“You’re the Worst” Season 2 is given its exquisitely fierce mission statement early on by none other than Kether Donohue, whose character, Lindsay, has just learned of her best friend Gretchen’s (Aya Cash) plan to take it easy for an evening with her new roommate boyfriend, Jimmy (Chris Geere). After doling out a stiff slap to the face, Lindsay says:
“You go home tonight and you dress up real slutty and you do butt stuff with your boyfriend for all of us who let love die by becoming ordinary.”
With this vicious, clever and loving (yes, loving) instructional berating, “You’re the Worst” defines itself by what’s made it must-watch TV since it premiered last year: being the best for the worst within us. You see, Lindsay isn’t just a jealous single friend who wants to see Gretchen remain as active and crazy as she’s always been. She’s suffering from a recent divorce and doesn’t know how to feel about being left by a man she quickly grew to despise during their marriage. This general sense of being lost in a world of grown-ups sparks the anger, confusion and honesty that provide power to Lindsay’s words as well as the show itself.
Elevating character dynamics through layered motivation makes for quite compelling television, even if you could somehow ignore the clever visual and verbal jokes supporting such growth. Investing in antiheroes has become a bear market in modern television, but Gretchen, Jimmy and even Lindsay aren’t exactly antiheroes. They’re just on the wrong side of everyday folk, constructed to enthusiastically represent the repressed dark side in all of us while simultaneously conveying their largely sound logic for supporting an unsupported worldview. The fact creator and showrunner Stephan Falk can do all this in one of television’s most addictively hilarious series only makes it all the more delectable.
Many took note during a well-reviewed Season 1 how “You’re the Worst” worked as reversal of the romantic-comedy formula. Jimmy and Gretchen’s courtship wasn’t based around the typical premise of “will they or won’t they” get together. They did, and now the couple has to decide how to move on without losing the mojo so many young, single people cling to these days. In the first of two episodes provided for review, they refuse to have “a quiet night in” — even when that’s what they both want — because they fear it will backslide into becoming boring “sweater people.” In the next episode, Jimmy and Gretchen clash over ownership of their shared domicile as well as where to put the newcomer’s things.
Though the topics aren’t new to TV, they’re presented with a unique flair and argued with a fresh respect for independence. Somehow, without backing down from the conceit that these two want to be together and may even love each other, Falk’s series finds a way for them to realistically exist as self-sufficient persons without losing the romantic spark of young love. “You’re the Worst” does more than portray the fear some people have for a future of monogamy; it actually respects the reasons behind being worried about things many others pass off as ignorant immaturity.
As obvious as these ideas may be, it’s as easy to find the “worst” aspects of these two as it is to find the best. Despite evolving to the next phase of their relationship (reluctantly), Jimmy and Gretchen remain selectively selfish and purposefully oblivious. After Edgar (Desmin Borges) slaves away to make breakfast for his new roommate (even after she kept him awake all night with her loud, obnoxious behavior), Gretchen politely refuses because she “can’t eat another bite.” In the next shot, she’s stuffing her face with waffles. For Jimmy’s part, he keeps his girlfriend awake with smelling salts, continues to disrespect his oldest roommate and pushes himself down a path of reckless behavior anyone else would have balked at from the get go.
What makes these less than empathetic actions not just palatable but gleeful — other than the aforementioned identifiable motivation for Jimmy and Gretchen’s acting out — are a) that Falk masks most of it with humor even some of the mistreated characters seem to laugh along with, and b) this cast is absolutely top-notch. Geere and Cash have incredible comedic chemistry, but excel just as well on their own. Borges embodies the sad-sack Edgar with just enough of a backbone so we know he can withstand the abuse thrown his way, all while Kether Donohue emerges from a supporting role as a true equal to the show’s leads. Lindsay is on quite the journey in Season 2, and — in mimicking the show’s mantra — where she ends up won’t be as intriguing as how she gets there. Considering the respect paid to these worst/wrong/lost people this far into the series, that can only mean good things for Donohue, and thus the audience, as well.
“You’re the Worst” airs Wednesday nights at 10:30pm on FXX.