The opening scene of “You’re the Worst” Season 3 may feel like a flashback to where it all began: Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash), fully nude, going at it with a frankness as sexy as it is honest. Back in the early days of the FXX comedy (back when it aired on FX), much of the advertising and a good chunk of the initial content focused on the wild abandon with which these two young lovers took to each other. In other words, it was graphic — extremely graphic, just like the Season 3 starter.
Except in this hilarious and bracing introduction to what’s shaping up to be an even better season than last year’s groundbreaking 13 episodes, there’s a keen sense of awareness surrounding this relationship and between its participants; an acknowledgement between Jimmy and Gretchen as well as a signal between series and audience that these two have reached a higher emotional plane than all parties are comfortable with. How we all move forward is exciting, intimate and profound.
Intimacy at all levels is a predominant theme in the first two episodes of Season 3. The naked opener (in every sense of the word) serves as foreshadowing to the stripping down of each character. Jimmy is forced to look within himself to discover why he writes the way he writes, loves the way he loves and befriends who he befriends. Gretchen, following up on her promise to seek help for depression, begins a brave journey of self-exploration (with the help of a therapist played by “Orange is the New Black” favorite Samira Wiley). Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) have equally weighty quests, but the duo begin the season living in denial. Jimmy and Gretchen still face a bit of that, too, but the couple is becoming more and more comfortable with another; more and more trusting; more and more romantic.
Now, this is still “You’re the Worst” — the series that (rightly) empathizes with a woman who steals a man’s semen. So “romantic” doesn’t mean Jimmy will be holding a boombox outside Gretchen’s window or running through the airport for one last goodbye. It’s more likely they both would be running away, and fast, if either scenario presented itself. But what’s here is far more tender, affectionate and affecting than anything on TV.
It’s also more real — a true feat for a show still skewing far more toward “comedy” than “dramedy” (a bullshit term, if necessary evil, in today’s day-and-age of “too much TV”). Jimmy and Gretchen, in all their hilarity, represent characters as complex as their creator. Falk knows both how to maximize the potential of his hostile protagonists to educate viewers on the complexities of intimacy, all without it ever feeling like anything close to a lesson.
In the first episode, Jimmy’s fear of the “three little words” every commit-o-phobe dreads saying is used to draw out not only layers of depth within Gretchen, but incredibly well-constructed moments of humor for both parties. Meanwhile, Gretchen’s manipulative demands of Jimmy elicit equally witty bits with showcasing impressive self-awareness. These two have always understood each other in a way that creates electric chemistry (hence the wild sex in Season 1). Last year, they overcame a major obstacle together, but now they’re moving into true comprehension of one another’s deep-seeded selves.
How the nonconformist couple deals with such shared familiarity is also specific to them, rather than society’s demands (an idea reinforced at the end of Episode 1). Because here’s the not-so-well-hidden rub: “You’re the Worst” isn’t concerned with showing us why we should like unlikable characters. First off, these characters aren’t unlikable — they’re insanely lovable. And they are that way because they say and do things we wish we could, while still facing the consequences; thus satisfying televised entertainment’s demand to take us places we won’t go ourselves. All that, without abandoning the truth of this modern romance.
That truth speaks to more than just Jimmy and Gretchen. It gives hope to anyone who’s been afraid to tell their partner how they feel for fear of being shunned; for feeling that way because they were taught to, not because their significant other gave any indication they agreed with the norm. In rebuking standards and connecting as individuals, these angry, antagonistic, self-centered companions break the mold for everyone else, so that we, too, can embrace the brave new world of love, whatever way you want it.
Isn’t that the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?
“You’re the Worst” Season 3 premieres Wednesday, August 31 at 10pm on FXX. Seasons 1 & 2 are streaming on Hulu.