For four seasons, Stephen Falk set out to “subvert but still service” the romantic comedy genre with his FX half-hour series “You’re the Worst.” Therefore, in setting out to craft the fifth and final season, in which the central couple Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are planning their wedding, Falk had some clear tentpoles for the story in mind, but also wanted to make sure the “event” element didn’t completely take over and change the tone of the show.
“We wanted to keep the momentum of the wedding planning going so as to make it always the gravitational force that was propelling the season,” Falk tells Variety. But, he adds, “when you’ve had a show that has really delved into clinical depression and PTSD and the way we treat our veterans in this country, then planning a wedding seems a little lightweight.”
This made Falk most mindful of making the moments on “You’re The Worst” always tie into the deeper internal conflict of his characters.
“Jimmy and Gretchen have slightly different attitudes as the season goes on, but also there’s the idea that when a couple gets married the party’s over and it can put into stark relief the absolute singleness of your life or the fact that you’re probably going to die alone and are not necessarily going to be able to be a fifth wheel to the couple,” Falk says. “So it sends everyone off to reexamine their lives.”
For Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges), that means assessing where they are in their own relationship as well as where they are professionally. But it also expands out even further to characters including Becca (Janet Varney), Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson), and Paul (Allan McLeod).
“One of the central tenants of what I’ve tried to do in the rom-com is make sure that I’m always keeping alive the idea that we were all central to our own story and no one merely functions as a sidekick,” Falk says.
Following the format-breaking episodes from earlier seasons (such as Season 2’s “LCD Soundsystem” and “Spooky Sunday Funday”), Falk also wanted to play with storytelling style in the final season, to go all-in on a “straight-up romantic comedy” moment. This manifests itself as the premiere episode of the fifth season — titled “The Intransigence of Love” — which starts on a completely different couple meeting and perhaps falling for each other in a 1990s-set video store.
Similar to “LCD Soundsystem,” even though it appears the show is following new characters, Falk notes they, of course, tie back to Jimmy and Gretchen.
“Jimmy and Gretchen are really kicking off their season-long story of planning a wedding in a way that’s very them — having fun with the very traditional step of finding a wedding planner [and] basically just lying and taking the piss out of this woman that they’ve written off within the first minute of sitting down. And in doing that, we get to tell a different story that is still part of our main characters’ story,” Falk says.
He continues: “In the five years we’ve been doing this show, television has changed a lot. … Now there’s more experimentation just because there’s 500 scripted shows and you have to stand out. We have an opportunity with 13 episodes and with a supportive network like FX and having done this for five seasons, now we’re like, ‘OK where can we afford to just take a pause and do a fun episode about X?’ That’s where you get the first episode and the Paul-Becca-Vernon episode that comes later.”
Since the show is a rom-com at its heart, Falk knew he could never end the series with any of his characters “miserable” or it would be unsatisfying for the audience. However, he shares that the show is “keeping the question that is always at the heart of rom-coms — Will they or won’t they? — alive” in the final season.
Some of the central questions of the final season, Falk says, are: “Is this wedding going to happen or are they going to crash and burn before we get there? And then digging in even deeper, what does ‘getting there’ even mean? If you say I do, does that actually mean a commitment that is greater than if you don’t?”
Other important elements before the series’ end include seeing a “deeper” side to Gretchen’s relationship with her mother (Rebecca Tilney), as well as giving “a glimpse into a larger picture of where these characters end up and what they go through to get there than you might think.”
Falk says at the forefront of his mind are not only the relationships between the characters but also the relationship between the show and its audience. Although he peppered the final season with a healthy dose of callbacks and moments that would pay off greater for those who have been watching the whole time, he wasn’t out to overwhelm the episodes with memories of the past, but rather push everyone forward so they could have more “incremental growth.”
“I felt some storytelling pressure to get them to a place [where] at the end there is some sense of a peak [that] has been crested,” Falk says. “Even if it’s a ‘Sopranos’-type ending, Tony Soprano needs to have his whole family back in that diner booth with him, and whether he gets killed by the guy in the Members Only jacket or not is kind of beside the point. He needs to have his family intact. That is answering a question for the viewer in a way that I think is satisfying. And our goal has been the same.”
“You’re The Worst” premieres its final season Jan. 9 on FXX.