‘You’re the Worst’: A Romantic Comedy That Has No Time for Romance

In its third season, the show is as brazenly blunt as the reluctant lovebirds at its center.

The third season of You’re the Worst opens with an eye-popping sex scene that rivals the all-nighter Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) pulled in the show’s pilot episode — an intended one-night stand that accidentally mushrooms into a real relationship. In the new season opener, the couple have at each other in full daylight. There’s no sheet coyly covering their coital acrobatics; no close-up shot of their faces twisting in ecstasy before the camera pans across candles burning on the nightstand while a breeze rustles the curtains. 

If the series wanted to cater to our fantasies about sex and intimacy, these two would have regular, choreographed sex culminating in perfectly simultaneous orgasms. But that kind of soft-focus sex has no place on You’re the Worst, a romantic comedy that’s as brazenly blunt as the reluctant lovebirds at its center.  In the third season opener, Gretchen tells Jimmy to hold off until she’s finished, but Jimmy suggests they climax together. “Will it be scary?” Gretchen asks. “I don’t know,” Jimmy replies. “It might.”

Timing can make or break a relationship; just because two people love each other doesn’t mean they’re always going to be in sync. You’re the Worst, which returns for a third season on Wednesday on FXX, depicts typical relationship milestones — moving in together, saying “I love you,” even coming at the same time — but not necessarily in the order we’ve come to expect from the typical rom-com. These are grown-ass adults; who has time for perfectly paced romance in their thirties?

At the end of Season 1, Gretchen and Jimmy move in together, prompted not by declarations of love but a fire that ruins Gretchen’s apartment, courtesy of a faulty vibrator. At the end of Season 2, Jimmy drunkenly tells Gretchen he loves her and then refuses to believe her when she reminds him the next morning.

In Season 3, a trio of couples venture boldly into the rocky terrain of a committed, serious, adult relationship. Last season, Jimmy’s roommate, Iraq War veteran Edgar (Desmin Borges) began dating Dorothy (Collette Wolfe), whom he met in an improv class. This season, the potpourri of medications he takes for his PTSD interferes with his and Dorothy’s sex life, leaving Edgar to choose between his mental health and his budding new relationship.

Gretchen’s bestie, reluctantly reformed party girl Lindsay (Kether Donohue), has decided to re-commit to her dorky husband, Paul (Allan McLeod), after drunkenly impregnating herself with his semen last season. Carrying his baby, Lindsay is determined to play the good housewife, choosing the comfort of familiarity (and Paul’s healthy paycheck) over the risk of something new, no matter how unnatural it feels. When Paul surprises her by purchasing a meal preparation service akin to Blue Apron, Lindsay is perplexed: “Paul, this dress doesn’t have a butt.” “It’s an apron,” he explains. “A napron?” she replies.

On You’re the Worst, a couple isn’t a “unit” so much as two stubborn entities attempting to negotiate a mutually beneficial merger. In the first two episodes of Season 3, Gretchen and Jimmy are still learning new things about each other. These discoveries are both minor and nit-picky, like the revelation that Gretchen rarely washes her legs when she showers (“What am I gonna do, like, bend down and wash my legs? Who has the time?”); and more significant. “Gretchen, are you religious?” Jimmy asks incredulously in the Season 3 premiere, when she mentions a childhood incident at bible camp. “No!” Gretchen insists. “I consider myself more generally spiritual.” This does not soothe Jimmy.

Gretchen and Jimmy don’t so much confess their love as they do wrangle it out of each other. It’s taken them a couple seasons to really warm up to each other, but their emotional thaw triggers some much-needed introspection. Last season, Gretchen’s clinical depression reared its ugly head; this season, she tentatively starts seeing a therapist, Justina, played by Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley. Like a dog circling her bed before finally settling down, Gretchen acts out during her first appointment with Justina, declares she won’t be coming back, and then returns to stalk her office. And without spoiling the plot, Jimmy — who is loath to get in touch with his feelings at the best of times — is forced to finally confront his own long-repressed issues. He’s British, you see.

Stories about people meeting and falling in love often insist that it’s all or nothing — you either get the guy or girl and life is great, or you don’t, and realize you’re better off anyway. But, like Girls, You’re the Worst doesn’t push its characters through the big milestones in order to service the plot. Rather, it gives them the space to figure things out on their own time. As Justina tells Gretchen in their first, disastrous meeting,“Self-improvement is a lifelong process.” On this show, “I love you” isn’t the end of the story — it’s just the beginning.

 

You’re the Worst airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FXX.