[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “You’re the Worst” Season 5, Episode 13, “Pancakes,” the series finale.]
As it began, so, too, did it end. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) met at a wedding during the “You’re the Worst” series premiere, and they left one in the series finale. That it was their own wedding, before it happened, served not only as a nice spin on expectations, but a key takeaway from the series finale: While so many romantic-comedies present the alter as the ultimate goal, Stephen Falk’s incisive and rebellious take dares to see it as a sacrifice.
So, no, the two worsties didn’t tie the knot. All that came before wasn’t one long trek toward vows, a ceremony, and a reception. But Jimmy and Gretchen abandoning their long-in-the-works ceremony at the last second wasn’t because of a break-up, as was teased so torturously throughout the season. Those tricky flash-forwards were used to make viewers confront the very real possibility their favorite ill-fated couple might split — because, someday, they might. Just not now. Not in the events of the show.
They didn’t get married. They didn’t break up. “So what are we going to do?” Gretchen asked her ex-fiancé and current boyfriend, sitting in front a stack of pancakes at their favorite diner. “Every day we choose,” Jimmy says. Instead of making a promise they can’t be reasonably expected to keep, the couple decides to stay together because they choose to, every day, “until one day, maybe, we don’t.”
That may not sound like a happy ending, but it’s an immensely satisfying one to witness. Throughout five groundbreaking seasons, this couple has played by the beat of its own drum. They started by agreeing all relationships were doomed, so they would just have fun until this one ran its course. Then they fell in love — an unavoidable indulgence, no matter how hard you try to fight it off — and dealt with the consequences.
Still, each of them cheated; each of them confessed dark secrets; each of them did things that have driven other partners off; that have ended other relationships. But they persisted. Some may argue it’s because they’re perfect for each other, in that twisted, dark way only made charming to viewers because we’re on the inside of their caustic bubble. Others would say it’s because they’re in love, and whether it fades or grows, love is strong enough to weather the storm. But what matters in the end is that they listened to each other when it mattered most, and they didn’t let the pressures of family, expectations, and life force them into something they didn’t actually want.
It’s a bold stance to take, not just because Falk refused to follow through on the picturesque white wedding finale, but for how well he outlined his central couple’s position. Plenty of people don’t get married, but many of them (if not most) get side-eyed, suspicious looks from everyone who’s just gone along with the “natural” flow of things. From the big, basic, unanswerable questions — “Who wants to lie in front of everyone they know that they’re going to love someone forever? How can you know that?” Jimmy yells — to the specific concerns of two people who are very afraid of being hurt yet again: “It’s a false guarantee that protects us from nothing,” he says. “It’s an opiate. It’s a lie.”
Falk’s ending is anything but. It’s honest and carries such an immense amount of respect for its characters. Meanwhile, it finds room for so many fun little riffs, homages, and cameos, all of which honor the prior years of excellent episodes. The canceled nuptials still brought out a ton of favorite characters, from Jimmy’s old next-door neighbor Killian (Shane Francis Smith) to Gretchen’s loyal clients Sam (Brandon Mychal Smith), Shitstain (Darrell Britt-Gibson), and the new Honey Nutz (Brandon Black), to Ben Folds as the drunk and disorderly version of Ben Folds.
Falk came up with good reasons for Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) to get behind a microphone (as he did in the first shot of the series and, even more memorably, when he warned everyone about the scariness of “The Babadook”), and for Lindsay (Kether Donohue) to sing an original song! (Those “Grease Live” pipes didn’t go to waste, though fans already knew she had it in her from her haunting rendition of “This Woman’s Work” in the Season 1 finale.)
The epilogues for each character, including Vernon’s doctors-on-wheels “Mobile Vern Unit,” were fitting yet funny, and Edgar (Desmin Borges) even got a fair shake in the end. After calling out Jimmy for his decision to marry Gretchen in the penultimate episode, Edgar very easily could’ve been made the villain of the series. Instead, his decision was framed as both the best advice he thought he could give his groom, as well as a necessary way for the former homeless veteran to separate himself from a toxic friendship. His arc was arguably even more fleshed out than Lindsay’s, given she never really found a career path and his move to New York helped his writing career take off. (Did you hear him say he got to go on Fallon?)
Over five seasons, “You’re the Worst” walked the fine line of embracing its genre and satirizing it. The ambitious experimentation within trying to do that led the story into rocky terrain on occasion — the Vernon/Paul woods-bound standalone episode remains a love it or hate it tipping point — but through such commitment to open-minded exploration came great fruits. Jimmy and Gretchen are a couple for the present with an eye toward the future, both grounded in their specific do’s and don’ts while exemplifying a generation of romantics whose ideas don’t coalesce with past standards. This ending cements their status as revolutionaries and outliers, while setting them up as torchbearers for anyone who finds themselves in a similar mindset.
Most of all, “Pancakes” is sweet, funny, and exactly what viewers needed even if they didn’t know it’s what they wanted. Hard to imagine a better way to go out than that.
“You’re the Worst” is available to stream on FX Now. Season 1 – 4 is streaming on Hulu.