[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “You’re the Worst” Season 4, Episode 12 (“Like People”) and Episode 13 (“It’s Always Been This Way”), the series finale.]
Gretchen chose herself, and she also chose Jimmy.
As Aya Cash’s worstie watched her former other half (Chris Geere) spar with her new other other half (played by Colin Ferguson), it became increasingly clear she couldn’t pick either one. Both were acting like idiots. Both were being immature. Both had made mistakes with her that had not been about her.
So she had to choose herself. Gretchen had to walk out of that kitchen without either man. She had to know that her self-importance, her power, couldn’t be determined by a romantic partner. So she flew solo.
And then she ran in front of Jimmy’s car, slapped him in the face, and put her engagement ring back on, this time (one hopes) for good.
For the second year in a row, “You’re the Worst” ended twice. Its finale’s first ending came when Gretchen ignored the demands of her beaus and chose instead to be happy with herself. It’s the kind of romantic independence audiences have seen in modern love stories like “La La Land,” “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and even “The Break-Up.” “You’re the Worst” earns this ending after giving ample time to Gretchen’s personal bottoming out (think about her trip home in Episode 7) and her attempt to climb back up.
But it’s not the only ending. Like last year, when Jimmy proposed and then bailed on that proposal, the series had more in store for Season 4: Gretchen stopped Jimmy from driving off (in a nice stand-in for what fans wished could have happened last year) and got back together with her worstie. Of the two, this is the classic ending: a dramatic reunion complete with a passionate kiss and a plan to marry. It’s the fan favorite finale.
Yet the ending, on its face, seems to violate the previous one: How can Gretchen choose to be with herself while also choosing Jimmy over Boone? Well, to put it bluntly, because she can: Gretchen’s choice in the kitchen was about herself, and so was her choice to be with Jimmy. She realized she didn’t need him to determine her self-worth; that his leaving wasn’t a mark against her as much as one against him. “I wait around for someone to tell me I’m worthy? That’s insane,” she said.
But she wants him. Her life is better with him in it, and she needn’t throw that away to emphasize a point. She knows who she is now, and she — along with the series — can have it both ways: personal growth and blissful coupledom.
In claiming both endings, “You’re the Worst” found strong footing as one of TV’s deepest explorations into matters of the heart. There are so many emotional beats to unpack in this exhilaratingly quick ending, but before venerating those all-so-crucial moments, let’s look at the macro: Stephen Falk (and his team, including episode co-writer Eva Anderson) did it. They pulled off a re-coupling for the ages exactly one year after breaking our hearts. Even if audiences were told that Jimmy and Gretchen would end up together at the end of Season 4, this journey would’ve been just as informative, hilarious, and moving.
That’s saying something for a romantic comedy in 2017; a genre that’s seen as many break-ups, reconciliations, twists, and turns as any other on TV. This season dealt with Jimmy and Gretchen’s specific self-explorations — allowing for both characters to independently grow just enough to realize why they mattered so much to each other — and then spurred them both to do something about it.
Now then: about those final scenes.
- Jimmy, for once, was the grown-up — or at least the better man for Gretchen. By listening to what she wanted (someone to fight for her, albeit taking it literally and taking it out on the wrong guy), Jimmy elevated himself above Boone. The divorcee looked decent on paper — a house, a good job, a responsible parent — but he hadn’t conquered the insecurities that drove him to invite Gretchen to move in with him. Gretchen recognizes that his desire isn’t pure, like Jimmy’s, and acts accordingly. Their break-up may not sit right with Boone, but Gretchen (and the audience) understands why she had to go.
- That slap was everything. After the two slept together at the end of Episode 11, the penultimate half-hour opens with Gretchen in a panic when Jimmy flees the hotel for morning snacks. She confronts him about her abandonment PTSD (“You can’t even get breakfast with me thinking you bailed again,” she says), and he responds by getting pissy. “You were wronged by me, true, but this goddamn facilitation, Gretchen — enough is enough.” Enough is not enough, though. She needs him to understand, and then, he didn’t. That same argument is reiterated when she slaps him in the final scene: If he had reacted as he did before, she’d know he hadn’t actually changed. But he accepts the slap instead of rejecting her anger. “Yeah. OK,” he says. They kiss. She is heard. He is humbled. All is well.
- Lindsay and Edgar similarly grew up, as evidenced by Lindsay taking control of her family’s major fuck-up — the idea of Paul, Becca, and Vernon as a parental throuple next season is definitely something to look forward to — and Edgar deciding to find solace in his independence, rather than the pity of a friend. Edgar’s arc wasn’t all that satisfying overall (he’s just not meant to be a jerk), despite the typically strong turn from Desmin Borges, but growth was nonetheless evident.
The devil is in the details, as they say, and considering that “You’re the Worst” chronicles the coupling of two devils, it’s fitting their story succeeds as an outlier to traditional romantic arcs and a widely applicable love story. Viewers can acknowledge what’s best for all these characters may not be what’s best for most people — IndieWire does not recommend that readers heckle fictional characters in movie theaters — but there are as many universal lessons in their personal revelations that hit home.
With only one season left, it will be curious to see what Falk & Co. decide to explore. Tradition would point to an ending on the altar, but “You’re the Worst” isn’t one for playing into expectations. It may go there. It may go somewhere entirely different. Or it could have it both ways — its own way. That’s our hope, considering how so far, it’s proven to be the best.
“You’re the Worst” Season 4 is streaming in full on FX NOW. FXX has renewed it for a fifth and final season, expected to air in 2018.