Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Tarantino has crafted an elegiac ode to a time he’s only experienced through books and movies.
Jimmy and Gretchen would hate me expressing this about fictional characters, but I’ll miss them. They’d hate the perception of faux sentimentality at saying goodbye to characters who aren’t real people and that I never really knew. And yet watching the last season of FX and Stephen Falk’s excellent “You’re the Worst” made me a bit melancholy. I was worried after the subpar fourth season of the show that the program I once placed in my top ten for the year was basically gone. And I was even more worried that the final season would betray the tone of a cynical series by giving its characters the kind of happy endings that they would mock if they saw it. The tightrope-walking of the final season—one that feels both deeply satisfying and yet totally true to its characters—is a thing of masterful beauty. As a whole, the season is funny, smart, and—sorry Jimmy & Gretchen—moving.
The last season of “You’re the Worst” is about the (finally) pending nuptials of writer Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) and publicist Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), but it’s not your traditional wedding planning. In fact, the season premiere mostly concerns one of the elaborate stories that Jimmy and Gretchen tell to wedding planners about how they met. The season allows for a few new subplots, but it regularly comes back to planning the wedding and the complications that ensue, as well as the constant worry that they won’t actually make it to the altar.
“You’re the Worst”'s overt cynicism and regular cruelty among its characters is deceptive—the reason this show works is because Falk and the writers so clearly love these people. It’s not the kind of cruel show that rejoices in its characters failures, using them merely for comedic devices. The flaws of Jimmy and Gretchen feel genuine, their failures relatable. Falk and his team (and his cast) understand the complexity of human relationships, particularly how we so often reach out for connection but also put up walls that make that connection difficult at the same time. People need attention but fear attention. They need love but commitment can be terrifying. Few shows ever conveyed this human duality like “You’re the Worst,” and it does so brilliantly in its final season, completely willing to embrace its characters worst and best sides at the same time. It’s a show that doesn’t mock highly sexual characters, doesn’t turn addiction into a punchline, and has captured something truthful about depression in ways no other show has before.
Clearly, I love the writing about “You’re the Worst,” but let me take this final chance to praise the ensemble too, who are arguably at their best in the last season. Geere is freed from a lot of his asshole behavior—there’s even a whole episode about how he doesn’t think he’s a “bad boy” anymore—and it allows him to ground Jimmy in ways some other seasons haven’t allowed. It’s his best year. Borges and Donohue are perfect supporting performers, actors who give so much to their partners in every scene and yet remain memorable on their own as well. And Aya Cash may be the most underrated TV performer of the ‘10s.
Someone says in the penultimate episode, “You’ve seen me at my worst and yet you’ve always seen my worth,” and I feel like that really sums up what “You’re the Worst” has always been about. True connection comes not when we ignore each other’s flaws but accept them as a part of who someone is. Flaws and all, I’ll really miss this show.
Full season screened for review.
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