TV Review: ‘You’re the Worst’ Digs Deep in the Emotional Well

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After the extremely emotionally draining last episodes of season 3, it was fair to question how the show would return. The characters had been through a grind over the course of the season, one which featured incredible highs, yet felt lost in the doldrums at other times. Despite this, the way in which the season ended provided hope that we’d actually see the show live up to its title. As Jimmy (Chris Geere) drove away after asking Gretchen (Aya Cash) to marry him, we’d reached that level. With the beginning of season 4 of “You’re the Worst,” it’s easy to remember how the show became one of the most innovative half hours on television.

As the season ramps up, it’s clear the show is simply at another level than most comedies. There’s an ambition present in “You’re the Worst” that others show don’t possess. This season begins with a double feature episode to catch us up on the last 3 months of our character’s lives. After walking away from his new fiancée, Jimmy’s been hiding out in an age restricted community. Meanwhile, Gretchen’s been stuck on Lindsay’s (Kether Donohue) couch. She’s been a disaster since Jimmy left her. We find her broken, smoking crack, and screeching “Zombie” by the Cranberries.

The two narratives eventually intersect in the last moment of our premiere, at Gretchen’s lowest moment over the past couple seasons. She has mentally been more broken, but her character goes down a path she swore to quit. Meanwhile, Jimmy rides triumphantly back to Los Angeles with the arrogance that Gretchen’s been waiting for him. The two are terrible people, but they also are also two of the most complete characters on TV. With characters this strong at the center of a show, the floor is incredibly high.

What takes the show to another level is the depth of its four core characters. The standout, again, is Cash, who may be one of the strongest actresses at communicating despair. It’s a strong performance that further highlights her talent, and when Gretchen is in a place of despair, no one is better. Even better, she’s a taking control this season and is unwilling to let herself be brought down again. While she stumbles into her typical self-destructive behavior, she undeniably makes her own choices.

Geere is still very good, but his character remains unlikeable, even in the context of this show. He’s doing a great job showcasing Jimmy’s arrogance and hypocrisy. He may not always see his flaws, and the path to redemption will likely be impossible. It’s not that Geere is even giving a bad performance. In fact, his dramatic moments in the season premiere are some of his best work. There’s something the character is missing in the writing, and hopefully, the writers can pull it out this season.

That said, the two characters that steal every scene they’re in are Lindsay (Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges). They have the best lines in the season so far, and it is incredible to see them share the screen together. They inhabit a joke per minute style, and their chemistry is undeniable across each scene. One in which they perform impressions of Gretchen and Jimmy is impeccably winning. Independently, they stand out in their own narratives. Donohue gets a chance to shine as a character who has finally come into her own. Her newfound freedom is fun to watch, and her energy helps her run the gamut of performances. She progresses from a “Working Girl” montage to high on crack, and then back to a professional career.

Borges is not given as much screen time in the premiere, but as the season progresses he showcases his talent. Borges has long been one of the best supporting performers on TV, and that is not going to end anytime soon. There’s an incredible amount of depth in his character, and he displays the layers with a vulnerability that few actors possess. He is almost playing an entirely different character from when the show began, but no character growth has felt more earned on the show. Borges continues to be one of the best performers on TV, and will likely be one of the most underrated performers of the year.

However, the performances aren’t where the brilliance of this season stops. The season is absolutely a step up on the direction side, picking up where the series left off. At the end of last season, the show began experimenting by devoting entire episodes to side characters and constructing extended tracking shots. There’s a tracking shot early in the season and there’s a newfound patience on display. Stephen Falk has emerged as an excellent director in the half hour format, and he milks the emotion out of each scene. Each shot has purpose, and Falk might be one of the best storytellers in the genre.

Overall, the show is reaching a new peak, one that should shake the foundations of the story. While last season felt like we were heading toward a traditional romantic comedy, it’s clear that the show wasn’t meant to proceed down that path. Both Gretchen and Jimmy hurt each other like no other, and the series is one of three most emotional comedies on television. There are few shows that can rip your heart out like this one, and season 4 begins on a high note.

What do you think? Did you enjoy the season premiere? What are you excited for in season 4? Let us know in the comments below! 

“You’re the Worst” airs on FXX on Wednesday nights.

GRADE: (★★★½)