“The Pillars of Creation,” much like season three’s “The Seventh Layer,” focuses entirely on You’re the Worst’s minor characters: Paul, Vernon, and Becca attend a lunar eclipse viewing party hosted by one of Paul’s wealthy friends. Considering my distaste for this trio, it’s hardly surprising that I found “The Pillars of Creation,” to be a waste of an episode, easily the season’s worst thus far.
Evidently Stephen Falk simply has a weakness for these three, which unfortunately translates into a weakness for the show. Their one-note humor is more tolerable in small doses, serving as comedic accents (however slight) in scenes featuring Jimmy, Gretchen, Lindsay, or Edgar, but they’re far too thinly drawn to be an episode’s featured characters.
“The Pillars of Creation” actually tries to correct for their tissue-thin characterization, giving them each a moment of depth and self-reflection near the end of the episode. Vernon and Becca come clean to Paul about conning him by pretending to artificially inseminate Becca, and in doing so, Paul reflects on why he even wanted Becca as a surrogate in the first place (so his marriage to Lindsay wouldn’t be a total waste). Meanwhile, Becca realizes she only felt special when she was pregnant, and Vernon comes to terms with his professional and personal failures.
None of this works, however. All of it is predicated on my caring about Paul, Vernon, or Becca, but I don’t, because these characters have either been too thinly or inconsistently written for far too long. For instance, in making Paul a men’s rights activist last season (and then promptly forgetting about it entirely this season), the writers ruined any semblance of sympathy I might have had for him, while also stretching his character so much he’s become elastic. Case in point: why on earth would he trust Becca and Vernon? He’s seen how awful they are. While this episode provides an explanation for why he would want them to help him make a baby, their ability to easily fool him just makes him seem like an idiot. All of this would be fine if he were a funnier character, but “Paul’s a softie” – the premise of most Paul jokes – wore out its comedic legs long ago.
As for Becca, she has simply been too repugnant a character for too long – or perhaps more appropriately, has been too poorly-written for too long – for me to find anything sympathetic about her feelings of inadequacy. And while I actually find Vernon consistently funny (I laughed when he described the eclipse as “when the moon eats the sun or whatever”), his personal problems are so ridiculous that they don’t really work as anything other than a source of jokes. The attempt to humanize these characters in “The Pillars of Creation” is a case of far too little, too late.
The episode ends with all three characters indulging in a threesome, with Paul possibly impregnating Becca for real. Much like the newfound humanity of these characters, it comes out of the blue. Paul’s astronomer friend suggests that Paul’s plan to artificially inseminate Becca was really a mask for an underlying emotional connection to the couple, but there has been absolutely zero groundwork laid in previous episodes to suggest it. Likewise with Becca’s openness to sex with Paul, which she only seriously considers earlier in “The Pillars of Creation” after inexplicably feeling bad about conning Paul for so long. Vernon is the only one for whom excitement over a threesome seems remotely plausible, considering he’s always been enthusiastic about anything kinky, but in general, it seems like these characters are just being rewritten on the fly.
The coda has the trio defiantly standing up to Gretchen and Jimmy’s putdowns when they run into one another at a restaurant, with the trio seemingly happy and contented in their new ménage à trois, but I neither needed nor wanted any sort of emotional closure for these three. Here’s hoping the rest of the series sticks to the four leads.
Other thoughts: – I enjoyed Vernon’s PTSD when playing the operation game, as well as his unwillingness to go easy on a kid. He’s definitely my favorite of the three. There’s always been a baseline humanity to him (see also his hurt when Becca tells him she only married him to make Jimmy jealous). It provides a nice springboard for his more ridiculous behavior.
– There’s a nice shot of a fireplace reflected in Paul’s glasses when he’s stewing in anger over being conned by Becca and Vernon. It’s a well-directed episode, if not a well-written one.
– No flash forward this week. Bets on how likely the next episode will have one?
– Nice touch: the doorbell to the astronomer’s house is the score for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
– The episode title, “The Pillars of Creation” ends up being a dick joke in light of the threesome at the end.