You're The Worst Got Really, Importantly Sad

Photo: Courtesy of FXX.
Last night, while all sorts of grotesqueries were unleashed on American Horror Story: Hotel, something quietly tragic was happening on FX’s sister network, FXX. A character on one of the funniest comedies on TV was revealed to be sad — really, inconsolably sad.

A mystery has been unfolding on this season of You’re the Worst. For a couple of episodes now, we’ve witnessed Gretchen (Aya Cash) sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night and driving away from the house she now shares with her boyfriend Jimmy (Chris Geere). She has an inscrutable look on her face during these drives — a mix of guilt and relief. Last week, we discovered that Jimmy is aware of her late-night jaunts, and this week, he resolves to find out where she’s been going. Gretchen’s mess of a best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) tells Jimmy that Gretchen is probably cheating on him with a “side bitch.” But, alas, there is no “side bitch.” Gretchen is simply escaping to cry in her car. Jimmy, wearing his trusty mustache disguise, follows her only to find her parked and weeping. He asks, “Is it something I did?” She responds, “No.”

You’re the Worst starts out as a show about two selfish people, who, despite their distaste for relationships, find themselves falling for one another. It is transforming into a show about people who are sad.

The show consistently invests in damaged characters. Take Edgar (Desmin Borges), a PTSD-addled veteran and recovering heroin addict who is Jimmy’s roommate/housekeeper/cook. (It's worth noting that this season, Edgar is doing really well while everyone around him flounders. He's dating someone who seems pretty great!) In a beautiful essay published in The New Republic in September, Jane Hu argued that the series "shows why rom-coms should be as sad and painful as real relationships." "The show invites horrible sadness and pain," she continued, "as well as the possibility that, when it’s finally over, we’ll still be glad it happened at all.” Hu’s words intentionally echo what Gretchen says in the season 1 finale, when she and Jimmy finally acknowledge that they are really going to be together. “We’re going to do this even though we know there’s only one way this ends. Whether in a week or 20 years, there is horrible sadness and pain coming, and we’re inviting it,” Gretchen says.

About midway through the second season, sadness is becoming the show's overwhelming theme.

In addition to the gloom mysteriously overtaking Gretchen, Lindsay is even more of a disaster following her breakup with her husband Paul (Allan McLeod). A party girl who was unhappy in marriage, Lindsay has found herself even more unhappy out of it. Her life is in shambles. She doesn’t pay her bills, and takes random pills she finds in her doctor brother-in-law’s safe. She tries to impregnate herself with microwaved sperm. But Lindsay’s misery is one familiar to TV viewers. It’s the relationship-derived “sadness and pain” that Gretchen predicts. Gretchen’s “sadness and pain” is something more nebulous, but no less human. She will have no easy way to fix herself, and Jimmy will have no easy way to help her.

The emergence of all this emotional trauma doesn’t negate the fact that the show is still very funny, and not in a mopey, Louie sort of way. There’s laugh-out-loud stuff here, even in the moments when the characters are at their lowest. Why does Gretchen take her burner phone on her tearful expeditions? Because she likes to play Snake.

We don’t know why Gretchen is sad yet, but it almost doesn’t matter. Sadness doesn't always come with an explanation. It’s something that seeps in and demands attention. You’re the Worst is paying attention to it. So are we.

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