You’re the Worst Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Born Dead”

You're the Worst

You’re the Worst is a relationship show, through and through, but beyond a simple story about two people figuring out how to love each other, it’s about four individuals figuring out how to love themselves. And for adults, with all their inherent flaws and bad decisions, this on-the-fly acceptance of self can be a difficult thing: when confronted with it, we often shrivel into the corner, refusing to evolve and engage with the challenges in front of us.

“Born Dead,” in that sense, is arguably one of the most poignant You’re the Worst episodes to date. And it comes from the most random character of all: good ol’ Dr. Vernon Barbara, dropping some knowledge by way of a goofy, somewhat misguided Hall & Oates metaphor. Well, it’s that metaphor that catalyzes the most important observation of the episode, which Vernon makes while Jimmy reluctantly plays darts with him. Vernon tells him he was “born dead,” not breathing for 15 minutes after his birth. Because of that, Vernon tries to give his life meaning through the experiences he shares with other people: “It’s only through friends that we come alive” he tells Jimmy, a thought that echoes right to the very core of what You’re the Worst is.

Friends force us to constantly consider where we are in life, and offer unspoken guidance of sorts when we’re in their presence. For Gretchen, seeing her old friends makes her realize how little she’s grown up in the last three years, resisting adulthood by living through drunken tales that her friends – who’ve found God, gotten married, and had children in the downtime between “gatherings” – mostly regret. She tries to throw a massive rager, and spends the entire night correcting people when they refer to it as a mature gathering of adults. As always, Gretchen sees the train of adult comfort (aka “settling”) heading her way and panics, to hilarious results. The only vestige she has of her old life, her friend Cory, is a cautionary tale of where her life could be heading. Homeless and completely out of control, Cory is everything Gretchen thought she was as an adult – and seeing her friends for who they’ve become forces her to contemplate her own path in life.

What I really like about “Born Dead” is how it doesn’t use Vernon’s little speech to tie a neat bow on each story. The episode isolates Gretchen and Jimmy for the first time this season and uses that space to explore them both. For Jimmy, his self-definition of friendship – aka he doesn’t need them – comes clear when he tells Vernon about his “Sh**y Jimmy” story: he’s someone too proud and vulnerable to expose himself to the horrors and disappointments of friendships – and as “Born Dead” points out, maybe that’s why he feels so unsatisfied and bitter towards the world. Like Gretchen, he’s spent his entire adult life cultivating a very specific persona and point of view, and when a simple “gathering” throws that all into question, it gives “Born Dead” an unexpected arc, one that’s both illuminating, slightly chilling (if you relate to someone like Jimmy as much as I do, that is), and wildly entertaining.

Even the Lindsay/Edgar material – which is already threatening to become a little repetitive – gets a little injection of energy when Paul brings his new girlfriend, Amy, to the party (after Edgar visits his “Shangri-La” and asks permission, in the episode’s most hilarious, odd scene). Again, this story becomes all about projection: Paul projecting his “happiness,” Amy projecting her love for Joss Whedon, and Edgar projecting his absolute desire to do anything but be Lindsay’s sexless butler. And while this story has a much less definitive conclusion than the others, it’s still an entertaining tale that offers just enough of a twist on the overarching narrative to keep things moving (plus, any episode where Lindsay is mowing down food in nearly every scene is a winner… Kether Donahue’s talents at physical comedy are on full display here).

There’s something about “Born Dead” that sticks with me: the idea that our lives are given definition through our relationships is a powerful one, considering its our friends and family who eventually bury us and secure our legacy (whatever that may be: right now, Gretchen’s would be how she burned her house down with a vibrator). While it’s important we have some sense of self-definition to get through life, most of who we are is ultimately defined by the people around us. That’s why Jimmy can have such awesome opinions about the world and its machinations, and ultimately find himself alone at the end of the day. We’re only as good as the company we keep, I believe is how the old wive’s tale goes – and while “Born Dead” certainly offers more nuance on this idea, how it captures that in the course of 22 minutes is really something special.

Other thoughts/observations:

  • If Season 1 was the story of how two people could learn to live with each other, Season 2 seems to be shaping itself as the story of how two people learn to live with themselves.
  • You’re the Worst = best comedy on TV right now?
  • “No, I cannot not smoke at a party. Can you not bring your unborn tummy worm to a party?”
  • I would like to hear more about Jimmy’s video game war with an autistic Sweden kid. If he’s not playing Borderlands 2 this season, I’d really love to know what he’s playing.
  • Killian lives! And he made $6!
  • Paul’s story of poor Mimi’s fate is one of the most disturbing monologues I’ve ever heard. “And the really sad thing was…”
  • Gretchen calls an abortion an “abo-bo,” which is probably the most adorable name possible for such a procedure.
  • “I’ve been busy.” “Yeah, with my d*ck!” Love Gretchen’s reaction face in that opening scene.
  • Who wants to go to the park with me and tell joggers they dropped things?

[Photo via FX]

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