Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
With its sophomore run, FXX’s You’re the Worst, the best anti-romantic comedy on television, has found itself in a bit of a conundrum – how can a show about gleefully self-destructive assholes continue to entertain even as its characters begin to move beyond their degenerate escapades toward maturity and – dare they say it – monogamy?
It’s a tough question, one the series may need some time to fully answer. Just as Gretchen (Aya Cash), a cynical Hollywood publicist, and Jimmy (Chris Geere), a caustic British writer, are testing the waters with a more committed relationship (galvanized by Gretchen burning down her apartment and moving in with Jimmy), You’re the Worst seems to be treading softly as well. Already, this is far from the show we were originally introduced to last year. For all the central couple’s raging against the very concept of romance, and all their protests about everything from easing off the party lifestyle to putting down ties in each other’s lives, Gretchen and Jimmy have exposed their softer sides, and it’s become clear that they’re really just as thirsty for love as everyone else.
There’s no question, though, that this slightly sweeter You’re the Worst still works. The premiere is a riot, packing in some terrific pop culture references, killer scenes and laugh-out-loud exchanges as Gretchen and Jimmy bring themselves to the brink of destruction in hopes of keeping their relationship wild and thrilling for as long as humanly possible. The battle that the pair fought last season to maintain that their relationship lacked meaning is long since lost – now, Jimmy and Gretchen are more concerned with not compromising their own lifestyles or becoming those most dreaded of middle-aged humans – “the sweater people.”
Of course, the series thrives on letting its characters figure out that what they’re most viscerally opposed to may be what they’ve actually been searching for all along. Jimmy and Gretchen have a long way to go before they lose their individual sparks and spunk, but this new season finds them at least heading in the right direction. “I’m perfectly fine having you as a girlfriend,” Jimmy tells Gretchen at one point, and the words barely seem to catch in his throat – and for You’re the Worst, whose leads started out renouncing romance as nothing more than a societally perpetuated sham, that feels a lot like progress.
The second episode falters a lot more, relying on a hackneyed TV trope – a trip to the mall for all the characters – to zero in on Gretchen’s indecision over starting to carve out her own place in Jimmy’s house. The script still pops in places, and Cash and Geere nail every line, as always, but it’s predictable from top to bottom, and the laughs are in shorter supply than usual. You’re the Worst is maneuvering to accommodate its characters’ changed circumstances, but not as smoothly as it could.
The new season also offers an increased role for Gretchen’s self-obsessed best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue), who’s reeling from news that her wealthy but white-paint dull husband Paul (Allan McLeod) is leaving her so he can pursue a more ideally matched romantic partner (whom he’s never met “IRL,” natch). To say she’s not dealing with it well would be an understatement – season 1 Lindsay was never the brightest (or most benevolent) bulb in the box, but her fatuous egotism has been magnified along with a ridiculous craving for food, turning her into a rather shrill, if often amusing cartoon.
Edgar (Desmin Borges), Jimmy’s good-natured and PTSD-afflicted friend and roommate, does his best to save Lindsay from herself, all the while nursing a crush, but she either doesn’t see his moon-eyes or exploits them ruthlessly for every last favor. The guy deserves better, but You’re the Worst has such a cynical world view that it’s easy to imagine him prolonging his hopeless/romantic aspirations well into the future, at maximum damage to his own fragile sense of self.
Wherever its new episodes take it, the show has returned with its ace cast and barbed writing intact, and fans should at least be thankful for that. Cash and Geere share a playful, fizzy chemistry that makes their scenes together an often riotous joy to watch, while Donohue and Borges are fast cementing themselves as two of the best rom-com sidekicks in the game – despite existing, painfully and honestly, as complex people in their own right. With that central four, and scripts that continue to winningly wrap the series’ tender heart in ribald antics, You’re the Worst will hopefully overcome some of its growing pains soon enough to confirm that it deserves to still rank as one of TV comedy’s best.
The show will have to adjust to its leads making strides toward maturity and monogamy, and away from the holistically bad behavior that defined season 1, but You're the Worst is, at least for now, still a riot blessed with an ace cast and strong writing.