I’ve never met a person in my life who didn’t enjoy “people watching.” Whether sitting in a restaurant or walking through a mall, there’s something intriguing about trying to see the world through a stranger’s eyes, if only for a moment: it’s like a glimpse into another dimension, one untethered by the rules and designations of our own reality. In many ways, it’s the ultimate form of escapism, three-dimensional and fragile in a way film (either celluloid or digital) never really is – and as humans, with all our regrets, anxieties, passions, and choices, we can find ourselves eagerly getting lost in it. This week’s You’re the Worst is about that phenomenon, framing the conversation around a couple beginning to feel the ‘on rails’ nature of their adult lives, and when Gretchen tries to bury her depression in their intimacy, she uncovers some of the most unsettling truths about human nature.
Ultimately, Gretchen realizes regret is something we can never, ever get rid of. No matter how “well” or “successful” our lives turn out, there will always be moments of uncertainty, times when we lose ourselves in the possibility of what was, what might’ve been, what could be. It’s an existential conundrum that can utterly consume us as human beings, and pokes at the very fundamental debates about chaos vs. destiny. Is there any one decision that defines our life, or any series of decisions that can undo it (and by proxy, can we ever “have it all,” knowing the possibilities)? And for those struggling with depression, those conflicts only become more exaggerated; as life in its current form becomes more disillusioning and unsatisfying (even if it’s only in appearance), trying to project our anxieties and fears onto the hypothetical lives of “normal people” or “everyone else” becomes natural, even though it’s completely counterproductive to healing the emotional scars causing said depression.
What this season of You’re the Worst has captured better than any piece of cinema trying to deal with depression is the helplessness. Depression feels like you can’t stop digging a deeper and deeper emotional hole, turning life into this relentless pursuit of failure and imperfection. Watching Gretchen’s face fall as Rob – a film restorer, a man literally trying to preserve the past, both his and others – describes the incredulous way he views his own life is about as powerful a moment any show could offer, dramatic or comedic. With all Gretchen’s hopes hinged on Rob and Lexi’s relationship being a magical fix-all, hearing that it’s as nuanced and fragile as any other relationship in the world (complete with the inherent insecurities of those who “buy in” to the modern adult life, and the “settling down” that goes with it) is a soul-crushing moment for her, a moment where she realizes that maybe there is no escape for her depression, that these uncontrollable feelings are going to consume her in a fire of insecurity and regret.
While “LCD Soundsystem” moves You’re the Worst the farthest away from being a comedy it has ever been, it remains as sharp and engaging as any show on the air right now. Gretchen’s arc this season has been one of the most uncomfortable, close-to-home stories I’ve ever seen told on television, and watching Aya Cash and the writers thoroughly engage with every single facet of depression, both those easily portrayed and not (the image of Gretchen standing in front of all those medicine bottles still haunts me), is amazing to watch. Depression is feeling like you’re being consumed by an inexplicable emptiness, and “LCD Soundsystem” captures that feeling in such a powerful way: Gretchen thought she’d found the solution to her problem, her possible happy ending, only to find out that ending is as nuanced and existentially conflicted as her current reality, in turn revealing the dangers of trying to live vicariously through others. Eventually, their own truths and skeletons will come to light, and reveal them to be as flawed and broken as yourself; being able to reconcile that fact and find joy and meaning in life is where “aging” becomes graceful and beautiful. For a depressed person, however, that realization can be an unsettling, frightening thing, and it’s that fear that ultimately drives You’re the Worst to its most uncomfortable places, offering as challenging an episode of television as I can remember in recent memory as a result.
- Nobody really likes LCD Soundsystem, right?
- Lexi and Rob call their daughter Harper ‘Harpoon’, which might be the most adorable nickname ever.
- “To be a slave to an idea of coolness is why some of your friends never grow – and in the end are actually less themselves, and counter intuitively live less authentic lives than the buyers-in.” That’s some smart-a** hipster speak right there.
- Notice how Gretchen never sees Rob’s unsatisfied moments: smoking pot alone (which we don’t see, but is mentioned), playing in his crappy band, or talking about his job that nobody respects or seems to care about (including Jimmy).
[Photo credit: Byron Cohen/FX]