‘You’re The Worst’ balances comedy and sympathy
John Wilson | Thursday, October 5, 2017
Season 4 of the FX comedy “You’re The Worst” begins with a new title sequence that cements many of the changes the show and the characters in it underwent in Season 3. As the show has grown, it has become less and less centered upon the original lead characters, Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash), and instead it has become more focused on the array of characters that were on the periphery while they starred — two characters in particular, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges). They have become such integral parts of the plot and dynamic of the show that they almost share equal screen time and importance with the original leads. The new intro shows a few seconds of each character and then cuts to different posters around Los Angeles, warning of the dangers each respective character represents to society. They aren’t actually dangerous people, but none — save for maybe Edgar — could exactly be called ideal members of society by any means, either. Jimmy’s poster warns bartenders not to serve him; Gretchen’s warns convenience store owners about her tendency to steal liquor; Edgar’s warns neighbors not to give him heroin; and Lindsay’s is an actual wanted poster regarding her alleged hit-and-run and public urination.
The title sequence also clearly conveys how separated the four characters are this season compared to previous ones. The season begins addressing the fallout from the Season 3 finale, when Jimmy — overcome by a combination of fear and panic — leaves Gretchen alone and stranded only moments after proposing to her. Befitting of the magnitude of such a situation, Jimmy and Gretchen don’t see each other in the new season until the last moments of the second episode. Meanwhile, the relationship between Lindsay and Edgar that was toyed with towards the end of Season 3 takes the next step in Season 4. They demonstrate how a relationship between two dysfunctional opposites can bring out the best in both people — an attribute that we rarely saw in the complicated relationship between Jimmy and Gretchen. The dramatic arc of this season, however, doesn’t seem to be Lindsay and Edgar’s success, but rather looks to be based around the fracturing of Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship and how the ripples from its destruction will affect the other characters on the show. The friendship dynamic between the four main characters established during the previous seasons is tossed entirely on its head in the new season, with little explanation for how (or if) it will resolve itself.
With Season 4 being just over halfway finished, the standout has without a doubt been the fourth episode — a successor to the episode “There Is Not Currently a Problem” from Season 2. Both are bottle episodes with constantly rising tension that crescendos with Gretchen ultimately lashing out to regain control. In the fourth episode, instead of the Los Angeles Marathon keeping them inside as it does in Season 2, it is a flurry of misunderstandings between Jimmy and Gretchen. The confusion stems from neither of them being willing or able to honestly discuss what happened between them at the end of last season. Despite most of the action taking place inside Jimmy’s house, the episode is shot to make the space seem as open and cavernous as possible — using all the rooms of the house and wider shots, further driving home the divide between Jimmy and Gretchen despite their physical proximity. The mix of comedy with real emotional stakes is typical for this show, but done to particular effect here.
As prevalent in that drama-filled episode, the draw of a show like “You’re The Worst” has less to do with its comedic element and more with how it deals with the less humorous aspects of life. The title sequence is a great example of this. Those posters are hints to the specific ways in which the characters actions are shaped by their struggles with mental illness: Gretchen through her battle with clinical depression, Edgar through his struggles with PTSD and Jimmy through his love/hate relationship with his rampant narcissism. For a show to remain brutally funny while closely examining all of these real, poignant topics is a testament to what is so refreshing about the show and others like it.
In this regard, “You’re The Worst” is refreshing because it doesn’t reduce its characters to pure embodiments of their respective diseases. It allows its characters to be layered people realistically dealing with troubling diseases. It’s an important step to take in the world of comedy, where all too often mental illness becomes the butt of jokes instead of the topic of discussion.