Episode Nine, “Constant Horror and Bone Deep Dissatisfaction,” is what many would call the origin story episode, and I agree with this. I do have another name for this episode, but if I say it now, it would spell out the point of what the characters go through here, so I’ll save that for the end.
The challenge of doing an origin story in the middle of a series’ run is how to present it. You don’t want to just overload the story with winks and nods that viewers already know about and you don’t want to just set up what we know is to come later. You do want to show who these characters were before we got to know them, but you also want to see something new.
You’re the Worst manages to do both by showing us who Jimmy and Gretchen were before they met and how they somehow managed to impact each other’s lives, in their own, terrible ways. Sure, Jimmy was still cynical as he was two and a half years ago as he is now, but he still had a shred of optimism to him, as we see when he proposes to Becca. But when she shoots him down, we see, through a look on Jimmy’s face, that something about this man has changed.
So he took all of that negative energy and cynicism and channeled it into his book. Jimmy relishes in the temporary fame and attention he receives from a very pretentious radio host. Jimmy describes the writing process as a combination of rage, heartbreak, and a lot of alcohol. The truth is that life sucked for Jimmy when he was happy, but constant horror and bone deep dissatisfaction can be helpful, but not miserable. At the very least, Jimmy found a way to turn a negative into a positive.
On the other hand, we have Gretchen, who still wanted to live a carefree life, full of sex, drugs, and all that fun stuff. She can’t enjoy herself, though, because everyone around her is becoming an adult. Lindsay even has a nice thing with a guy whose name she can’t remember. Despite that, Gretchen thinks Lindsay should just call it off so the two of them can keep this party train going. So even here, Gretchen isn’t someone with a lot of ambition. She wants to remain that kid that didn’t have to deal with responsibilities. If she’s going to go nowhere, she may as well make sure that Lindsay is right there with her.
She’s still as blunt as ever, which ends up working in her benefit when she gives Sam, Shit Stain, and Honey Nutz some fashion advice: instead of dressing like your run-of-the-mill rapper, dress the way you like. As such, Sam makes Gretchen the group’s new publicist, never mind that the new publicist is also doing drugs with the group. Who knew it was that easy?
Again, though, her core personality is just the same as it is now. She’s still cynical and not into the dating scene, as we see when she first encounters Ty at the film premiere. She’s not into dating, but Ty’s persistence does manage to grab her attention.
All around Gretchen, people are growing up and maturing, but not her. She needs to stay where she is because that’s more fun, but it will be less fun if she’s all alone. And that extends to the symbols of adulthood. Paul and Lindsay bought Becca and Vernon a food processor- a lesser kind than Lindsay’s, mind you- and Gretchen is bothered by the fact that people need to have these items that show they’ve grown up. Perhaps, Paul suggests, you’re just investing in your future.
I suppose weddings are a part of that future. Jimmy shows up at the wedding- with Edgar in tow, but I’ll get to him later- ready to heckle Becca. This really is a thing of his, it appears. Though his plan to ruin the wedding included seducing the groom’s mother, he takes a more subtle approach.
And it’s here that we finally learn what Jimmy said to Becca that we didn’t get to hear in the pilot: the two of them have not made love for the last time. Not as harsh as I at first thought, but still very much a dick move.
When we come to the present, Vernon and Becca are watching the footage of their wedding. Paul lets them know about Gretchen’s break-up, which sets Becca on a mission. Jimmy isn’t the man that she needs or, quite frankly, wants, but now that she knows he is single, she has motivation.
Many of the characters do, actually. Jimmy got his second wind and is ready to let his creative juices flow. After Becca dumped him, he wrote the book. While with Gretchen, his work suffered, but now he can focus on work again. Edgar, however, doesn’t have a snarky retort this time for one reason: Gretchen isn’t around anymore. With Gretchen, Jimmy was decent to be around, but with her out of the picture, Edgar isn’t looking forward to Jimmy being 100 percent dick again. He’s tired of being taken advantage of and plans to move out of Jimmy’s place.
Gretchen, meanwhile, is in a freefall and once again relies on Lindsay to be her partner in crime. The two still find marriage to be bullshit and Gretchen puts down the responsibilities of adulthood. She would much rather just go to New York, as she originally intended. So, Lindsay says, let’s just go! Sounds like a plan. They can put their troubles behind them, go to Puerto Rican dance halls, and take in so much New York dick that their pussies will be overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, Gretchen’s reckless behavior ends up getting her fired when Sam reminds her that the recording studio is a place of business. It’s a bit of a double standard, but I’ll go into detail this when discussing Gretchen later. Now jobless, Gretchen realizes that she may need to take a minute to reevaluate her life, so she decides to head home, much to Lindsay’s anger. After all, Lindsay is the one who got married and had some semblance of an adult life, but the minute she’s willing to drop adulthood and embrace the carefree life with Gretchen, she’s left on her own.
Becca also receives an unexpected surprise when she shows up at Jimmy’s place to have sex with him, and he’s actually not interested. He doesn’t even remember his comment, but he does advise Becca to go home. This isn’t her. She’s married. Shocked and outraged, Becca is kindly shown the door.
The episode draws to a close as Jimmy and Gretchen sort of begin to clean up their acts. Jimmy begins to compose a song that probably won’t go anywhere.
While Gretchen cleans up some of her apartment and uses the food processor to make drinks. Hey, it’s a start.
I like to think of “Constant Horror and Bone Deep Dissatisfaction” as the midlife crisis episode. In addition to learning how our characters came to be who we know them as now- or how little they actually changed- they go through some big changes and slowly accept that they can’t be kids forever. There’s no way you can stay a kid forever. Eventually, you realize that adulthood is inevitable and, even though the journey may be scary, unpredictable, and uncomfortable, it’s a journey we all have to take.
Jimmy and Gretchen, though, don’t go on much of a journey because they stay pretty much the same in the past and present. That’s not to say they don’t change, but they don’t go through any substantial development. They’re both still petulant children, but what ended up keeping them in line was the other person. For example, Gretchen talked of being ready to walk away from her life and go to New York, but her relationship with Jimmy kept her there.
In the past, though, both characters are in a funk. As mentioned, Gretchen found herself increasingly lonely with everyone around her embracing adulthood. More than that, she got herself in trouble with the law when she ended up in a fender bender, which she referenced in a previous episode.
Jimmy, meanwhile, isn’t receiving the level of royalties from his book that he expected, which is only a problem since he needs those to live. He could get to work on the sequel, but nothing has come to him yet. He also had to contend with a nervous Edgar, who Jimmy saw more as a distraction than a roommate.
The Jimmy from a few years ago is only a bit more optimistic about love than the one we currently know. He actually has hope that things could work out between people, even if he didn’t fully believe in love. He references literature that states a problem isn’t being single, but being alone. And, when referring to The Notebook– is that any good?- he acknowledges that love isn’t easy, but hard.
But once he gets dumped, the idealistic Jimmy dies, and out of the ashes comes the jaded Jimmy who feels a need to have a witty retort or insult for everything. He has little to no regard for anyone’s feelings except for his own, which shows through his poor treatment of Edgar at the wedding reception. As Edgar mentioned, he could endure Jimmy he was with Gretchen. Not in a nagging way, but Gretchen kept Jimmy in check and called him out on his shit, which is made very clear when she called him a mean person in the previous episode.
Yes, Jimmy is a mean person, but he believes that his negativity is a result of the world’s cruelty. He tells Edgar that women and romantic happiness are his kryptonite, as if a few bad experiences automatically make him impervious to love. Is that how people react when they go through a bad breakup or two? They suddenly feel that they can’t be happy? Because if so, that’s pretty pathetic.
Recognize that you can’t and won’t always land on your feet when it comes to love, that and learn to enjoy yourself. Again, this isn’t my area of expertise by any means, but relationships don’t always work out the way we want. If they did, chances are that more people would believe in love at first sight. That, or it would be more scientifically accurate, but that’s beside the point.
At the same time, Gretchen isn’t any more into relationships now as she will be later on, but her issue is that her friends are moving on without her. She looks down upon adulthood, even going as far as saying that marriage leads to kids, which leads to you realizing that you were dead the entire time. She’s not ready for that because she still doesn’t even know what she wants to do with her life. A little bit of constructive criticism- not hard work- landed her the publicist position, and even then, it’s not a position she took seriously.
Gretchen really didn’t take a lot of her life seriously. She wallows in her own pity, but also doesn’t want any sort of help because she prefers to do things on her own. Or, maybe, she does things on her own because everyone else has found a partner. At the wedding, she rants about how there’s nothing for here, which is why she planned to go to New York without telling anyone. She hates goodbyes. Instead of behaving like an adult and accepting some responsibility, she wants to stay right where she is because it’s comfortable and easy.
But in addition to Jimmy keeping her around, Gretchen’s personal issues and drug use prove to be her undoing. She defends herself to Sam by pointing out that he, Shit Stain, and Honey Nutz do stupid shit like this all the time, but the difference is that Sam is 21. Gretchen is 30.
While not technically a kid compared to Gretchen and the others, he’s still young and can get away with doing stupid shit. Gretchen, though, is an adult and, in Sam’s mind, should take some responsibility, especially when she’s the group’s publicist and promotes their brand.
Only when Gretchen starts acting like an adult does she end up alienating Lindsay. All this time, Gretchen has been needy for attention. Lindsay finally decides to take her up on that offer, and it’s at that moment that Gretchen decides to grow up.
Let’s talk about Lindsay for a second. She has the life that Gretchen despises: one with a husband, mortgage, a future, you know how it goes. But by this point, we know that Lindsay isn’t happy in her marriage, so she’s willing to walk down the self-destructive path Gretchen wants to walk if it means they get to keep the party going.
But, to be frank, if Lindsay wanted to go down a self-destructive path filled with sex, drugs, and Puerto Rican dance halls, she could probably do that on her own. Both she and Gretchen are needy, but Lindsay already lives a life on the wild side.
She doesn’t have her shit together at all- she just has some semblance of stability that’s rocked by her antics. When she talks about what she’d love to do in New York, it’s clear that this is something she’s dreamed of doing. The only thing keeping her where she is right now is her crappy marriage.
By the way, the scene with Lindsay trying to snort cocaine off of her own breasts may simultaneously be one of the funniest and saddest images of the series so far.
Edgar actually starts at a low point when we first meet him, but makes some significant changes for the better by episode’s end. He starts off as a returning veteran that has trouble fitting back into society, so he lives on the streets and gets in fights with random strangers. It was established in the pilot that Jimmy once bought drugs from Edgar, so it was nice to see them make that connection during their first encounter in years.
It’s quite sad how Jimmy treats Edgar in this episode and Desmin Borges is great at letting Edgar’s inner anger loose. Edgar gets stuck at the kids table and not only does he not know how to deal with crowds yet, the kids didn’t even invite him to the after party. Despite Edgar willing to put up with Jimmy’s antics, he’s still relegated to the side.
Like Edgar told Lindsay, they’re both sidekicks, but for Edgar, he’s more than just a sidekick: he’s a prop. A nice tie-in to the way countries treat returning soldiers, but Edgar came back from fighting for his country and ended up being treated like a hindrance instead of a friend.
With Gretchen, he could stomach Jimmy because he knew Gretchen would call him out on his shit. Without that, there’s nothing keeping Jimmy from going back to being a complete asshole, so Edgar refuses to put up with that. He becomes more assertive, doing things like paying for drinks, and he tells off Jimmy. It really felt like he’d been holding onto this anger for a long time.
And even though Edgar is right about Gretchen keeping Jimmy in line, you can tell from Jimmy’s reaction to Edgar’s rage that even he realizes how much of an asshole he’s been to someone he considers a friend. And once Edgar leaves, Jimmy realizes just how alone he really is.
He even turns down Becca because he’s having a change of heart about who he is, and this is a woman who threw herself at him. He’s at his lowest point and would probably want a woman at his side, but he’s actually not interested because he wants to show some responsibility.
“Constant Horror and Bone Deep Dissatisfaction” showed the characters at a low point and took a look at their pasts so we could see what led them to become who they are today. They didn’t change much between the past and the pilot, but by episode’s end, they go through significant development as they try to become more responsible. Well, except for Lindsay, anyway. But wait, there’s still one more episode.