselves, as Lindsay’s awfulness becomes increasingly cartoonish, and Edgar’s fawning increasingly creepy. No one looks good in this storyline, but that’s not my real problem with it. The real issue I have is that Edgar and Lindsay don’t entirely feel like Edgar and Lindsay. Earlier this week, in my review of The Muppets, I talked about what was missing in the characters on that show that left them feeling off in comparison to the iconic versions I had come to love. The problem here is not exactly the same (although I will say that season one Edgar could easily be compared to Kermit the Frog in a lot of ways that season two Edgar is missing, and I would entertain the idea of Lindsay as a Miss Piggy analogue. Ok, now I think the problem might be exactly the same…) but these characters feel exaggerated in ways that are not wholly earned. Yes, Lindsay is going through a divorce, but that is basically manifesting in her doing broad comedic bits about shoving food into her face. One of the best moments of season one involved Lindsay’s heartrending rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” but nothing in season two has felt remotely as engaged with Lindsay as a real, human woman who has experienced loss and has a deep yearning she does not know how to fill. It feels like the character is a sitcom version of herself, which is almost never a compliment.
The best subplot of the episode is Jimmy’s sojourn in the garage, and even that falls flatter than it should. Vern, Paul, and Cillian are all great characters who have been under-utilized so far this season, and the idea of Jimmy being cornered into friendship by these weirdos is incredibly enticing to me. But while the story mostly works, it doesn’t sing like the best subplots on this show can. It mostly feels like a concept that sounded great in the writers room and never quite worked in the actual writing.
“Born Dead” doesn’t really work, and in ways that are becoming emblematic of this season. It still made me laugh a fair amount, but the emotional connection felt slightly off, and the storytelling seems increasingly to betray what this show used to be interested in. In all likelihood, this string of episodes is just the show readjusting to a newly domestic Gretchen and Jimmy and figuring out how to tell these kinds of stories without softening them. I have every faith that this show will solve these problems and figure out how to be just as stellar as it was last season. I have to hope for that, because the alternative will leave me with a show I enjoy, but can’t quite love the way I once did. It will turn my relationship with You’re the Worst into the nightmare Gretchen and Jimmy see looming over the future of any relationship, one where comfortable complacency has overtaken the initial spark and inertia is more a motivating factor than desire. In a word: gross.
- “My main crew? Ma gurls?” “I have never heard of any of these people!”
- “Friends are for babies.”
- “I haven’t seen them in a couple months. I’ve been super busy.” “Yeah, with my dick! Sorry, I’ve been doing a lot of online gaming. I’m in a war with this autistic kid from Sweden who keeps blocking me on Instagram.”
- “This gay porn site pays me $10 a dick. I have a job!”
- “I’m going to ask Paul for permission to pursue his wife.” “Please videotape that exchange.”
- “If you didn’t know about the party, why did you think we bought all this alcohol?” “Oh great, now I have to go back to the store for my stuff!”
- “I saw the texts. They are quite chilling.”
- “He spells titties with a ‘z’!”
- “How old are you?” “Sorry ma’am. I’m working.”
- “Edgar, FTW. That means ‘for the win.’”
- “What’s that?” “It’s my baby!” “Gross.”
- “Cory, I’m pregnant. Can you not…” “Not smoke at a party? No, I cannot not smoke at a party. Can you not bring your unborn tummy worm to a party?”
- “I shall boot and rally!”
- “I never really learned how to shower that good.”
"Born Dead” is too obvious in the way it confronts its ideas.