Mild Spoilers follow. Very mild, like, the Korma of spoilers.
At the risk of trying to sound overly grandiose in an article about a sitcom, I think it’s fair to say that we live in a very cynical time. I think it’s easy to be sceptical about a lot of things that the world expects us to take for granted (a list that I will not attempt to place here; please form your own and insert them). I think one of the great casualties of a more jaded television audience has been the traditional romantic comedy; where we watch good and essentially lovable people that are clearly meant to be together, contriving more and more unbelievable, frustrating and irritatingly twee reasons to be, or not be, together. It’s easy to reject something so saccharine and artificial, especially when we’re all aware that relationships are not bastions of selfless nobility, where we throw away months of affection because the person we are with does not feel like “The One” (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). Often, the reality of love, and one that is explored far less frequently and sincerely, is one of selfishness, jealousy, narcissism and implacable attraction in spite of the above.
That is what makes You’re The Worst so inherently appealing; it is the perfect meta-modern love story; a tale of two horribly toxic and self-involved people who despite their better judgements make a go at a relationship, because there is something between them that neither of them can deny. Yet it never outright says that these people are wrong for each other because they might not be, they might just be stuck with each other because no one else would have them. Season One was a joyous attempt to straddle the line and present a love story that was both cynical and sincere. While it managed to achieve this difficult balancing act to significant effect; Season Two goes above and beyond.
At the beginning of season two, we find both of our heroes in vastly different circumstances to the last season. Still living in LA with near-permanent houseguest, Edgar (Desmin Borges) – Frustrated English writer, Jimmy (Chris Geere) and dissatisfied American Music Publicist, Gretchen (Aya Cash) find themselves thrown into co-habitation by the cruel(?) machinations of lady fate, and a badly wired vibrator (this makes sense if you were watching last season, if you haven’t go back and do so, NOW!). While this is happening, Lindsey (Kether Donohue) is still reeling over the collapse of her marriage and doing increasingly desperate thing like trying to impregnate herself with microwave-defrosted semen. As the two are emotionally ill-equipped for this massive lifestyle change the ensuing shenanigans and the stellar supporting cast of misfits that enable their madness have made You’re the Worst a televisual highlight of 2015.
The production team do not rest on their laurels, and the latest season is a subtle, but significant change of speed. YTW has matured from what was an offbeat, funny and often touching exploration of the beginnings of a relationship, to a truly interesting take on the rom-com, and one we never get to see; how to make a relationship work long term. There seems to be an overarching feeling to the whole affair, as all of our heroes, not just our favourite dysfunctional couple, wrestle with their own ideas of what it means to be an adult, and how to come to terms with themselves, the path they have walked down, and the road not travelled.
The offbeat, the funny and the tear-jerking moments are still abundant, but these thematic shift adds a feeling of quiet melancholy to the series that asks both character and audience the uncomfortable question; “who am I? What am I doing with my life? Who do I want to be?” These questions present themselves in a myriad of situations, including Gretchen attempting to reconnect with friends she may have inadvertently neglected (Dead Inside), a visit from Jimmy’s family that sheds some light on his uptight, fragile vanity (A Right Proper Story), and a truly exception episode where Gretchen becomes obsessed over a couple who appear to have the life she secretly wishes she had pursued (LCD Soundsystem). I do want to take a moment to give credit to creator/writer/director of said episode plus Justin Kirk and Tara Summers for managing to immediately generate an emotional shorthand for the aforementioned couple.
Geere, Cash, Donohue and Borges are seemingly the perfect ensemble cast (with Cash doing particularly strong work this season), and I could easily write an article entirely dedicated to their onscreen presence, and their truly exceptional chemistry however, it would be a disservice to omit any mention of the supporting cast, whose characters have evolved from caricatured background furniture into an integral and fully fleshed rogues gallery just as much a part of the show’s charm as our (anti)heroes. In season one Lindsey’s sister (and Jimmy’s ex) Becca and her husband Vernon were the obnoxious ‘do-gooder’ ex and her faintly annoying bro of a husband, in season two, Becca’s actually become even more toxic (she’s anti-vaccine because of course she is) but Vernon has become a character of not only schadenfreudian humour but also supreme empathy as he becomes a fascinatingly broken figure.
Other highlights of the series include a visit to an incredibly vivid and contemporary haunted house (though Vern hears there’s another in Sylmar with a real-life Babadook!), a plotline for Edgar that doesn’t revolve around Gretchen and Jimmy as he falls for improv darling Dorothy (Thank you, YTW, for showing a far more balanced depiction of the improv scene. We can be irritating and show-off a lot but we can be entertaining) with their chemistry coming across as delightfully genuine and sweet, Gretchen’s main clients, rappers Sam Dresden, Shitstain and Honeynutz (Brandon Mychal Smith, Daniel Britt-Gibson and Allen Maldonado respectively) continue to be glorious in their defiance of the stereotypes of young, oversexed rappers as a fake feud invented by Gretchen to increase record sales spirals out of control into the comedic highlight of the series and Mychal Smith threatens to steal not just his own scenes but the whole damn show. If not for quite how good Cash is.
As a man who is notoriously difficult to please, and obsessed with a binary between “great” and “awful” I can offer no higher praise of any show than this; please watch it. It is a criminally under-watched and under-rated gem, and an innovative, refreshing take on the most cliché and spent genre in the history of moving pictures. Also I’m going to keep saying this, Aya Cash’s performance is truly phenomenal, I don’t know how many times I have to say it till you’ll listen, clearly not enough for The Golden Globes but I digress. Give this show a chance. I sincerely believe you’ll think it’s the best.