The reason most relationship-based sitcoms get old quick, and unfunny even faster, is due to a lack of wit expressed by the writers and crew, and a missing inventiveness and empathy given by the performers involved. My own barometer has always been perspective, as most relationship comedies come off as unerringly soft and sentimental in the overall decisions of what the mechanics of relationships look and sound like. They almost never change, and they almost all follow a familiar trajectory with the wording of the jokes being vaguely augmented or with slightly more timely punchlines.
FXX’s You’re the Worst would seemingly be a much-needed antidote to this lukewarm kind of amiable pap: a more perverse, acerbic view of relationship, anchored by a pair of bitter, vindictive cynics, played by Aya Cash and Chris Geere. The jokes are, on the whole, better on Stephen Falk‘s series, which grew an unexpected cult out of its first season, which detailed the hesitant coupling between band agent Gretchen (Cash) and would-be literary wunderkind Jimmy (Geere). The view of the series had more to do with the characters of Gretchen and Jimmy than it does on the time-tested nuances of how relationships universally work. Gretchen and Jimmy are juvenile, self-obsessed jerks throughout nearly all of You’re the Worst Season 1, but the view remains that there are endearing characteristics to be found even in the most toxic of pairings.
For the most part, You’re the Worst Season 1 was convincing in that assertion and funny in its generational observations, and it’s even more true in You’re the Worst Season 2, which continues and complicates the relationship between Gretchen and Jimmy. The boyfriend-girlfriend team now begin to worry if their not-so-romantic relationship will make them too comfortable in routine and ultimately dull. There’s also the new teasings of a relationship between Gretchen’s soon-to-be divorced bestie, Lindsay (Kether Donohue), and Jimmy’s war-veteran squatter-friend, Edgar (Desmin Borges), and the one-liners and nuances of all four central characters’ psychological damages remain distinct and occasionally very funny under the canopy of the show’s skeptical tone. When both Gretchen and Jimmy find themselves facing major hurtles in their careers — with Jimmy now weighing an option to become a writer of movie-to-novel adaptations — the show revels in revealing how their behavior has an effect on careers that are sustained on social and professional connections that must be maintained and even indulged.
The center of the series is the importance and danger in confidence, and how it can often aid both self-destruction and outsized ambitions, turning love of self into self-pity in the span of three rejection letters or bad marketing ideas. And yet, despite all of these admirable elements of this funny show, You’re the Worst is hindered by its perspective, its total belief that the unwise thing must always be done (at least for a bit), and that only the most self-satisfied and self-obsessed responses constitute the glut of what its characters say, even if just at first. This is what made the climax of the first season so pointedly unremarkable, whether on purpose or not, and it’s what at least the first two episodes of Season 2 seem to be challenging, if not aggressively so. There are moments that suggest an emotionally vibrant undercurrent, such as Lindsay’s attempted wingmaning of Edgar at a sports bar or Jimmy’s contemplation of his career at the local mall. If the series builds these fleeting yet poignant expressions of reflection more rapidly, You’re the Worst could become something genuinely defiant and narratively daring, which the series has recently been only in suggestion.
★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism