Love stories tend to fall into patterns — Boy/Girl meets Boy/Girl, they go on a date, they continue to see each other, a problem arises, the problem is solved, and the characters kiss after a huge declaration of undying love. The audience has seen this couple put their differences aside to overcome the obstacle that kept them from loving each other, so clearly they can handle anything life will throw their way. Love conquers all! But what happens when the "obstacle" doesn't have a true resolution? What happens to a relationship when an "obstacle" can be noticed and managed, but never goes away? These are some of the questions that FXX's You're The Worst Season 2 has been trying to answer.
Most of the first season dealt with Jimmy and Gretchen's mutual fear of commitment, and they bonded over the fact that they considered themselves "equally dead inside." However, in Season 2, something changed. Gretchen begins sneaking out in the middle of the night and driving away. Jimmy assumes she's cheating, only to discover that she drives to a remote location and cries alone in her car. Gretchen's behavior starts to change as well, and she seems distant and unengaged. She dances to no music, and dreads having to spend a moment by herself. Then, Gretchen has an explosive blow-up that involves trying to tear down all of her friends by mocking their flaws. "It's back isn't it?" Gretchen's best friend Lindsay asks, revealing to the audience that Gretchen is clinically depressed. From that moment, You're The Worst began an incredibly honest portrayal of depression that only became better in every episode, culminating in one heart-wrenchingly honest scene, that was so realistic to those who have dealt with depression, it immediately took me back to a formative moment in my own life.
"I'm Actually Really Good At Handling It"
The lead-up to the revelation was already one of the best portrayals of depression on television, with Aya Cash's performance featuring honest moments as the happy-mask that Gretchen has to wear for day-to-day life begins to slip away. But unlike problems that arise in most sitcoms, Gretchen's depression doesn't just go away. Showrunner Stephen Falk said in a conference call with reporters that he didn't want to just examine depression, he wanted to ask the question "What happens to a relationship in depression?” and was supported by the writers who "all have experience with it [directly or indirectly]." After putting what Falk calls "a lot of research into clinical research," the writers crafted not just a touching storyline, but the single most emotionally powerful moment on television in 2015.
Jimmy and Gretchen's story has always been about the intersection of their self-interest, but things start to fall apart when Gretchen starts losing interest in everything — even talking (They have a full argument while in the same room, but Gretchen can only bring herself to text him). Jimmy wants to "fix" Gretchen, but doesn't understand that depression can't be "fixed." He wants to talk to Gretchen about what is going on in his life, but Gretchen doesn't care, because she doesn't care about anything. Jimmy's inability to understand Gretchen's state leads him to start talking to another woman, going so far as to almost sleep with the owner of his bar of choice. His decisions may read as insensitive, but when faced with a void of emotion where there was once clearly love, Jimmy's actions can be understood. They're not right, but they make sense. At the end of the twelfth episode of Season 2, "Other Things You Could Be Doing," Jimmy ends a confrontation with Gretchen blankly laying down, as he starts to leave to go pursue the bar owner. He goes to leave, but doesn't.
"I'm Scraped Out."
Depression takes many forms, and Gretchen's sends her through a variety of emotional states. She reaches new heights of anger and vitrol, then lies on the couch and remains nearly motionless for days at a time. She can still manage to smile and enjoy a fun event occasionally, but usually she's struck by an inability to function without severe self-medication through cocaine and Adderall, and amidst all of this, she is pushing Jimmy away — even if she doesn't mean to.
This leads to a moment that will undoubtedly resonate with many people who have struggled with depression or anxiety. Because sometimes, after you have pushed someone you deeply care about away — berated them, insulted them, treated them poorly, tore them down, wanted someone else to feel as empty as you did — and yet, they stayed, it can have a profound effect. At least, it did for me.
During my junior year of college, I was given a diagnosis that matched something that those around me had suspected for a while — I have depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I was partial to spending days in bed, usually unmotivated by anything, unless alcohol, my very best friend, or both were involved. I always chalked this up to laziness and never considered myself depressed, because I knew people who seemed much sadder than me. I could not be depressed, I thought, because I clearly wasn't sad enough. What I didn't realize was that depression doesn't have to be an excess of sadness, it can be a lack of any emotion at all.
"It Strikes Me Whenever, And I Have No Idea Why"
Once at an alcohol-friendly gathering, I had been caught in a social faux pas (telling someone something that I wasn't supposed to). In a usual circumstance where one would apologize and shake it off, my whole mind went black and my body felt numb. The one thing I wanted to do was retreat into my room, hide away, and scold myself for ever trying to be social. However, the gathering was occurring in my house. So instead, I left.
I turned my phone off once I saw my friend trying to call. I snuck into our school's theater building and layed there on a bench in the lobby, staring at the ceiling. I thought about how everyone in my house must have hated me and how I deserved this. I thought about how I should never have gone to parties, and should never go to parties. I thought about how I should stop trying to force myself to be happy when I'm clearly not. I layed there for what felt like an hour before returning home. I didn't want to just walk in and pretend that I was OK, so I dislodged a loose part of the stone structure that made up the house I was renting, and allowed it to drop in front of the doorway, creating a loud crash and causing everyone to rush outside. I just stared at them, still not feeling fully present in my own body, and told them to leave. My best friend was last to go, and before she left I told her how I didn't like that she felt the need to take their side (completely unfounded and untrue) and implied that she was being a bad friend.
She could have left right then. There was no reason for her to stay. I had put her through situations like this before when I lashed out and accused her of being a bad friend — but she stayed. She sat me down, explained to me everything that had happened (which was far different than the skewed reality I had interpreted), and loudly proclaimed that "you can't keep doing this to yourself." She stayed and talked with me for hours that night, letting me know that I didn't deserve to feel what I was feeling, nor did I deserve to feel nothing on the days where I felt nothing. Soon after, I started trying to find new ways to manage my depression, including meeting with a professional counselor at my school. Because she stayed there with me, my whole world changed.
So when it was revealed that Jimmy hadn't left to go sleep with the bartender and instead he constructed a blanket fort around Gretchen and decided to stay with her, I was incredibly moved. And when I saw Gretchen melt once she realized that after everything they'd been through, he could still find it in himself to stay, I wept in a way that a television show hasn't made me weep in years, because I could relate so fully to that moment. I think that anyone, whether they have a mental illness or not, who's had someone they love stay despite every reason not to, can relate to that moment.
"If you strip away the disease, is Gretchen a different person?" Falk said in the conference call. "Humans are so frustratingly complicated, without thinking of all the things it did to forming her personality, if you take it away, if she didn’t suffer from clinical depression, she probably would still be a narcissist, an *sshole, a liar.” Gretchen, like Jimmy, often isn't a good person, but that has nothing to do with her depression. And despite Jimmy being "a narcissist, an *sshole, a liar" too, he did everything in his power to fix her, only to discover he couldn't. You can't "fix" the depression out of someone you love. But as You're The Worst so perfectly showed, what you can do, is stay.