After five seasons and so much breakfast food, You're the Worst came to an end Wednesday with a series finale that balanced acidic wit and earnest romanticism in a way few other shows could pull off. After introducing flash-forwards earlier this season, the two timelines finally met up in an emotional episode that revealed how Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) went from planning their anticipated nuptials to Gretchen flirting with a stranger at a hotel bar and Jimmy cavorting with the hot florist who gave him a blowjob.
TV Guide spoke with creator Stephen Falk and stars Aya Cash and Chris Geere to get the inside story of what it took to bring television's most complicated, caustic rom-com to an end.
The Ultimate Bait and Switch
While viewers were led to believe that Jimmy and Gretchen decided to split for good in the future, the finale reveals the real rift that severed the group was between Jimmy and Edgar (Desmin Borges). While not what fans were necessarily expecting, Edgar's insistence that Jimmy not marry Gretchen was a betrayal that doubled as a pay-off for one of the series' longest simmering tensions. "I think it was a long time coming," Falk told TV Guide. "If there's any question of what relationship in our main four needed to change, I think it's Jimmy and Edgar."
Throughout the series, fans watched Edgar find various ways to assert his independence, only to get "lured back into Jimmy's orbit," as Falk described. But in demanding Jimmy not marry Gretchen, Edgar asserts his independence in a way that makes it impossible for their friendship to continue. The dissolution of Edgar and Jimmy's friendship is painful to watch — particularly given Jimmy had finally acknowledged how much Edgar meant to him on their best-man date in the penultimate episode — but You're the Worst, fortunately, didn't leave things at that. As the flash-forwards reveal, Gretchen, who says some of the harshest words of all to Edgar after learning what he'd told Jimmy, is the one who first forgives him in the future and has been secretly working behind the scenes to reunite him and Jimmy.
The two meet up again at a wedding four years after their falling out, and despite Gretchen's initial insistence that Jimmy would never respect Edgar, the former friends start rebuilding their relationship — but on much more even ground. Edgar, now living in New York and adapting a true crime podcast for TV, is visibly changed from the desperate, insecure man who allowed Jimmy to abuse him for years. And it's this new, mature Edgar who apologizes to Jimmy for his actions at Jimmy and Gretchen's wedding, taking full accountability for what he did, and in the process creates a delightfully fresh dynamic between two characters who have been stuck in the same cycle for years.
"That was brilliant to play because I thought Desi was fantastic in that because he had this calmness and this coolness and this self-assuredness that hadn't been as profound before," Geere said of filming the flash-forwards with Borges. "That was wonderful and fairly easy to play off because Edgar was always the subservient one, but it seemed like they were on the level path. If not, Edgar was the boss."
A teary-eyed Jimmy ultimately acknowledges that what Edgar did was brave in its own way, even adding that everything Edgar said "was proven right," a line that likely caused more than a few fans' hearts to skip a beat as fears about Jimmy and Gretchen's relationship falling apart were reignited. But once Gretchen interrupts Edgar and Jimmy's conversation to plant a kiss on Jimmy, it becomes clear that maybe things aren't so black and white regarding the couple's future.
Jimmy and Gretchen Hit Their Breaking Point
Throughout the first half of the finale, Jimmy is shown to be struggling with his vows, scratching out his neatly typed words and scribbling in haphazard replacements. But when Jimmy discovers that Gretchen didn't even write her vows, choosing instead to farm them out to Sam (Brandon Mychal Smith) and the boys, that's when Jimmy's patience for what he had previously told himself was Gretchen's typical laziness finally hits its breaking point. Jimmy erupts on Gretchen, saying everything he has bottled up throughout the wedding planning process, to which she barely contributed.
"I've been so busy justifying your lack of participation that I've ignored what you've been trying to tell me: you don't want to get married," Jimmy screams, refusing to accept her clinical depression as an excuse for her lack of interest in their wedding. The pair yell back and forth until, after Jimmy bullies her into it, Gretchen finally says she wants to marry him. But it's too late. "Goddamnit, Gretchen," a crestfallen Jimmy tells her. "I don't think that I want to marry you."
Out of everything Jimmy and Gretchen have overcome — cheating, lying, that horrific hilltop proposal — it's clear this fight isn't happening because Jimmy is upset that Gretchen didn't write her own vows, but because he is finally forced to stop justifying his own reservations about marrying her. The scene, which proves to be the couple's final confrontation in the series, was one of the hardest for Falk to write, and he admitted he and the writers "searched long and hard" for what Jimmy and Gretchen's final problem would be before settling on the vows. But while Falk and the writers struggled to craft a satisfying dramatic climax, Geere and Cash did their best to treat it like any other fight scene they've done together.
"I felt a little like a lemming," Cash recalled. "I kept putting one foot in front of the other and trying to get through it without ruining it by my experience of it. ... If I just sort of blubbered through the entire season feeling sad about it [ending], I would have a lot of emotions but I don't know if the audience would have as many."
"I remember hugging her at the end [of filming the fight scene] going, 'We did it,' because that was the plot, that was the scene that we wanted to get right," added Geere.
But this blow-up was far from the end of Gretchen and Jimmy's story. After the argument, the pair made their way outside, where Jimmy admits that he also struggled writing his vows because he didn't want to make false promises of eternity and "til death." (Jimmy even admits to Gretchen that he actually wrote his vows as a character, Theodore, preparing to wed his bride Samantha, "Sammy to her friends.")
"There's sort of a nice symmetry there for me," explained Falk. And it's because of this symmetry — the fact that, once again, Jimmy and Gretchen's cynicism perfectly align — that they aren't quite ready to walk away from their relationship just yet. And so when Gretchen asks Jimmy what he wants now that everything is laid bare, he responds simply: "Pancakes."
When we next see the pair in the present day, they're sitting side by side at a booth in their favorite diner, ignoring the barrage of text messages they're each receiving from confused friends and family members. It's then that Jimmy has his greatest epiphany yet. In a speech so romantic it almost makes up for abandoning Gretchen on that hill in Season 3, Jimmy shares with Gretchen his pitch for how they proceed.
"Every day we choose," Jimmy declares. "I don't want to be with you because I made a promise to be with you. I want to be with you because I want to be with you. So every day, we wake up, look at each other and say today, again, I choose you. Until maybe one day we don't. We don't declare anything except this: Gretchen, every day I will make the choice to love you, and love you I will, wholeheartedly, that one day, because I choose to."
If any moment sums up what makes You're the Worst so special, it's this: an unorthodox declaration that is ultimately both tear-inducingly romantic yet also undermines the very construct of rom-com true love. "I think that's the truest form of any relationship, including a marriage," Cash said. "My husband and I, we were just going to say 'I love you until I don't' because the truth is you can't make promises except I'll try really hard. ... I think that's real and that's what I mean by real romance. That's such a beautiful idea and to pretend it's otherwise is not really realistic in this day and age. So I love how that's written, I love how Chris performed it. I think it's beautiful and it's true."
"There was one take, I remember, that I got quite teary," Geere recalled. "And I got really teary actually and Stephen said just bring it back a little bit because you know this, you're so confident in what you're saying here that it doesn't really come as a surprise to him that he's saying this, but more that he's saying it after everything that just happened. Everything finally makes sense. And that piece, you can't hear it, obviously, but we both take this breath before we dig into the pancakes at the end, which is a bit kind of like, 'We did it. We finally grew up a little bit.'"
Falk said he's planned for Gretchen and Jimmy's story to end this way since Season 3 (although he didn't tell the actors until they began shooting the fifth and final season). But even before Falk revealed his plan, Cash said she knew there was no way that the series would end without Jimmy and Gretchen together. "The show is a true romantic comedy," she explained. "It's more romantic because it's people who don't necessarily believe in the traditional relationships and sort of the traditional love relationship but they do it anyway."
Happily Ever After... Mostly
Jimmy and Gretchen weren't the only ones to get their happy endings, either. Each of the main characters were sent off into the sunset with a smile on their face: Edgar is building up his career in NYC and hits it off with Jimmy and Gretchen's florist turned nanny; Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Paul (Allan McLeod) not only get back together but remarry (it's revealed to be their wedding that Edgar and Jimmy reunite at); and even Becca (Janet Varney) and Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) are expanding their family while Vernon's mobile medical center is seemingly a success, shockingly enough.
For a show that came to help define the "sad-com," some fans might be surprised at the series' overwhelmingly optimistic endings, but Falk said he never considered anything else. "At the end of the day, this is a romantic comedy and I think it's easy to end dark and it seems like an edgy, cool choice like, 'Hey man, life is dark, not everyone gets their happy ending,'" Falk said. "I wanted to build towards those endings and make them feel earned, but also I wanted to reward the characters. I love my characters and I wanted some sense that they worked through some of their bullsh--."
As revealed in a heartwarming montage filling in the gaps between the present day and the flash-forwards, Jimmy and Gretchen's reward even includes becoming parents to a little girl — one they lovingly rock to sleep, read bedtime stories (albeit gruesome ones), and sell the house for in order to move to a more child-friendly environment, something Season 1 Jimmy and Gretchen never would have done.
Of course, this is still You're the Worst, which means the realities of who Gretchen and Jimmy are don't magically disappear now that they've figured out what they want of their relationship. The rosy montage ends with a shot of Gretchen sobbing in bed next to their crying baby while an oblivious Jimmy sleeps peacefully next to her. The series then returns to the present day where, just as they're finally served their pancakes and eggs, Gretchen turns to Jimmy to give him one final chance to back out: "You know there's always the possibility that someday I might leave my phone and keys at home and step in front of a train. You know that, right?" Gretchen asks. In the moment before Jimmy responds, Falk noted, "you can see it all almost about to unravel on Chris' face." But instead, Jimmy casually replies, "Yeah, but I'll move on quickly, record-setting," before they both silently gorge themselves on their breakfast foods and smile — a wonderfully succinct reminder that Gretchen's struggles will continue, but that doesn't mean she'll be denied a happy, fulfilled future.
"I think just because someone's okay doesn't mean they're always okay," Cash said of that powerful moment. "We've seen Gretchen in an upswing, and obviously there are some bumps this season, but we've seen her in an upswing for the last couple seasons in terms of her mental health. What's true to life is that it goes both ways. And when she says to him in the diner ... that her struggles are going to continue, whether or not they're together or separate, no matter what for the rest of their lives, and she's going to be constantly battling this. And that's life."
Gretchen and Jimmy shoveling food in their mouths after Gretchen's warning isn't some sign that they're ignoring what her clinical depression means for their future; it just shows that they're not going to be defined by it. Both Gretchen and Jimmy have their individual baggage, but they're always going to be better together than they were apart. It may have taken them five seasons to get here, but their innate compatibility (we'd never use a term as rote as soul mates when describing a show like this) has been evident from the start, a fact made clear by the Season 1 episode this precise moment is mirroring.
When deciding on how to close out this series, Falk took inspiration from the show's sixth episode, "PTSD," which finds Jimmy and Gretchen out to eat with Vernon and Becca, who reveal they've been told by their therapist to cut the pair out of their lives because they're a "toxic" influence. In this scene, Jimmy and Gretchen aren't paying attention to the thoughtlessly cruel things Vernon and Becca are saying; they're only paying attention to stuffing their faces because they know they aren't paying for the meal.
"For me, there was something so nice about just that image of two people sitting side by side being ravenous and gluttonous together and eating off each other's plates and not caring, not being sensitive about their foods," Falk recalled. "It's just such a basic thing but it really spoke so much to how right they are for each other and what a lovely couple they are to be able to do that. ... To end the whole series with just a shot of them eating without moving the camera at all, without any dialogue for the last 20 seconds. To me, it felt like it put a big fat romantic period on our show."