[Warning: The below article contains spoilers for “You’re the Worst” Season 3, through the finale.]
“There is no family.”
Those were the only words I heard during Jimmy’s loquacious diatribe about being “post-family” (like “Thoreau or the Unabomber”) that kicked off the Season 3 finale of “You’re the Worst.” As is fitting for a series so beautifully written (Episode 13, “No Longer Just Us,” by Stephen Falk, Franklin Hardy and Shane Kosakowski), the beginning foreshadowed the ending without giving it away. In fact, the final moments turned the opening scene on its head.
So when Gretchen started gushing with joy post-proposal about how they’re “a family now,” “no longer just ‘us,'” it was quite clear the happy ending in Jimmy’s new novel wouldn’t come true for the romantic pair at the center of our story.
Instead, “You’re the Worst’s” bold third season wrapped on a note similar to this:
For those unfamiliar with “The Leftovers,” just trust in the fact that Damon Lindelof’s HBO drama deals very closely with the relevance individuals put on families, making “You’re the Worst’s” finale — specifically its last-second twist — quite a topical kick in the teeth.
That being said, the hour-long season ender started off on quite the high note. “You Knew It Was a Snake” threw all three central couples in one house, gave it a violent shake, and watched as they started fighting. Jimmy and Gretchen were coping with the destructive truths shared at the end of Episode 11 (that he couldn’t see having kids with her and that she didn’t think he’d be successful). Paul (Allan McLeod) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) dealt with her secret abortion and open desire for a divorce, and poor Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Dorothy (Collette Wolfe) tried to understand how their relationship could work when their professional roles were reversed. Like a relationship Russian roulette, we waited in trepidation to see who would survive and who would get a metaphorical bullet to the brain.
Turns out, only Paul and Lindsay emptied a loaded chamber in Episode 12, but all three couples were left in various stages of disrepair heading into Season 4. Yet even with so many volatile emotions getting tossed around, “No Longer Us” didn’t bring us down until the end. Falk and his expert writing staff found specifics to build from for each individual, making their break-ups meaningful and telling. Such deft handling comes from keen insight, and viewers would be hard-pressed not to pull something valuable from the wreckage of these relationships. Lindsay is finally where she needs to be, even though that means living alone in “the poorest apartment in the world.” Edgar learned to stand up for what he wants instead of being pushed around by everyone. (Remember how much shit this guy took from Jimmy over the years.)
Yet the dour conclusion for our favorite couple is what came as a fitting surprise, and one that should prove fruitful next season. Much like Jimmy and Gretchen fear becoming the sweater people, so, too, does “You’re the Worst” work tirelessly to avoid becoming a mundane, predictable series. Season 3 not only dealt with big psychological issues like Gretchen’s clinical depression and the death of Jimmy’s father, but it featured an episode wholly devoted to the tertiary characters Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) and Paul, confronted Edgar’s PTSD head-on in a heavily dramatic standalone episode, and, most telling of all, put a halt to the grand tradition of Sunday Funday.
When we spoke to Falk and the cast about “The Last Sunday Funday,” they had this to say as to why now was the right time to end it:
“It’s absolutely an effort to not feel like the tail is wagging the dog,” Falk said. “[Discarding] the expectation that fans or critics are deciding one of our precious 13 episodes per season — what it’s going to be. So [this episode is] like an impotent reclaiming of it, in a way, since we’re still doing it.”
“I think when you end up on a Forever 21 t-shirt, it’s the beginning of the end,” Cash said. “There’s a tipping point, and that’s a good sign that maybe you want to do something new.”
“We like to be leaders of coolness,” Donohue said.
“I think the shadow that falls over the show is not even the fear of not being cool, but of settling; of being normal and boring and old, which is really just being afraid of death,” Falk said.
— Stephen Falk (@stephenfalk) October 6, 2016
Such fears are quelled by invention. After all, what’s further from death than creating something new? To that end, the Season 3 finale went in an opposite direction, tonally, from previous season enders. In Season 1, Gretchen and Jimmy moved in together. Season 2 found them confessing their love to one another. Both were uplifting kickers for seasons that had plenty of downer moments. Season 3 went the other way; closing on the tease of a high (an engagement) before bailing on the relationship all together (always an option for them both, as noted earlier in the hour).
In Jimmy’s head, the connection between marriage and family wasn’t there when he planned his pitch-perfect proposal. He saw Gretchen as the antithesis of a warm, welcoming group embrace; an embrace he never got from his father and thus distrusted his entire life. He’s been on a wild ride this season, swerving drastically through the various stages of grief and pushing each feeling to its limit (in an utterly remarkable performance from Geere). After all that, Jimmy ended on an anti-family stance so extreme he fears it above all else. Simultaneously, Gretchen has been trying to find a solid foundation from which to live after grappling with the throes of depression throughout Season 2. She saw the proposal as the start of that foundation; a family united against the world, but behind each other.
Whether these ever-so-close but ultimately diametric feelings can be resolved in the future is clearly what’s coming in Season 4. If the fear of family equates to the fear of death for Jimmy, his journey is far from over. There may not be a family, but there is an “us.” “Together we transcend the mundanity down there,” Jimmy said during his proposal, after they both cited hating everyone but each other. If they’re going to become the exception that proves the rule, the family that defies familial banality, they’ll have to come to terms with the inherent contradictions of life’s common desires: to love and to be loved in return means believing love can overcome hate. Or, in their case, love for one another can stem from hate of others.
They’ll have to have a little faith, even if there is no family.
- Edgar’s reaction to Dorothy moving to Florida, not Texas, was spot-on: “Oh, God. That’s way worse.”
- How great was Samira Wiley this season? Justina’s goodbye with Gretchen really sealed a stellar season for a character who got so much personality from such brief little snippets of frustration and violation. Gretchen pushing her over the edge became endearing, just as her random pop-ups in Justina’s day-to-day life gave us just enough knowledge of the therapist to love her, too.
- “The Width of a Peach” — Jimmy’s perfect erotic book title.
- Vernon’s casual confession to loving his newborn child more than anything was as sweet as his dismissal of Paul was devastating. (But at least we won’t have to see them jerk off into a fire anytime soon.)
- Cucking Paul is a sight to see, even if we still feel for Lindsay. (Does that make us horrible people? She did stab him…)
- “Doug Loves Sketches”
- If you weren’t sold already, Gretchen and Jimmy’s DUI checkpoint procedure had to solidify any doubts we had in them as a couple. These two are meant to be together, and we can’t wait to watch them keep struggling to realize it next year.