After the first season of You’re the Worst, we talked about how different the show was. It was hard to describe, because at its core, it was romantic comedy. But it was real; it totally subverted that genre to be something completely unique. And we loved it.
This season, we’ve been talking about how the show is still unlike anything else on television, but for different reasons. While the first season resembled a depraved but always fun sex-and-other-vices romp, the second season has been darker. Even before Gretchen’s big reveal that the clinical depression she’s spent her life battling is resurfacing, the show felt heavier, and bigger.
This week’s episode was something different, though. Despite being written and directed by series creator Stephen Falk, this episode, “LCD Soundsystem,” did not feel like an episode of You’re the Worst. It felt more like a short film exploring depression, relationships, and the futility we all feel in never knowing where our choices will land us. We don’t even see Gretchen until right before the first commercial break, but at one point after that, she monologues aloud, “They talk about how if you make one different decision, your life might be totally different. But is that your only shot?” Gretchen is in that out-of-body, out-of-mind place that is so low, everyone else’s lives look perfect, or at least better. In that place, it’s easy to think that everyone else is much, much happier than you are, because they made the right decisions, and you messed up.
This episode is, in a roundabout way, about Gretchen. But Gretchen doesn’t want to be Gretchen right now. So instead we spend the episode following her follow a couple who, from her perspective, have the life she could have had if she’d turned right instead of left at some unknown point in the past. Rob (Justin Kirk) and Lexi (Tara Summers) are neighbors of Jimmy and Gretchen who are slightly older, but are fully entrenched in many of the trappings of adult life that the younger couple have spent the series so far shitting on. They are Food Processor People. The have a young daughter with an insufferably hipster name (Harper, though that kid definitely would have been an Atticus if she’d been a boy), a dog, a treehouse; she’s focused on preschool interviews and he talks about “Quentin” as if he and Tarantino are buds. They are everything we’ve been told this show is against. But that, of course, is why Gretchen latches on. Why she envies them so much, and why she’s willing to “borrow” their dog in order to play at being them for a day.
It was completely insulting and simplistic for Jimmy, in last week’s episode, to think he could fix Gretchen in a night. Oh, and quick side bar: talk about simplistic! My god, Jimmy was beyond terrible in this episode. He was only in a couple of scenes, mostly cartoonishly self-absorbed and dismissive of Gretchen’s entire presence. Sure, maybe he thinks she’s all better, but he still came across as underwritten in order to be a buffoonish foil. Anyway, yes, that was upsettingly reductive of Jimmy last week. But what Gretchen did this week was not much different. She was still looking for a fix, another life she could move into like a new apartment. Of course, it doesn’t work. Because Rob and Lexi aren’t any happier than she is, and they sure as hell aren’t any better. (As is proven when Rob finds 90 seconds alone with Gretchen.) Any of us watching could have seen this coming. But for Gretchen, this was her Hail Mary for happiness. She’s spiraling, and it’s terrifying to watch. The scariest moment in the history of the show (in most of television, really), had nothing to do with last week’s horror haunt. It was this:
For Gretchen, a woman with so few personal and social boundaries normally, did any of us doubt that, when caught in the grips of severe depression, she might do something as drastic as walk away with someone’s child? She took their pet (not the first time she’s done that, either), and she’s desperate to force her way into happiness. And I am terrified to see where this season ends up.
Vivian Kane remembers her Largo days.