Every Sunday, we pick a new episode of the week. It could be good. It could be bad. It will always be interesting. You can read the archives here. The episode of the week for September 24 through October 1 is "Twenty-Two," the fifth episode of the third season of FXX’s You’re the Worst.
Watching and loving a television show can be one of the most intimate relationships you’ll ever have in your life.
I won’t bore you with the usual "movie’s a short story, TV is a novel" comparisons, but the truth is that when you live with characters week in and week out, they’re going to become more familiar to you, more personal than a character you only get to meet for a couple of hours.
So when TV characters open their hearts and their wounds to us, their pain sears that much more.
On You’re the Worst, we’re used to seeing acerbic characters storm through Los Angeles with determined, even reckless apathy. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) would rather choke on their feelings than express them, and their aimless friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) has so many turbulent emotions bubbling to the surface that they tend to just sporadically gush out in a geyser of panic.
But Jimmy and Gretchen’s roommate Edgar (Desmin Borges) has always been different. A sweet, shy veteran, Edgar’s been trying to assimilate to civilian life ever since he got back from his tours in Iraq. When we first met him, he was recently homeless, and trying to abstain from the heroin he turned to to cope with his PTSD.
In this third season, Edgar’s longing to get back to a life that looks like the one he left behind for war has become an increasingly bigger part of the show. He has a serious girlfriend in Dorothy (Collette Wolfe), a job, and a fervent hope that going off his many, many prescriptions cold turkey will be the key to moving on.
Inevitably, it all falls apart.
With "Twenty-Two," creator Stephen Falk wrote and directed an episode entirely devoted to Edgar, giving him the space none of his supposed friends ever have. Following Edgar throughout the day of his long-awaited appointment with the VA, "Twenty-Two" — so named for the number of veterans who commit suicide every day — is an unusual episode, uncomfortably personal, and, thanks to Falk and Borges, stunning.
"Twenty-Two" is a perfect example of how strong writing, directing, and acting can come together to create something extraordinary
Falk has written several of You’re the Worst’s better episodes, which makes sense, as he created the show in the first place. But in the past two seasons, he’s shown a willingness to go outside the show’s usual pacing and tone to do something a little darker, a little more deeply felt.
In season two, that was "LCD Soundsystem," an episode Falk wrote and directed that veered away from the show’s characters to follow an entirely different couple that live nearby. In season three — at least so far — it’s "Twenty-Two."
The episode opens close up on Edgar, trying desperately to fall asleep in spite of the constant noise churning in his head. He watches a helicopter fade into the distance, tries to blink away the terror of helicopters he’s seen before, and fails, again and again. Faint whistles and high-pitched squeals fade in and out, no matter how hard he tries to shake them.
From there, it’s clear we’re on a completely different journey than any episode of You’re the Worst embarked upon before.
While other episodes have peeled back layers of the show’s stubborn characters, "Twenty Two" sucks us entirely into Edgar’s glitching mind. Falk’s camera — often a shaky handheld one — is often just a little too close. He sucks the air out of the shot to sell Edgar’s constant, simmering panic. All the while, the faint sounds of warfare linger around the edges, sizzling and popping in the corners of Edgar’s brain.
Without Borges, though, the entire episode would splinter. With him, it’s both wrenching and — eventually, as Edgar explores his own trauma in an honest way for maybe the first time — joyful.
Borges’s portrayal of Edgar has always vacillated between an earnest hangdog friend and a fragmented, sporadically angry veteran. In "Twenty-Two," the actor finally gets the space to be both, embracing all the messiness that combination implies — a luxury the characters surrounding him have had from the beginning.
You’re the Worst badly needed an episode like "Twenty-Two" this season
Edgar’s problems have almost always taken a backseat to those of Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay, not just within the reality of the show, but also in the show’s handling of his character.
We’ve known Edgar has PTSD, that he was homeless, and that he’s still struggling. Outside of that, he’s mostly just been the guy Jimmy mocks when he’s bored, the earnest sucker who’ll do his roommates’ chores and pick up the pieces when they reliably self-destruct.
The first two seasons of You’re the Worst managed to bring enough depth to Jimmy, Gretchen, and Lindsay that their consistent selfishness wasn’t a deal breaker. In season three, though, these characters’ careless dismissal of everyone else’s feelings has started to grate in the way that your most beloved jerk family members do. You know them inside and out, and you love them, but man, do you just want them to get their shit together before you have to step away for a breather.
As for Edgar, there were hints from the beginning of the season that his storyline was going to be more substantial. When his prescribed medication had the side effect of impotency, he threw it away rather than have to disappoint his girlfriend. As Gretchen and Jimmy spun around in their own self-destructive circles, Edgar sat just outside, clenching his fists, white-knuckling it through his days.
It was only a matter of time until he buckled under the pressure. In "Twenty-Two," a disastrous visit to the VA — one he was pinning all his hopes and dreams for a brighter future on — finally does it.
But in a much more interesting choice, Falk doesn’t let Edgar’s spiral into hopelessness define the episode. Instead, Edgar eventually runs into another veteran who can actually sympathize with him, and tell him without any bullshit how he can make it out alive.
Edgar’s life might not be great — at least not for a while. But for the first time since we’ve met him, it truly does feel like Edgar believes things could, at the very least, be okay.
You’re the Worst airs Wednesdays at 10:30 pm on FXX. The first two seasons are currently available to stream on Hulu.
Corrected to reflect that Falk did not have a co-writer for "LCD Soundsystem."