A review of tonight's fantastic “You're the Worst” coming up just as soon as I begin my annual “Arliss” rewatch…
I think back to the summer of 2014, and how quick I was to dismiss “You're the Worst” when it debuted, and I am so damn relieved that the raves of friends and other critics convinced me to give it a second chance. Because if I'd stopped watching it after the pilot and chalked it up as another Peak TV in America victim (before John Landgraf had even coined the phrase), I would have never gotten to see an episode as wonderful as “There Is Not Currently a Problem.”
This was nearly all that's remarkable about the series in miniature: most of the notable characters (save Sam's crew and Becca Barbara) all in one place for a bottle episode that was largely absurd, like Vernon's constant use of “whack” and Jimmy's ongoing confusion about “Hakuna Matata,” but which also dug down deep to get at the deeper anxieties, traumas, and sicknesses that have brought Gretchen and Jimmy together. It wasn't quite A Very Special “You're the Worst,” because that level of vulnerability and darkness has been baked in all along. But by walking us ever so slowly – going back, really, to her first disappearance from Jimmy's house a few episodes back – up to Gretchen's admission that she's clinically depressed the moment hits incredibly hard, without undermining any of the laughs that came before.
Revealing Gretchen's depression doesn't magically unlock the secret that is her. Lots of people – Jimmy, to name one – can behave like that without having mental health issues. But Gretchen's firm belief that she's broken, and her terror of what will happen if a man she cares about discovers this – and either walks away, or, worse, tries in vain to “fix” her – certainly powers a lot of the shields she's erected between herself and the rest of humanity. And Lindsay's compassionate response to her outburst – during which she was on the receiving end of the worst and most pointed of Gretchen's insults – helps explain why these two are so close. Lindsay's seen who Gretchen really is, and understands and supports her when the episodes are at their hardest.
But even before we got to that revelation, or Jimmy explaining the symbolic importance of the mouse, this was just a great comic episode, with the marathon trapping everyone in Jimmy's house, bouncing off each other in interesting and amusing new ways. (And do we need to Kickstart a Kether Donohue dance show?) Something was clearly wrong with Gretchen – was clearly wrong since Jimmy found her crying in the car last week – but the show managed to wring every drop of comic tension out of the situation before letting her finally explode, and then confess.
It was messy, it was funny, it was powerful. It was “You're the Worst” at its best.
Some other thoughts:
* At first, I wondered if Jimmy was feigning ignorance of “The Lion King,” but that's a gamble with far too much downside for for too little reward. I'm assuming his friend Khalid must have seen the movie and quoted from it often, and pretentious Jimmy mistook the quotes as profound wisdom from Khalid's native land. Also, Chris Geere's continued mispronunciation of “Hakuna Matata” was marvelous, and even better than the awful New York accent he put on to win Dorothy's approval. (And I remain very concerned about whether Ernie Sabella disappeared along with his “Perfect Strangers” co-stars in “The Leftovers” universe.)
* A splendid Dorothy episode. Loved that she instantly started taking notes upon Lindsay's arrival, recognizing that this is a character she could play one day, and also that she wasn't the least bit hurt by Gretchen's attempt to belittle her. Best of all, though, was that it didn't turn out that Edgar is dating her just to make Lindsay jealous, which is both a super-hacky story beat and the kind of thing that would make me hate Edgar. He's eager for Dorothy and Lindsay to hang out because he wants everyone important in his life to get to know the girlfriend he understandably thinks is awesome.
* Lindsay's reaction to Vernon's offer of cash was interesting. For a moment, this seems a line even she doesn't want to cross, but then she takes most of what's in his wallet. Either she's deciding she's okay with being paid for boob-honking privileges, or she's okay because what he's really paying for is the therapeutic value of having someone to complain to about Becca Barbara.
* The song at the end is “Poor Old Ra” by The Pica Beats.
What did everybody else think?