Minor spoilers for Season 5 of You’re The Worst.
You’re The Worst, the FXX comedy-drama following the debaucherous romance of perverted writer Jimmy and narcissistic liar Gretchen, has had a hold on my attention for a while now. It was the subject of the second video essay I ever made.
In it, I praised the realistic tone it struck in a relationship between two “damaged” (aren’t we all) people. While their hijinks are hardly believable, You’re The Worst has always struck a sincere chord in the way Jimmy and Gretchen try to figure out how to exist in their relationship, instead of chasing each other.
Now in its fifth, and final, season, You’re The Worst has thrown one last genre-bending curveball at us.
To say that Gretchen and Jimmy’s love story has been tumultuous is pretentious code for “duh.” They’ve been engaged twice now, and broken up a handful of times, but the show has always seemed fairly clear that the two would end up together. That’s not the genre-bending idea. Pretty much every romantic sitcom has involved a will-they-won’t-they-but-yeah-they-will storyline at its core.
For years, You’re The Worst denied giving attention to that chase in order to focus on what inevitably has to come next. It was always interested the vulnerability of a long-term relationship and the natural tension that comes from working through that.
But starting two weeks ago, each episode has included a flash-forward to a time where Gretchen and Jimmy aren’t together. The sequences are pretty quick and vague: a dinged-up car, their “forever house” in escrow, and some really heinous grief scruff clinging to Jimmy’s neck.
We can freeze frame and dig into every detail to parse what’s coming (I would guess a tragic car accident involving Gretchen), but what’s more interesting to me is how this decision flips the entire genre’s conventional story.
Instead of a relationship “almosting” in fits and starts before someone gets off a plane, You’re The Worst has built a show on the inverse: a relationship that moves forward until it falls apart. In all honesty, it shouldn’t surprise any of us, they’re really f’d up people. Gretchen’s most recent outburst at Jimmy sums it up pretty nicely: “I’m impressed. Makes me feel better to know you’re as big of a dishonest, disgusting fucking liar as I am.” Who would have thought that these crazy kids (read: pathological liars) might not be able to work it out?
Through years of genre conditioning, we expect Jimmy and Gretchen to still end up together, that this season would end in their wedding — a freeze frame on their kiss and the consummation of their love. Somehow, they would have matured into properly functioning adults (I cannot confirm that this is actually a thing) instead of overgrown children with an affinity for sex and drugs.
But You’re The Worst has never been that show. It has always been much more interested in trying to parse what a “happily ever after” might look like, if it even exists at all. I think this is a reason the show has clicked with me so much: we’re both deeply interested in the “how” of it all. That is to say, what is it that makes these things work? It’s a journey to try to figure out the mechanics of a deeply unmechanical system (storytelling for me, relationships for You’re The Worst) and to try to sift through the mysticism of it all.
In reality, there are only two ways a relationship ends: through breakup or death. Sorry to be morbid, but it’s true. That’s why TV and film focus on the start of a relationship as the end of their story. It’s full of hope, a promise of finally setting down the right path. If the premise of You’re The Worst is to start its story where most others end, it only makes sense that it would push up against the uncomfortable, but realistic, end.