You're the Worst Puts a Cynical Spin on the Rom-Com Meet-Cute


When FX’s You’re the Worst premiered in 2014, the series distinguished itself as an anti-romantic comedy, the tale of two terrible Angelenos who, despite being utter messes, found love with one another. No ugliness was left unspoiled. Unlike the traditional rom-com, which relies on an edited wholesomeness, You’re the Worst continues to highlight the dark side of love. Last season ended with a marriage proposal, which made Wednesday night’s Season 5 premiere, the show’s final chapter, tricky. How can a series about the troublesome romance between two jerks still be funny and enlightening if the couple has stopped sabotaging their own joy?

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, creator Stephen Falk described this season as “playing with the idea of commitment and what that means.” Now that protagonists Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) have agreed to wed, coming to terms with their miserable, beautiful, uncomfortable comfort, the question seems much simpler than season’s past: Will their journey to the aisle be fun? Or does committing to one person mean sacrificing the individual freedoms that made them who they are?

Spoilers ahead.

Wednesday night’s premiere started out confusing. The first half of the episode, set in the summer of 1997, introduced an entirely new cast of characters. Gretchen and Jimmy didn’t appear until the 13-minute mark, when it was revealed that they faked the entire storyline and what aired was a made-up story they were telling a wedding planner about how they met. The couple is shown chugging complimentary Champagne—describing in detail a meet-cute that never happened between two people named Gemma and Jake (played by other actors)—and for no apparent reason than the pleasure of the lie and free booze. These are the miserable, lovable dicks we’ve been waiting for.

Love has always been there. They just spent too much time pushing each other away to realize it.

The fake meet-cute part of the episode opens in a video rental store where Jake, an employee slash pretentious aspiring filmmaker, berates customers for their mainstream movie selections. Gemma enters the store and calls attention to Jake’s oft ignored “staff picks.” She’s a cinephile, too, but one with a boyfriend. Eventually, Gemma and Jake hook up—after attending a candlelit vigil for Princess Diana, and after Jake enters cyberspace to find a rare film for her—but Gemma leaves him when her boyfriend finds her and apologizes. Or so the story goes… Gretchen, unhappy with the direction of Jimmy’s version of the fake meet-cute, alters the ending so that her character, Gemma, steals Jake’s camera and becomes a famous filmmaker in France. The two reconnect almost a decade later.

If the story weren’t told from a place of cynicism, it’d be adorable fodder for a ’90s rom-com. Instead, the meet-cute recalls the beginning of Gretchen and Jimmy’s love story in Season 1—two jerks finding each other, one an insufferable prick and the other, a petty thief—while challenging the accepted value of commitment. (What conventional rom-com stars two drunk egotists?) Even in their made-up love story, there’s turbulence and an air of improbability. In one scene, Gemma’s ex-boyfriend tells her, “You guys are so clearly soulmates and you’re just standing there. It’s so straight of you.” The same could be said of Gretchen and Jimmy’s relationship. Love has always been there. They just spent too much time pushing each other away to realize it.

For loyal viewers of the show, Gretchen and Jimmy’s happiness and subsequent marriage—should they make it there—will be a satisfying conclusion to the series. If these two fun fuck-ups can make it work, who says that can’t be true for everyone? Despite unsavory qualities like pretension, infidelity, a life-long battle with clinical depression, an inability to grieve the loss of a parent, the idea is that there’s someone out there for you. But if You’re the Worst’s final season means the end of their relationship, does their mutual inability to love make them… cool?

Based on the creator’s explanation alone, this season will likely be more humdrum than episodes past, unless, like the premiere, You’re the Worst relies on elements that differ from the status quo about what happiness in a relationship looks like. The show must continue to be complex to the point of irritation.

Near the end of the episode, leaving the wedding planner’s office tipsy, Gretchen turns to Jimmy and asks if the reason they keep making up stories about how they met is because, “We don’t have a love story.” Jimmy answers by quoting Gemma from his fabricated meet-cute, telling her their story is “messy and complicated… and beautiful.” But because he’s pulling from fiction, it’s unclear to anyone other than themselves if it’s a rare moment of sincerity, or another opportunity for a laugh. Most likely, it’s both.

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