“Four Goddamn More Days” features Gretchen continuing the pattern of behavior we saw last week in “Magical Thinking,” and which she’s displayed throughout the season as whole, where she avoids addressing her underlying problems in favor of stopgap measures that only make those problems worse in the long run. Gretchen has lost her job after setting off the fire alarm at the end of “Magical Thinking,” but continues to pretend to go to work because she thinks telling Jimmy about it will jeopardize their upcoming wedding. She also continues to steal Edgar’s meds to regulate her emotions, terrified of spiraling into another depression.
Midway through “Four Goddamn More Days”, Edgar finds out that Gretchen lost her job, and out of concern for her he disposes of his meds, perhaps hoping that doing so will force Gretchen to confront her problems, or at least come clean to him. But when his ploy fails to solicit the desired response, he settles for confronting her outright.
What follows is easily the episode’s best scene. Edgar follows Gretchen to a pet adoption clinic, sees her take a dog for a walk, and then does the same and continues to follow her. When she finally spots him, they’re standing on a golf course about a dozen yards apart, and the scene is staged and framed like a shootout in a Western, but with dogs instead of guns. Weirdly, it makes sense, since the conflict that follows is an emotional one, and dogs are highly emotional pets.
Edgar tries to be a good friend here, prodding Gretchen to open up to him, but Gretchen tries to push him away, lashing out at him to avoid dealing with her problems. Edgar is great here, shrugging off her attacks, and eventually getting her to release all of the pent up feelings she’s been trying to eradicate through denial and Edgar’s stolen meds. She feels worthless over finally trying at her job only to fail at it, and is terrified that the same thing might happen with Jimmy. Like much of last week’s “Magical Thinking,” it’s a scene demonstrating that Edgar might actually understand Gretchen better than Jimmy at this point.
Much of “Four Goddamn More Days” provides further evidence of Jimmy’s emotional insensitivity. Jimmy and Edgar learn that the studio has passed on their adaptation of Jimmy’s book, having hired Diablo Cody to adapt it instead. Distraught, Jimmy spends much of the episode in a funk, whining over his mistreatment, and claiming to be in a “depressive spiral.” When he tries comparing his feelings to Gretchen’s bouts of depression, suggesting that he can better empathize with her now, Gretchen can only roll her eyes, and rightly so. Jimmy’s newfound “empathy” here betrays how little he understands the depths of her depressive episodes, and to some extent, how little he understands Gretchen herself. As if to demonstrate his lack of understanding, the next morning he’s all sunshine and lollipops, happily looking forward to the wedding, and even proud of having gotten over his “depression” so quickly. He’s unknowingly belittling Gretchen through his own arrogance. He’s so profoundly deficient in his empathy that it’s little wonder she’s reluctant to open up to him.
Of course, at the end of “Four Goddamn More Days” she finally does come clean to him, prompted both by Edgar and by Jimmy surprising her with a romantic, candlelit evening. Jimmy plays it cool, but when the camera pushes in on his face, we can see that he’s clearly shaken by her confessions, perhaps fearing another depressive episode is at hand. His concern seems like it could be one more step toward their breakup, which looks more or less inevitable now, given the context of the latest flash forward, where Gretchen goes to a bar and gets hit on by a guy, telling him that she’s single now, but almost got married once. She even breaks her sobriety in agreeing to let the guy hit on her. It’s a more or less direct confirmation that Gretchen and Jimmy are doomed.
Still, this flash forward doesn’t necessarily mean we’re headed for a sad ending for these characters, who both seem somewhat content in their post-relationship lives, although perhaps it will be a melancholy one for viewers, since we’re invested in their romance. Part of me feels like there might be some hope for them, but Gretchen is so crippled emotionally, and Jimmy so underwhelming in his powers of empathy that I’m starting to agree more and more with Justina’s truncated warning to Gretchen about not marrying Jimmy way back in “The Pin in My Grenade.” Whatever is going to go wrong between them, it seems like it will happen in next week’s penultimate episode. Buckle up folks, it might be a bumpy ride.
Other thoughts: – So much for my hypothesis that the wedding everyone is attending in the flash forwards is Lindsay and Yvette’s. Their breakup scene in “Four Goddamn More Days” creates some tonal whiplash, because it juxtaposes Lindsay’s cartoonish behavior with Yvette’s straightforwardness. Lindsay behaves like a wacky comedy caricature, even threatening to stab Yvette in the eye unless Yvette tells Lindsay she loves her, while Yvette reacts to this behavior like a rational person, firing her with cause.
– Nice montage of Gretchen “working” in the Los Angeles river. I particularly liked the shots of her in the raft.
– Hey, Killian makes his first (and possibly only) appearance of the season, and with a joke that makes fun of how he’s more or less disappeared from the series the past few seasons, filling in Jimmy on all of the insane shit that’s happened to him since last we saw him.
– In addition to the golf course scene, there are a couple other nice shots in “Four Goddamn More Days.” One is Edgar cloaked in shadows, stealthily observing Gretchen return from “work” as he confirms his suspicions about her lying. Another is the spinning, 360 degree long take that ends the episode, where Jimmy surprises Gretchen with a romantic evening. This shot is a particularly impressive feat of choreography, with entrances and exits all timed to the spinning of the camera, and with Chris Gere and Aya Cash hitting performative beats that help to motivate Gretchen coming clean to Jimmy. Lots of different interpretive “spins” here. One I like: perhaps it’s a stylistic representation of Gretchen’s emotional spiral, or of Jimmy’s concern about such a spiral.
– Carrying my Western shootout analogy further: Edgar wins his emotional battle with Gretchen, even though his dog isn’t the badass one he requested in order to duel her.