You’re the Worst’s second season has built tension for an excruciating amount of time. With the show’s penchant for illustrating the dirtier side of relationships, I anticipated all the build-up to culminate with a satisfying crack. But, once the year dove into Gretchen’s depression head-on, I realized I had no idea what Stephen Falk and his staff had in store.
That led me, two weeks ago, to write this: “I’ve been wrong about so much in this season of You’re the Worst, but I have one final proclamation, and this one is a definite lock. I have no idea what’s going to happen next.”
This time, I was right.
Once again, for what feels like the umpteenth week in a row, You’re the Worst defied my expectations. Episode 11 left us with Jimmy and Nina, caution be damned, hooking up. Or, so we thought. The opening moments of “Other Things You Could Be Doing” revealed the hookup halted shortly after it began, and instead of engaging in sloppy, drunken mischief, the two decided to make a weekend of it. From here, the plot points seemed obvious. Jimmy would head off on his sexcapade, Gretchen would find out late in the episode or next week and she would either care or, more likely given her current mental state, not at all, leaving Jimmy to decide what his relationship with Nina was meant to be. A legitimate attraction, or a move to rouse the girl he really adored.
My mental mapping was thrown off course when Jimmy arrived home to find Gretchen, having abandoned her stay at Lindsay’s house, in his living room. Like Jimmy, I imagined Gretchen’s reaction to his “leaving town” to be more than the monotonous drone she’s put on for the past several weeks. Instead, it was one of the most gentle, sweet scenes the show has ever produced. Her admission that she knew Jimmy was leaving her coldness for the warmth of a new lover was heartbreaking, amplified all the more so when she told him to go, that he deserved it.
Credit to the writing staff for handling Jimmy deftly this season. Though at times underutilized, a masterful job has been done of keeping his intentions unclear. The bravado that Jimmy puts on has never been opaque, but he’s made enough terrible decisions to make every move surprising. The decision he made in “Other Things You Could Be Doing” may have been his most remarkable move yet. It showed a level of tenderness I knew he had, but was certain he was too stunted to display, and it gave the episode a romantic sheen the show has done well to avoid in the past. Here, You’re the Worst was better for indulging its sweeter side, as it was done with a level of poignancy the show has proven to be equipped with for some time. As much as I love the big, bold, bombastic throw downs the show often doles out, the shift it made this season has evolved it into a more versatile comedy, or whatever you want to label it. This type of episode, which blended comedy with pathos seamlessly, would not have succeeded in the same way last year. Entries of similar ilk even failed to succeed earlier this season, but YTW has found its balance, and the result is a show that makes you howl just before it punches you in the heart.
It’s been tough to find the comedy, specifically, in Gretchen’s situation in season two. There simply aren’t many ways to joke about clinical depression delicately. “Other Things You Could Be Doing” managed the feat by having Jimmy send out a mass text to all of Gretchen’s contacts, calling for aid. This led to a wonderful montage of both familiar and unfamiliar faces in Jimmy’s home to give varied, equally horrendous, pep talks. But, the best comedic moment of the night came from Jimmy’s avoidance of Nina, who showed up as planned to whisk him away for their retreat. Watching Jimmy lay prone on the ground hiding from Nina, who stepped into a nightmare in the shortest imaginable time, only to be found out and respond with nothing more than “hello” was riotous.
?While the explosive moments have been reduced, in effective fashion, to something far quieter, there is still a bevy of situations to resolve. Jimmy may have won points for his handling of Gretchen’s depression this episode, but he lost serious ground with Edgar. Lindsay’s frightful decision to self-artificially inseminate earlier this season saw some much needed progression and, though she’s made great strides and even delivered divorce papers this week, reminded us why Lindsay is the worst of the Worsties. Still, the most interesting thread remains the relationship at the heart of the show. How Jimmy and Gretchen will move forward from this point is fascinating. I’m not sold this will be the turning point for Gretchen, and how long Jimmy will hold on if she doesn’t show improvement is up in the air. The next two episodes are curious, especially, given how much of “Other Things You Could Be Doing” felt like a season finale. Whatever road the show decides to take, I expect it to lead to unanticipated destinations.
Eric Walters is the Assistant Tech Editor for Paste and a regular contributor to the TV section. For more of his thoughts on comic book television, listen to his podcast.