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You're the Worst Review: “A Rapidly Mutating Virus”

(Episode 2.11)

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<i>You're the Worst</i> Review: &#8220;A Rapidly Mutating Virus&#8221;

You’re the Worst’s brave depression storyline that has fueled much of its second season has not come without sacrifice. The sophomore run is a far inferior collection of comedy in comparison to last year but, in lieu of laughs, it has given us a vivid portrait of mental illness. It has, at times, been a difficult transition. In recent weeks, the show found its rhythm with the new dramatic turn, highlighted by the poignant “LCD Soundsystem,” the season’s ninth episode and one of the series’ best overall. But the groove came to an abrupt end with yesterday’s “A Rapidly Mutating Virus,” a half-hour that was fractured from the start.

The early struggles of YTW’s second season were often due to over-commitment, cramming numerous storylines into episodes too svelte to accommodate them all. That was the driving issue of the year’s 11th entry, which bounced from Sam’s feud, Gretchen’s continued fight, Jimmy’s cracking commitment, a bizarre new plot surrounding Vernon and Edgar making an ass of himself in front of new paramour Dorothy. The individual bits and pieces were fine, but they were unable to coalesce in any meaningful way, a sincere disappointment when considered against the strength the show has found in recent weeks. The biggest struggle FX had when creator Stephen Falk pitched the depression storyline was that he wouldn’t be able to make it interesting. When the show began to turn, Falk proved the doubters wrong, but as the season has worn on, the struggle has withstood. Gretchen was in the same zombie-like mode last night as the previous week, though more self-destructive. Lindsay appears uninterested in offering assistance, perhaps from experience, leaving Jimmy as the lone torchbearer. To his credit, Jimmy has given genuine effort. He rebuffed Nina, the attractive bartender, twice last night, only relenting after his relationship was emphatically lit on fire. I can’t place exactly where my frustrations lie. Part of me applauds the reality Falk and his team have brought to the situation, but the other wishes the show would find a way to combat the depression head-on. It’s becoming vapid to watch Cash, who continues to perform admirably, snip at everyone around her and stare emotionless when she isn’t erupting. It’s an intimate frustration, one that connects me to Jimmy’s difficulties as a partner. As a viewer looking for a sliver of entertainment, though, seeing the once vibrant and whip smart Gretchen reduced to a shell is painful. But, again, such is the power of depression, and while the decision to explore the territory has led to roughness, it should still be applauded for pushing boundaries.

Gretchen’s continued struggle was not the low point of the episode, however. That comes courtesy of Vernon, who now finds himself entangled in a bizarre BDSM fetish in which a woman dominates him financially, rather than physically. Vernon is an immense doofus, and it was clear he was going to ruin Becca’s pregnancy, and his own life, somehow. This is perhaps the worst possible scenario to do so. It is just confusing. To materialize an issue like this out of nowhere, when other options presented themselves more naturally throughout the season (such as a possible hook up with Lindsay) is disorienting. The only explanation is that, of course Vernon was going to ruin everything, thus the how doesn’t matter. I get that, and it fits with the outlandish person Vernon is, but it’s also dull.

Easily the best portion of “A Rapidly Mutating Virus” was the conclusion of Sam, Shitstain and Honey Nutz’ feud. Brandon Mychal Smith is always tremendous as Sam and he didn’t waste the extra room to stretch. Sam is at the peak of his powers when he is irate, and after he and Lindsay receive a lukewarm response for their new song, he was given ample inspiration to go off. The letdown is that, with Gretchen in a funk, the usual sparring energy the two feed off is nonexistent, but that did not stop Smith from stealing scenes.

You’re the Worst is headed somewhere, but I am unsure of the destination. So much of the season has felt like building for an eventual payoff, and this episode is no different. It feels unfair to critique the show until everything unfolds, because once it does the individual pieces, which now seem scattered, might fall into place. The show has continued to surprise, despite its hit or miss quality. Jimmy holding off Nina until Gretchen drove him away was an act of affection I didn’t think he was capable of. He ended up where we all expected, but his journey to get there defied assumption. I’ve been wrong about so much in this season of You’re the Worst, but I have one final proclamation, and this one is a definite lock. I have no idea what’s going to happen next.  


Eric Walters is the Assistant Tech Editor for Paste and a regular contributor to the TV section. For more of his thoughts on comic book television, listen to his podcast.