‘You’re the Worst’ Creator and Cast Talk About This Week’s Controversial Topic

'You're the Worst' Creator on This
Courtesy FXX

Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Talking to Me, Talking to Me,” the tenth episode in the third season of FXX’s “You’re the Worst.”

The current season of “You’re the Worst” has been all about halting steps toward adulthood.

All of the core characters are not only well over 21, they are well past the ages at which many people begin assuming a bigger array of grown-up responsibilities. But for Gretchen (Aya Cash), Jimmy (Chris Geere), Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges), the path to honest-to-goodness adulthood has been full of potholes.

This season, Gretchen’s occasionally sincere attempts to take on her clinical depression have yielded mixed results. She may be driving her therapist into an early grave — or at least to the bottle — but at least she’s recognized that she can’t hold her demons at bay forever.

“At least she’s on an upswing — she definitely is better,” Cash tells Variety. “That’s the thing about depression — it can lift, but it leaves behind remnants of destruction. It’s like, the storm is over but you’ve still got to rebuild the building. Now she’s trying to figure that out.”

Jimmy’s reactions to his father’s death, despite many surreal and silly segues, took him down an unexpectedly dark path at the end of this week’s episode. Anyone who thinks that learning about the death of a loved one unleashes a linear or foreseeable set of emotional hurdles gets the surprise that Jimmy has endured this season — nothing about grief is predictable.

“It’s denial, it’s resentment, it’s questioning every part of your life, it’s re-evaluation. That’s really such a key thing. It’s been so fun to play, because every episode, you think he’s going to break down, but he just finds another way to distract himself from his feelings,” Geere says.

And though he’s made progress in dealing with his combat-related PTSD — and experienced much-needed breakthroughs in a sterling episode that aired a few weeks ago — Edgar still has a long way to go on the career and relationship fronts.

“This season is all about Edgar standing up for himself a little bit more than we’ve seen in the past, and taking charge of his own destiny,” says Borges. The character has gotten some relief via medical marijuana — and in a roundabout way, that development led to a job opportunity for Edgar in tonight’s episode. But it may not have been the best idea for him to quit all his other prescriptions at once. As Borges notes, “Everything I’ve read says do not stop them cold turkey. Yet Edgar’s not your average guy.”

Lindsay, perhaps the most maturity-challenged of the core foursome, thought that embracing a pregnancy she learned about at the end of the second season would magically fix the many problems in her life. She tried to recommit to her marriage to Paul (Allan McLeod), but the couple may just have too many challenges to overcome.

And in Wednesday’s episode, she ended her pregnancy with an “abobo,” which is Lindsay-speak for abortion.

A couple of weeks ago, a character on “Jane the Virgin” had a medication abortion, an event that was treated in a very matter-of-fact fashion (something TV has often struggled with in the past). This week’s “You’re the Worst” also treated the procedure as a normal event in Lindsay’s life. But Gretchen, who accompanied her friend to her appointment, made some very pointed remarks about a woman’s right to choose to a protester outside the clinic — a woman who, after speaking with Lindsay, saw the merits of the guileless but irresponsible character’s decision. Lindsay’s arc in the episode contained many typical “You’re the Worst” elements, in that it was funny, poignant and serious all at once, and had a very specific point of view.

When the show arrived in 2014, part of what was refreshing about it was its brutal honesty about the shortcomings and selfishness of its characters, who nevertheless managed to be charming and even ingratiating despite (or perhaps because of) their flaws. “You’re the Worst” painted a portrait of friendship, loyalty and love that felt much more realistic than the more slick friendship-based comedies of the previous couple of decades. Enjoyable as they were, those mainstream comedies never showed characters starting fires thanks to poorly stored sex toys, stealing a movie kiosk or drinking during the day as a matter of course.

But, despite their general aversion to anything that looks like responsibility, Gretchen, Jimmy, Lindsay and Edgar have actually begun commit to some of their choices — and re-examine others. But the challenges of acting their ages — or at least attempting to do so —  has left all of them in a state of desperation at one time or another.

“She is an impulsive human being,” Donohue says. Earlier in the season, Lindsay did a particularly rash thing — she literally stabbed poor Paul in the back — but as Donohue notes, Lindsay never had a clear idea on what taking responsibility for that action would look like. After the incident, while a feverish Paul was recovering, Lindsay went off with her friends and left him home alone, and even apologizing for that lack of consideration went awry.

“When she comes home and says to Paul, ‘I’m willing to take responsibility that I left you here all day.’ He’s like, ‘I forgive you.’ She says, ‘It’s in the past!’ Poof. She thinks the mere acknowledgement that she did it [means] ‘I’m an adult. Let’s move on,’” Donohue says. “I don’t think she quite understands the processing of real responsibility, and the emotions that go along with it. It’s the wrong execution, but also the wrong concept of what taking responsibility even is.”

I discussed Lindsay’s decision in tonight’s episode and other aspects of the season with creator Stephen Falk. This interview was conducted during two time periods — before the season began, and after I viewed the tenth episode. Those conversations have been combined and edited for length.

It seems like there’s an era of desperation this season. All of the core characters are in committed relationships. It seems to be leading to, in a way, greater instability.

Yeah. I think as a relationship goes on, you hit the line, and this is really what our season is kind of about. You hit the line where that person is no longer just the dude you’re boning or even your boyfriend, but your family. We’re exploring that notion, what that means.

Is family a false construct? How much does your family affect you? Is family even a legitimate theme? That’s something we’re also addressing. We’re always making fun of shows that are just like, “What’s the theme ‘family’?” It’s not a f****g theme. There’s an order of humans, that’s a social construct, that’s not really a theme. That’s sort of what we’re playing with this season. But yes, there is a desperation in what happens when the person in your life becomes your family, particularly when your family wasn’t that great to begin with, and that’s your only experience with family.

Part of that plays out with Jimmy’s reaction to his father’s death. It’s interesting to see that happen to someone with no self-awareness and no willingness to spend time examining and exploring his emotions.

What’s interesting to me about it is, regardless of the actual feelings and the vulnerability or lack of that, is that there is a sense with Jimmy that his father was his white whale. That was his driving force of opposition. That was his big bad.

That’s what he’s rebelling against.

Yeah. That was what his whole life has been created around and against. So when you lose your big bad for the season, you know, if you’re Buffy, what do you do? Jimmy finds himself sort of rudderless because of that, without a compass. He’s questioning the central conceit of his life, which is another way that grief I think can manifest itself. It’s not a season about the examination of the grief of parental death. It’s more about the way that his life isn’t very organized, and what happens when your guiding principle is gone.

And of course Gretchen is acting out with her therapist in all kinds of ways.

Yeah, [at first] she was rebelling very violently against the notion that she has any responsibility in any event. The mere fact that her therapist suggests that there are any steps for Gretchen to take feels like blame. And yet that’s just another defense mechanism at the same time. She’s really the worst patient for this kind of thing. There used to be a line in one episode and I think we cut it, where the therapist says, “Midway through an exorcism, the demon knows it’s on the way out, so it starts fighting even harder.” That’s part of what Gretchen is going through.

Speaking of someone possibly expanding their family, even when I first saw that Lindsay was pregnant, I thought, “I wouldn’t be surprised if she had an abortion.”

It’s legal right now. For now. Until Trump’s Supreme Court comes up. I mean, any time a pregnancy happens [a series of decisions have to be made]. We went through this with Nancy Botwin on “Weeds” [where Falk was on the writing staff]. We had her hand over a sonogram at the end of a season. Then you have that discussion [among the writers] — she either has it, and you’re stuck with not only a pregnancy but then a baby, which are really annoying to shoot with. Or you have that thing where the baby [is never shown] and that is never explained. So you either have a baby, you have an abortion or you lose the baby. Or it was a false alarm. So those are the ways to deal with it. Two of them feel fake to me — the false alarm and the miscarriage — even though miscarriages are very real and very common. [From the point of view of how TV typically treats these matters,] those two feel like narrative cheats to me.

Were you nervous, or was anyone at the network nervous, about doing an episode in which a character gets an abortion? Were there any notes from the executives he deals with regarding how the show would approach it or how any of it played out? 

Oddly, no one mentioned anything to me at the network. As for myself, as a Berkeley kid, I never grew up questioning a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health care. So while I acknowledge that it is a big decision and even understand a lot of the controversy, it never gave me pause that it wouldn’t be a possibility in the specific lives of the characters in our show. No.

Did you time it to air just before the election or was that just luck?

Just luck, and I’m sure that we will help Trump go away with our dumb little comedy. (No, seriously, I really hope we help him go away.)

Despite being charming in her own way, it has never appeared to me that Lindsay is capable of caring for a child. So was having her end the pregnancy an easy decision? 

When I worked on “Weeds,” Nancy Botwin used early evidence of a pregnancy as a bargaining chip against her dangerous boyfriend in Season 5, and having made the decision for her to be pregnant during the finale to the previous season, we writers had the option to have the pregnancy go any different direction, but we chose to play it out, because that seemed like the boldest choice.

In Lindsay’s case, we certainly could have made that same argument, but for the specific Lindsay/Paul story we told this season, an abortion didn’t feel like a cop-out but rather like a very legitimate choice this character might make in this situation. Generally speaking, I’d be happy as a storyteller to get to explore what Lindsay bringing a pregnancy to term looks like, but it wasn’t in the cards for her and her less-than-ideal marriage. Moreover, I think it’s an interesting argument to explore between a married couple: Does “my body, my choice” suffer any alteration when the woman is married and the pregnancy is happily anticipated?

It seems like Lindsay’s decision fit into the season’s theme, which seems to be about the characters taking actual steps forward into adulthood — and for each of them, those steps have been playing out in a typically “You’re the Worst”-ie ways, i.e., serious, flippant, considered and frivolous all at once. Do you think that for these characters, it’s almost two steps backward for each step forward? Or are they making real (if barely measurable) progress toward being actual adults? 

I think it’s accurate to say that often they are regressing. But generally speaking, over the course of the series, yes, I do think they are slowly being forced to grow up, like it or not.

Wasn’t the really big shock of the episode that Edgar is the actual worst? I mean, he lucked into a comedy-writing job, not Dorothy, despite the fact that she had done tons of work in the comedy arena for years and years. Why does Edgar have to be the worst? But him casually bro-ing into a gig writing comedy — and also him not realizing why she might be devastated is …. it’s all just the worst. Poor Dorothy! (Next season could be about Dorothy’s vengeance. I’m just saying, think about it: “American Horror Story: Improv.”)

For me, it’s very important to see Edgar get to be selfish. For that character, who centers his life around self-sacrifice in many different ways, watching him not consider his girlfriend’s feelings is revelatory and connotes tangible, measurable progress. At the same time, while Dorothy’s plight is, and continues to sometimes be rendered in a flippant fashion, her struggle is pretty devastating and we take the slow extinguishing of a dreamer’s dreams to be almost unbearably sad. Los Angeles is full of tragedy and unfulfilled desire. And so is our show.

For more on “You’re the Worst,” which has been renewed for a fourth season, check out this interview with Geere by Variety’s Cynthia Littleton.