With “Magical Thinking,” the pieces of the flash forward puzzle we’ve been getting all season are starting to fit together. In this week’s flash forward, we get our strongest sign yet that Jimmy and Gretchen’s marriage plans might be in trouble when Jimmy picks up a woman from her apartment, but it’s not Gretchen. Instead it’s the florist from “A Very Good Boy.” Their dialogue indicates they’ve been together for some time, and that they’re heading to a wedding, presumably the same one Gretchen arrived at in a previous flash forward.
If Jimmy and Gretchen do indeed split up, and if they both attend someone else’s wedding in the future, then some of the other flash forwards start to make more sense. It would explain why Gretchen would lock herself out of all of the alcohol in her hotel room, and why Lindsay would ask Gretchen if she’s fine that some unnamed guy is coming (presumably Jimmy). However it still doesn’t explain why Jimmy is driving the car he bought for Gretchen – if she wanted to get rid of it to avoid thinking about Jimmy, she’d be more likely to crash it, set it on fire, or drive it off a cliff than to just give it back to him. It also doesn’t explain Jimmy selling his house, or whatever the hell Edgar is running from in the flash forward from “Bachelor/Bachelorette Party Sunday Funday.” So I’m still not entirely sold on the premise that Jimmy and Gretchen are doomed, but there appear to be some pretty significant snags ahead of them. Happily, there’s still a lot of opportunity for surprise here.
However, if Gretchen and Jimmy are indeed going to split up, it likely needs to happen soon, because there are only three episodes left for You’re the Worst to explore its narrative repercussions and still reach a satisfying resolution. “Magical Thinking,” like a lot of other episodes this season, lays more groundwork for that potential split. All season long we’ve seen signs that there are significant problems between them, but these are easy to dismiss both because it’s routine for them, and because their problems tend to be overshadowed by moments where they behave like a good fit.
“Magical Thinking” finds Gretchen frazzled over a work dilemma. She’s organized a huge listening party for Sam and company’s new track, and at the event she’s going to reveal Nock Nock as the mystery man she’s been promoting, and who also has a verse on that track. She’s almost overwhelmed just organizing the event (conveyed nicely in an early scene where she throws her phone across the room because she’s being inundated with messages about the event), but her real problem is that Nock Nock’s verse on the new track is much better than Sam, Shitstain, or Honey Nutz’s verses, and the trio’s fragile ego can’t take being upstaged by a newcomer on their own track. The trio and Nock Nock each give Gretchen mutually exclusive ultimatums: play the track without/with Nock Nock’s verse, or there will be hell to pay.
Throughout “Magical Thinking”, Gretchen and other characters compare the event to the upcoming wedding: if she can handle this, then she can handle getting married. It’s an apt comparison, considering flash forward-derived precariousness of the marriage and the listening party teetering on the brink of disaster. The episode’s B plot provides further fuel for the metaphor, which explores these problems via conversation between Edgar and Jimmy.
Here the show does a nice job of folding another ongoing plot – the changing dynamic between Jimmy and Edgar – into the plot about Jimmy and Gretchen’s marriage. Jimmy has looked down on Edgar for most of the series, including the start of this season, where Jimmy scoffed at the possibility of Edgar being able to trick him. However, we’ve seen Edgar become more confident and confrontational with Jimmy this season, sometimes even doling out relationship advice to Jimmy, and last week we saw Jimmy turn to Edgar for professional assistance.
It’s nice to see these kinds of positive changes in Edgar as the series comes to a close, and “Magical Thinking” addresses them explicitly through Edgar’s realization that he sees them as equals now. He uses his newfound enlightenment to dispense relationship advice to Jimmy, who is much too unconcerned with Gretchen’s state of mind. Edgar advocates for Jimmy to involve himself in the parts of Gretchen’s life that don’t directly concern him, while Jimmy, self-serving as usual, advocates for the opposite just to avoid having to exercise any empathy, even for Gretchen. Jimmy is also unconcerned about Gretchen stealing Edgar’s PTSD meds, despite Edgar’s alarm.
Edgar is right, of course, both about relationships and about Gretchen. Gretchen’s solution to her talent dilemma is to sabotage the venue by setting off the fire suppression system, thus preventing either version of the track from being played. It resolves Gretchen’s momentary problem but, without really addressing the underlying issue, which is exactly what she’s been doing with her own psychological state via Edgar’s meds (and what Jimmy has been enabling by keeping his distance). If we extend the metaphor equating the event with the wedding, then it seems like Gretchen might be on the verge of sabotaging it too. With only three episodes left, we’ll know soon enough.
– The names of some of the contacts in Gretchen’s phone are hilarious. My favorites include “Always Has a Problem” and “Parking Uggo.”
– “Magical Thinking” was an excellent episode stylistically. A long take “walk and talk” introduces the space of the venue in shot reminiscent of The West Wing (which is made funny because rather than purposefully striding somewhere, Gretchen’s stroll seems sort of aimless).
– Another long take is used later when Edgar and Jimmy walk through the park, with the duo first appearing only in the distant background. They slowly approach the camera, but not before it drifts past a series of vignettes of people enjoying park activities, as if to illustrate the activities of healthy, normal people in contrast to Jimmy’s self-serving view of romantic relationships.
– Later, there’s a stylistic moment that’s just plain fun, making great use of the edges of the frame: when Yvette and Lindsay are in the Caliber office together, Lindsay slides through the frame on an office chair, but then unexpectedly reappears moments later in the foreground. She’s repositioned so quickly off-screen that I suspect they used a body double in the chair (shades of the great Hong Kong filmmaker King Hu here).
– Speaking of Yvette and Lindsay, their hookup was a bonkers surprise because Yvette’s professionalism makes her such an odd match for Lindsay, who is a consummate unprofessional. Although, considering Lindsay’s comment about how Jimmy and Gretchen are so similar, perhaps her hookup with Yvette indicates that in the romantic calculus of You’re the Worst, opposites are better matches than equivalents (and perhaps Yvette is less professional than she seems, given her readiness to sleep with her subordinate).
– Case in point about Lindsay’s unprofessionalism: she doesn’t even realize Yvette is the boss until the end of the episode.
– New hypothesis: the wedding in the flash forward sequences is Lindsay and Yvette’s.
– Nice line from Edgar to Jimmy: “I no longer look up to you, so you have no height from which to fall.”
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