In the lead up to You’re the Worst’s second season, I read that the sophomore effort of the brilliant FXX comedy would be a darker affair so often that I began regurgitating the fact myself the minute I started writing about the show. In part, it was to inform you (the reader), but really it was to remind myself that gloomy was the forecast for the next ten weeks or so. My biggest fear with YTW venturing into darker territory was that it would become far less humorous, instead opting to be the sort of hybrid comedy drama that has led the way creatively in television for the past two years. Shows like Transparent, Louie and Togetherness are wonderful and important, but what they do, and do incredibly well, always felt like a different game than You’re the Worst was playing. Now, four episodes into the darker second season, the rules of the game are changing.
“All About That Paper” took an interesting approach. Instead of putting our lovable worsties together, or in teams, the show split them apart. We followed Jimmy as he had a day-long meeting with an eccentric writer, Gretchen as she dealt with a beef between Sam and his bandmates Honey Nutz and Shitstain, Edgar as he went to a PTSD support group meeting and Lindsay as she confronted Paul about divorce papers. The strongest storyline of the night was easily Gretchen’s, aided once again by strong performances from the rap trio. I’d hate to lessen their influence with overexposure, but it’s as though Brandon Mychal Smith, Darrell Brit-Gibson and Allen Maldonado can do no wrong and every time they have a scene (separate or together) it makes me only want more. I also greatly enjoyed seeing Edgar excel at improv in his support group meeting, as anything that allows Edgar to gain a sliver of confidence is the absolute best.
The intention of splitting the characters apart, particularly Gretchen and Jimmy, was to prove that the two didn’t need to check in with each other constantly throughout the day. What they do instead, is text each other constantly throughout the day. In expected You’re the Worst fashion, these two things are somehow different. What it brought about, however, was a half-hour that felt fractured and half-baked. The episode as a whole felt like the collection of decent ideas that were crammed together instead of focusing on one truly good idea. Save for some small chuckles and genuine belly laughs from Gretchen’s side of the story, “All About That Paper” was low on laughs for the third consecutive week. The tone overall felt light and definitely geared toward comedy, though, until the end. In a move that has been building for weeks, but felt completely out of left field in regard to this episode specifically, Gretchen had an epiphany of sorts and snuck out in the middle of the night, all to the tune of Torres’ “New Skin.” It felt like something straight out of Togetherness. In these initial moments, I’m still processing the move. My gut reaction was against it. I’ve always admired the show’s ability to use humor as starting point for any topic, no matter how complicated or serious. It certainly wasn’t without dramatic moments in the first season, but those always came with sense that the next laugh was just a second away. This season, not so much. Then there’s the other part of me. The part that believes Stephen Falk can walk the same line that the Duplass’ can. The part that knows Chris Geere and Aya Cash, not to mention Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue, can handle more dramatic material.
Still, it feels like we would be sacrificing too much for the sake of drama if the show continues down the path that Gretchen was on in the final scene. Shows like Togetherness and Transparent were never the funniest show on TV, but beloved for the way they blended the line between drama and comedy with grace. YTW was always comedy first, and to switch focus now would be a mistake. Perhaps it would have sat better with me had it not come at the very end of the episode, which made it feel like a tacked on surprise for shock value rather than something organic. If the show can find a natural way to include more serious dramatic moments in between the laughs, than I’m willing to see what comes of it.
?Unlike Gretchen and Jimmy, I fell hard in love and wasn’t afraid to admit it after just ten episodes of You’re the Worst last year. Season Two, save for the wonderful premiere, has mostly been a rough patch. Because it found confidence so quickly, it was, and still is, easy to forget that this is a very young show. In reality, I’m just getting to know who You’re the Worst is, and if that includes a more straight drama approach in some episodes, then so be it. But, really, all my heart wants right now is for the show to lighten up.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.