Stephen Falk’s anti-romantic comedy, ‘You’re the Worst,’ is just the right mixture of shallow and emotional intensity to have earned its second season of critical acclamations. But what makes a show about four terrible and ill-adjusted adults so good? It’s human.
The show follows Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) as they attempt to find romance in one another despite their mutual disgust with the very concept. Their friends, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges), also struggle with everything from romance to mental illness to trivia games. Throughout the series, the characters are messy and toxic and unsure of one another and themselves. Edgar is the moral compass of the show and he’s kind, but he’s attracted to dysfunctional people and finds himself bullied by his friends and the Veterans Administration. Lindsay hates her life, but she hates her sister even more and would rather present as successful than actually seek success. Gretchen doesn’t know how to adult and has no desire to learn. Jimmy is narcissistic and lazy, which he disguises with intelligence and pretentiousness. Even the side characters’ vices and flaws are consistently on display- such as Vernon’s desperate desire for acceptance and Sam’s insecurities with his public persona.
These qualities don’t come across as desirable or likeable. The characters aren’t role models on which viewers can impress upon their own goals. But these characters reflect the shameful, disgusting bits that we all harbor. The characters’ impulses and shortcomings aren’t new or out of the ordinary- they’re just front and center whereas ours are usually kept carefully in check. ‘You’re the Worst’ is a reminder that people are messy.
There are of course other valuable lessons in the show too. In season two, Gretchen’s clinical depression becomes a fifth character that she and Jimmy are forced to navigate. It’s a startlingly realistic image of depression, with Gretchen trying, and failing, to cope, hide, and succumb. Meanwhile, Edgar is struggling with his codependent personality, which has led him in the past to coddling and serving Jimmy as if he’s a live-in caretaker and not Jimmy’s friend and roommate. He’s also an Iraq War veteran, who finds himself unable to access healthcare through the underfunded, bureaucratic Veterans Administration. The theme of mental illness is an important one in an era where 6.7% of adults have depression, and 3.5% have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although the characters (usually) face consequences, their development doesn’t occur in a straight line. They backslide and fall off the wagon and overall struggle to grow up. Which is important: recovery and growth is never a linear process, and watching them stumble and pick themselves up again is encouraging. And sometimes they don’t pick themselves back up, and that’s important to depict too.
‘You’re the Worst’ is the quintessential millennial romantic comedy. The characters confront the challenges of growing up and they don’t do so gracefully. They’re depressed and bratty, and emotionally unintelligent- and they’re unapologetically real.
‘You’re the Worst’ returned for a third season on August 31, 2016.