With its final season, You’re The Worst has to finally answer one major question: How do you end an oft-described “anti-rom-com” without either bumming out (and possibly disappointing) every single viewer or having an unrealistic, saccharine (traditional romcom) ending that ultimately ends up betraying everything the show’s supposed to be? Without spoiling too much, I can say confidently that showrunner Stephen Falk has the answer to that question and executes it about as perfectly as one can in a show so regularly about people’s imperfections.
You’re The Worst is a love story about two people who seemingly don’t deserve a love story, let alone a “happy ending,” and with that in mind, Falk and the writers of You’re The Worst have been tasked with explaining whether that’s true or not. Because in all the talk of You’re The Worst being an anti-rom-com, that also comes with arguments about whether the show’s definitively saying that its romantic leads, Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) and Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), do not and should not end up together. After all, all the red flags and warning signs are there, even when Jimmy and Gretchen clearly decide to steamroll right through them, all in the name of love — or possibly, just to prove a point that not even they’re sure of.
Plenty of series that told far more traditionally romcom stories have ended up putt1ing the two romantic leads together despite actively doing even more so than You’re The Worst ever has to show why said characters should never be together. Scrubs did this with J.D. and Elliot and How I Met Your Mother did this with Ted and Robin, because ultimately, those shows also couldn’t accept the change involved in continuing to say that these romances just wouldn’t work. But as much of a mess as Jimmy and Gretchen are — both as individuals, and together — You’re The Worst never quite argues that they’re a pair that should never be together, even if plenty of other characters do. Instead, if anything, it’s screaming at how much them being together makes sense — but could also very easily lead to them scorching them the entire earth in the process.
The final season of You’re The Worst is all leading up to Jimmy and Gretchen’s wedding — as ill-advised as it may be — and even before the season sets in, it’s of course still a question of if they will even tie the knot and actually end up together when all is said and done. After all, the series’ theme song remains unchanged, and with every passing season, it’s come across more as a promise or a guarantee on the show’s part, not just a cute affectation to go along with that whole anti-romcom thing. And also unchanged, to what could, of course, be a disastrous degree, are Jimmy and Gretchen, in a way. They’ve both actually changed tremendously since the first season — even though they’re still both able to vie for the title of the worst — but with this final season, the series has them planning to make the ultimate change, only for Jimmy to constantly go on about how he refuses to ever actually change as a person and Gretchen to be unable to promise that she can say the same thing.
In fact, a quarter of a way through the season, You’re The Worst begins interspersing scenes from the future of Jimmy, Gretchen, and the rest, telling a story that won’t be fully pieced together until the very end. These scenes certainly show the existence of change — for better or worse — for these characters, as we continue to witness Jimmy and Gretchen specifically struggle with that in the present. In fact, at one point during the season, upon realizing they do want different things in their future and really haven’t talked about that, Jimmy calls Gretchen’s beliefs — which she herself says could change with time and already have — “whims.” Jimmy’s belief that being unflappable and never changing is the better option is definitely a myopic approach to things, especially as it ignores just how much he’s had to change to even get to the point of proposing to Gretchen (twice). In fact, this season ultimately pokes fun at how much he changed, as he tries to prove he’s “still” a “bad boy.”
In a final season all about change, among other things, the season premiere (“The Intransigence of Love,” a title which immediately spits in the face of change) works with that idea immediately, as possibly the most ambitious episode of You’re The Worst ever. Like season two’s “LCD Soundsystem” — an episode all about losing your edge post-nuptials — it takes the idea of focusing an impressively long time on characters the audience has no attachment to or knowledge of before introducing any character we do know even a step further. Instead of grounding things in reality as the former episode does, “The Intransigence of Love” is so very clearly a big send-up to the traditional rom-com genre that no one could mistake it for reality, even before it gets super surreal.
At last summer’s TCA press tour, Stephen Falk called the season premiere “a gooey love letter to the tension between cynicism and belief in romance and movie-style love and endings.” And while that could technically describe the entire final season and the series as a whole, “The Intransigence of Love” is the absolute literal interpretation of that message, cribbing heavily from movies like High Fidelity, Notting Hill, even Weird Science… and somehow garnering an appropriate, heartfelt emotional response when the time is right. Before completely going right back into the comedy of the entire situation, that is. It’s the perfect way to open the season because it’s the first example of just how willing to break the rules this season is, to try something new and different to tell the conclusion to this story. How I Met Your Mother tried to do something similar in its final season, but — to note a concept Stephen Falk has mentioned before regarding the prevalent question when it comes to You’re The Worst’s final season — it didn’t stick the landing on every level.
You’re The Worst’s final season sticks the landing. Jimmy has had to learn how to co-exist with Gretchen without trying to “fix” her, and that is a major aspect of this final season, especially as he tries to give her the perfect wedding. With the stakes bigger than ever, Jimmy and Gretchen’s methods of self-sabotage and self-destruction now stick out even more. What perhaps wouldn’t have even been a blip on the radar back in the first season now feels like a contributing to a highly-sensitive bomb, with every possible action potentially blowing the whole thing up. It’s definitely an interesting way to watch a television show, especially when you’re willing to accept it’s perfectly fine to watch Jimmy and Gretchen end up together after all this time and all of their bullshit.
Whether Jimmy or Gretchen make it down that aisle this season, based on the story Falk and company have told over these years, nothing about any of this seems rushed. It instead seems only like the natural progression of things, even on a show where the particular pair haven’t exactly done everything as “naturally progressing” as one would expect.
This natural progression doesn’t just exist for Jimmy and Gretchen’s characters though, as this is perhaps the most focused season of the series when it comes to the entire ensemble’s arc. For example, Edgar (Desmin Borgias) has always been a character whose arc has been the most difficult to pin down, because when it comes to “Who’s The Worst?” Power Rankings, he’s very often at the very bottom of the list, simply because he’s played as the punching bag for Jimmy despite his real-world problems with PTSD and addiction. But Edgar essentially got his life together last season, with his biggest obstacle taking the form of an obviously poor choice in a new friend at work. This season finally shows what it looks like when Edgar accepts his new status in life — both professionally and personally, being on even footing with Jimmy — and the show takes the character to some interesting, unexpected places as a result of that. As good as Desmin Borges has always been on this show, this season might serve as a wake-up call to anyone who didn’t realize that before.
Meanwhile, Lindsay’s (Kether Donohue) arc in this season is all about the concept of her not only finding love but genuinely experiencing it for the first time, which is, of course, difficult because she’s still very much Lindsay. While Lindsay is still great for a lot of one-liners and for lightening the mood, the show doesn’t ever insult the character for her — often poor — attempts to look for this love, even though she certainly isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and she’s definitely topped the “Who’s The Worst?” Power Rankings from time to time. (This season reminds us she has a penchant for stabbing those she supposedly loves, in case you could have ever forgotten.)
And even Paul (Allan McLeod), Becca (Janet Varney), and Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) get their own arcs and closure, with a Fellini-esque episode all to themselves, something that would’ve been impossible to imagine — or even consider wanting — back in the series’ first season. And it’s just as awkward and uncomfortable as you’d expect out of this unholy trio, but again, it works. As for Sam (Brandon Mychal Smith) and the boys — and this season surprisingly focuses a lot on Gretchen’s job, in a way that even more surprisingly works — they get one last hurrah that’s worth it, even though their characters haven’t seemed like they were ever even good rappers since possibly the first season. Plus, You’re The Worst finally addresses the Honey Nutz situation head-on.
But while the supporting cast has been terrific and really rounds the whole thing out, the show is honestly always at its best when it’s just about Jimmy and Gretchen, about their messy, upsetting, immature, difficult love story, about whether they even deserve love — and what it means to deserve love in the first place — or not. Since season two, pretty much anyone who watches this show has been screaming about how Aya Cash deserves all the recognition possible, and that remains to be true; she’s phenomenal in this season, as she has been this whole series, and hopefully more people will learn that as the years go by and they discover You’re The Worst. But as good as Chris Geere also is as Jimmy, it feels like his performance is always forgotten, for some reason. However, this season, that definitely shouldn’t be the case, as it’s as though he took every instance of someone calling him an “unconventional leading man” and decided to prove them all wrong, just for sport.
As a final season, You’re The Worst plays some of the greatest hits, whether it be the return of Sunday Funday or the last check-in on neighborhood kid Killian (who’s finally got a purpose in life now) or a few other fun surprises. And not everything about the seriousness of growing up, as there are plenty of ejaculate and blowjob jokes and beats to go around — and they’re all technically quite integral to the story. Seriously.
From beginning to end, You’re The Worst’s final season has a plan, with nearly every moment existing for a particular reason. There are no throwaway beats, and there is especially no episode that feels like filler. While the season premiere is really a surreal caricature of a romcom for specific purposes, one thing it hits the nail right on the head with — and continues to hammer home this season — is that life is “complicated and messy.” That’s actually part of why You’re The Worst has always transcended its supposedly “too cool for school” roots, because buried not so deep within Jimmy and Gretchen’s whole anti-conformity and anti-authority shtick is that complicated and messy aspect of it all.
Season five of ‘You’re The Worst’ premieres Wednesday, January 9th, at 10 pm ET on FXX.