If there’s one way to describe Season 3 of FX’s “You’re the Worst,” the most apt comparison would probably be something akin to watching several lit fuses in a room full of dynamite, just waiting for everything to eventually explode.
Notably more nuanced and subtle than the previous two, this season has forced its core characters to deal with the underlying frustration that we all, for better or worse, bottle up of us in times of intense personal suffering.
In a season all about self-discovery, ensemble struggling to develop awareness of their own problems and faults –Edgar finally coming to terms with his PTSD, Gretchen working on mindfulness for her anxiety and depression — there’s been an underlying sense of doom surrounding every single relationships in “You’re the Worst” this season — and they were all already so fragile.
After the somber, esoteric ending of last week’s episode, we could have expected everything to finally come to a head in the penultimate episode on Nov. 9.
In one of the most ambitious episodes the series has given us to date, director Wendy Stanzler, DP Mike Berlucchi and steadicam operator Thom Valko shot almost the entirety of “The Inherent, Unsullied, Qualitative Value of Anything” in long one-take tracking shots, familiar to modern audiences from films like “Birdman” and ambitious television moments like the notorious “True Detective” Season 1 raid.
While the style of the episode could have felt superfluous, the technique is instead used to catastrophic effect. Managing to perfectly recreate the fluid and chaotic nature of the party — the episode is set entirely against the backdrop of Shitstain and Jaclyn’s elopement party — while weaving in and out of different storylines with ease, it used all of the already-created buildup behind each of the relationships to explode in a series of short, devastating confessions.
The first and possibly most minor came when a buzzed Dorothy (Collette Wolfe) finally revealed her frustrations to oblivious Edgar (Desmin Borges) that after spending all of her adult life trying to find success in the comedy world, and beginning to believe she never will, he’s stumbled accidentally into the dream job of any comedian, writing for Doug Benson and running jokes with Brian Posehn.
We knew Dorothy was coming close, after her contained misery at the end of the previous episode, but watching her slowly build up to a clear-headed but scary understanding of her own resentment. While it’s an understandable transition that Edgar would slowly be finding success and happiness after getting the help he needs, Dorothy’s been relegated to “rational, healthy, supportive” status by his illness and trauma. Now, when she needs support the most, he’s too engrossed in his own emotional recovery to notice her slow disintegration happening right next to him.
In a moment we’ve been anticipating all season, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) finally revealed to Paul (Allan McLeod) that she got an abortion in the previous episode, and didn’t want to be with him anymore. Her frustrations and unhappiness with their marriage were evident from the very beginning — but after hearing Paul’s excitement about finally being a father in “The Seventh Layer” just a few episodes earlier, the disappointment and betrayal that hits Paul upon hearing the news is one of the most devastating moments of the entire series so far.
That’s always been one of the biggest strengths of “You’re the Worst” — that in a story about an array of mostly selfish and awful people, it’s never afraid to show their likable narcissism crossing the line into actively harming those around them.
They may be the main characters, but that doesn’t stop Lindsay, Gretchen, Jimmy, or even Edgar from being the villains of their own stories either.
In spite of all of the already serious reveals scattered throughout the episode, it’s Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) that give us its biggest moments, and following the realization that he doesn’t recognize his life anymore, the episode starts with Jimmy creating pro/con lists for literally everything in his life, from the stapler in his bedroom all the way to a nervous Gretchen. While the opening presents the pro/con list initially with a whimsical lens, the plot device quickly becomes more and more worrisome as Jimmy continues to create pros and cons about his girlfriend, and much to her chagrin, refuses to tell her what they are.
After a second season mired in self-hate and doubt for Gretchen, it’s understandably maddening. But instead of acting with the maturity that her therapist has been preaching to her about all season, Gretchen reverts to her lovable and hilarious (and deeply troubling) most childlike impulses: Telling Jimmy that she’s creating her own pro/con list about him, refusing to tell him what they are, going through his pockets, and so on.
Like everything else in the episode, it all hits the fan when the two agree to name one con from each of their lists. Starting off the moment with satisfied, expectant grins, Gretchen’s is quickly and heartbreakingly wiped away when Jimmy reveals that he can’t “ever see having kids with her,” and his when Gretchen subsequently admits her fear that she’s afraid “he’ll never be successful.”
The moment was a stark contrast to the “I love you’s” we saw them give each other in the season premiere just a few weeks back, but it’s true all of these concerns have been present in Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship from the jump. After always joking about being halfway out the door with each other — it’s literally their theme song — the uncertainties finally bubbled up at the most understandable time: Right when things were getting real.
Standing outside the party afterwards, we see Jimmy and Gretchen unself-consciously reenact their meeting in the first moments of the show’s pilot — outside Becca and Vernon’s wedding, which seems laughably long ago now — and then, they drive home separately. Still perfectly next to each other, but in two different lanes — and alone in their own worlds.
Has everything finally come full circle for Jimmy and Gretchen? Is this the natural endpoint and evolution to the show’s new form? It’s hard to say they seem likely to survive as a couple any longer, even if the concerns are retracted or changed out. But ultimately, we think they’ll find a way to stay together: If this show has taught us anything it’s that things can always be darker, deeper and more intense, especially the love between these charismatic, brilliant messes.
“You’re the Worst” airs its hour-long season finale Wednesday, Nov. 16 at TK p.m. ET,PT on FX.