“Pancakes” is just about everything a You’re the Worst fan could want in a series finale: I mean, Killian makes another triumphant return, we get a Trash Juice reference, and we learn Shitstain published a poem in the New Yorker when he was 19 – what else could one ask for? Packed to the brim with callbacks and inside jokes, it would’ve been easy for “Pancakes” to brush aside the lingering conflicts at the heart of the series, and just be 35 minutes of fan service with a perfunctory ending to the Jimmy/Gretchen story to tie up loose ends. But You’re the Worst was never about taking the easy way out, and “Pancakes” drives that philosophy home in emotional fashion, in the best series finale to air since The Leftovers’ “The Book of Nora”.
I’ve already shared some of my more intimate thoughts about You’re the Worst as a series; what is so impressive about “Pancakes” is how poignantly it brings each and every story of the show to a close, for the characters outside of Gretchen and Jimmy. Some of these notes – Vernon getting his mobile doctor unit, Becca getting to be pregnant again – are quiet and small, but against the mosaic of moving parts in “Pancakes”, they provide an important foundation for the final few minutes of the series to build on before taking its final bow – everybody is in the place they feel they belong, and it is the catalyst to bring some light into these miserable people’s lives.
You’re the Worst was never about taking the easy way out, and “Pancakes” drives that philosophy home in emotional fashion, the best series finale to air since The Leftovers‘ “The Book of Nora”.
More importantly, these characters come to these new and familiar places by choice: that idea is catalyzed by Edgar, whose arc in “Pancakes” almost steals the spot light away from Gretchen and Jimmy’s emotional final moments. For years, Edgar has lived under the rule of Jimmy’s thumb, all the way back to his first scene in the series, when we meet him preparing one of his many breakfasts for Jimmy. As Gretchen so pointedly tells him, Edgar’s spent his post-war life licking Jimmy’s boots, unable to truly break out on his own and become his own man. So he’s sat on the sidelines, eating Jimmy and Gretchen’s insults and banging Lindsay when it’s convenient for her, in between his many attempts to find mental stability after war: it’s not until late in season four we really see Edgar start becoming his own man, a process that reaches its climatic point in the finale, when Edgar announces he is leaving LA to go to New York and begin adapting a murder podcast into a television show.
Of course, Edgar couldn’t get there without a little help; and like everyone in the orbit of You’re the Worst, that help comes at a great personal cost, in Edgar’s case, his friendship with Jimmy. What I really love about “Pancakes”, is how it proves Edgar right – him and Gretchen shouldn’t marry each other, because love is a messy thing neither of them will ever be completely committed to with rings on their fingers. And he’s willing to sacrifice his friendship with Jimmy (and Gretchen, who dresses him down in one of her most piercing monologues) to make sure they don’t make that mistake; and in that moment of truth, Edgar is finally set free from Jimmy’s somewhat unhealthy influence on his life.
Edgar breaks his own cycle; and as “Pancakes” shifts from Jimmy walking out of Gretchen’s dressing room to Jimmy smoking outside Lindsay and Paul’s wedding, You’re the Worst begins piecing together the final notes of its finale, flashing back and forth from present to future and back, to show its characters growing up and escaping the cyclical nature of their behavior over the course of their adult lives. Some things will never change, of course – Gretchen will still struggle with depression, Edgar will still feel like a man out of rhyhtm with the rest of the world – but the sense of control each character exerts over the direction their lives take is powerful, if slightly wish-fulfilling. It’s the first time a messy series allows itself a neat, tidy conclusion – and while some may think it betrays the heart of the series, I’d argue it is the moment You’re the Worst completes its story, marking the end of a chapter in the lives of its lovable, forever asshole-ish central cast of characters.
There’s so many fun moments in “Pancakes” – Killian pushing Jack Reacher 2, Vernon’s roller coaster of emotions when he becomes best man, the reveal that the girl Edgar’s playing with is Jimmy and Gretchen’s daughter – but those final moments following Gretchen and Jimmy’s relationship through the years is as close to a perfect ending as one could hope for from You’re the Worst. There’s moments of quiet beauty (Jimmy and Gretchen having passionate sex while their baby enjoys wireless headphones), frightening honesty (Gretchen dealing with some form of post-partum depression)… and most importantly, hope, showing a future where Jimmy and Gretchen are able to define happiness on their own terms, building a meaningful partnership where they build a home (in a different house than Jimmy’s death trap of a first home) and a life together. Rather than let the circumstances of their personal and professional lives dictate their behavior and decisions, Jimmy and Gretchen make the choice to be together, to make their strange, creepy (and slightly unhealthy) love work; by ultimately rejecting its notions, the idea that one moment of infatuation can set one’s entire life path in stone.
It may be convenient and a little unsatisfying, sure – but since when did Jimmy and Gretchen do something that wasn’t a bit unsatisfying, and super convenient for the two of them and nobody else? In that sense, “Pancakes” is as perfect an ending as anyone could ask from You’re the Worst; there’s love, a bit of fear, a healthy dose of regret – and, at its core, unbelievable honesty, as signature a final episode this series could possibly deliver.