The final episode of You’re the Worst has aired, and it answered a whole lot of questions about Jimmy and Gretchen’s future together. But that didn’t stop those of us at Vulture from having … even more questions. That’s why, after viewing “Pancakes,” I hopped on a cross-continental conference call with You’re the Worst creator and showrunner Stephen Falk (who wrote and directed the episode and joined from L.A.), as well as stars Aya Cash (who dialed in from New York) and Chris Geere (who joined from Manchester, England) to discuss whether Gretchen and Jimmy’s big choice is ultimately romantic or cynical, the fact that the wedding venue in the finale is where Falk actually got married, and whether they’d consider revisiting You’re the Worst and these characters years down the line. “When today’s teenagers are in their 30s and in control of Hollywood, I would be thrilled if that happened,” Cash says.
I want to start with a question for Stephen. At what point did you figure out that you were going to have this twist ending, with Jimmy and Gretchen not getting married but still ending up together?
Stephen Falk: I came up with that sometime in season three. I was listening to Howard Stern interviewing Hugh Grant, of all people, and he was talking about his decision not to get married. I would never hold him up as a shining example of how one should lead their personal life, but he spoke very intelligently about the third choice that renders the binary decision of will-they, won’t-they moot for him. This idea of, “You don’t have to do that thing, but you can still do the rest of it.” That’s a very, very obvious idea, but it struck me as we were conceiving this season that it was perfect. This was a very clean and very characteristic way for us to come to a conclusion with their story that I think will be satisfying for the romantics, but also intellectually make sense for the couple.
Aya and Chris, when did you find out how the show would end? Did you not know until you got the last script?
Chris Geere: Hello darling, by the way!
Aya Cash: Hi, my love! The season is very secretive, normally. But we shot a flash-forward on day one of shooting, so obviously there needed to be explanations. As we came to set for our first day, [Stephen] sat us each down and explained what was gonna happen and our arcs and how the series was gonna end. Like a grandpa telling the story of — we weren’t on his knee or anything.
Falk: Chris was on my knee.
Chris Geere: The first four seasons, I didn’t want to know. And then the last one, I really did, so I was quite lucky that Stephen was up for telling us. I was desperate to see how that last scene played out.
The wedding venue that was used in the last episode, where was that?
Cash: Stephen’s wedding venue!
Was it really?
Falk: That was where I got married a couple years before. It’s called the Paramour Estate and it’s at the top of the hills in Silver Lake.
Geere: It was pretty peculiar. We’re doing these big emotional scenes and I’m thinking, “Last time I was here, I was crazy drunk, dancing with all of Steve and Kristina’s family.”
Cash: You got invited to the wedding? You were invited?
Cash: No, I’m kidding. We were all there.
So Stephen, you were basically location scouting. You could write the wedding off on your taxes.
Falk: I know, I should’ve. I was pretty involved in making a lifelong commitment at that time, so I’m not sure I was quite location scouting. I guess I’m not very good at exploring my surroundings, because I had no idea it existed until our wedding planner took us there. It was an expensive location, and not very film-friendly for various neighborhood restriction reasons, but we decided to go for it. I’m not sure we made our budget this season because of it, but I think it was worth it.
Cash: What can they do, cancel us?
Falk: I will say, if FX is reading this, that’s the one problem with saying, “Okay, we’re picking you up for a final season.” It’s kinda hard to justify coming in on budget, because there’s not a lot they can hold over your head at that point.
In the finale, Gretchen and Jimmy get into a big fight after he realizes that she asked Shitstain to write her vows. Aya and Chris, what was it like shooting that scene? Was it challenging to calibrate your emotions to hit the right note?
[A couple seconds of silence.]
Cash: We both go silent to wait to see who would —
Geere: Yeah, we’re both polite. You go, sweetie.
Cash: What he actually means is neither of us has a good answer, so we’re waiting for the other one to save us.
Geere: It was the last dialogue scene that we shot, so that carries a lot of weight for not only the story, but for Aya and I together. Knowing it was the last one was quite hard for us, really. The entire season was like that. We kept going, “This is the last diner scene” and “This is the last whatever,” and it got all the way to the point where we said, “This is the last we shout at each other scene.” What do you think, sweetie?
Cash: Chris and I, we both love to feel our feelings bigly, so calibrating what’s happening with the characters with what’s happening in real life is the trick. Stephen is there to rein us in from just wanting to feel our sad, sweet feelings, which is not exactly what’s going on in the scene. Chris and I often have to be told, “Okay, glad you got that out, but let’s rein this in.”
Falk: When you have a scene like that that’s heavily emotional, my job is just to be a conductor and keep the entire symphony in mind. Anything you write for them, you can just let them run and you’re just there to really fine-tune. That’s a rare thing and that’s why they are the best.
Cash: That’s nice. Season six!
Now that you mention it, no show ever really goes away these days. There’s always the chance that something could come back. Is that in your mind at all? Or do you feel like the story was pretty much told?
Geere: I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting more social-media responses to this season than others put together. I find it quite humbling and peculiar that it’s over, but I think it’s really nice that there is a beginning and a middle and an end.
Cash: We’re going out in the best way possible, which is you know, we’re not reading on Deadline that we’re canceled. That’s incredibly lucky. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I hope that when today’s teenagers are in their 30s and in control of Hollywood, I would be thrilled if that happened. I think it’d be really fun to revisit these characters many years down the line. But I really want to know Stephen’s answer to this.
He’s being quiet.
Falk: Oh me? I’m sorry.
Cash: He likes to be called Mr. Falk.
Falk: Yeah, please, Aya, come on. Now I will address you. I think this has been as close to a perfect experience as you can get in this industry. We got to spend five years with the best in the business, who happened to be also fantastic, genuinely lovely human beings. We got to do it with the best group of writers and the best crew and the best directors. We were with a network that gave us as little interference as we needed to find our own sea legs, but as much guidance as any show needs as we delve into things that a goofy, dirty, basic cable sitcom shouldn’t be delving into, like PTSD and clinical depression. It would be silly not to want to replicate or continue that experience, but for now, the show is obviously done. I think there are opportunities for other stories to be told in the You’re the Worst multiverse. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but I’m certainly always open to it.
Stephen, would you characterize the ending of the series as cynical or romantic?
Falk: I see it as deeply romantic. I don’t see it as cynical. They are aware that this traditional thing was not quite them, but they didn’t want to break up. And so, that idea of waking up every day [and] deciding if you want to be with the person, I think it’s deeply romantic. And what one might call cynical is actually pretty lovely: Gretchen turns to him at the very end, and says, “I’m not better, and I may kill myself someday. You have to know that going in.” And he says, “Yeah, totally.” He says something funny to make her feel okay at that moment, but I feel they’re doing what they’ve always done. From the first moment they met at Becca and Vernon’s wedding, they put all of their cards on the table. They said, “This is the damage I have. This is the broken human I am. Do you still want it?” And the answer was yes. I think that’s really romantic.
Cash: Why they’re struggling this season, and why Edgar thinks it’s a bad idea for them to get married, is the idea is that it should all be on the table. For some reason, especially Gretchen starts to hide herself again in reaction to getting married. It’s putting them into a position where they’re not doing what they agreed upon from the beginning. It was forcing them into a construct that wasn’t working for them. That’s why it’s the right decision at the end, to be together but not get married.
Cash: You know, relationships are just, “Whose bad parts match your bad parts? And which good parts match your good parts?” I’ve been married a long time, but it is! You can’t step into anyone else’s relationship, because the agreements are made over and over again, and so subtly, that nobody else would fit into them. What they’ve agreed to is what they’ve agreed to. It may not work for everyone else, and could be judged by other people as cynical, but for them it’s pure romance.
Geere: I agree with that entirely. People may think that it’s cynical, or people may think that it’s outrageously romantic, but I think it’s really refreshing for two characters to commit to what they said from the beginning. It would’ve been insulting to the audience if it was a “walk off into the sunset” ending. My favorite part of the montage is having Jimmy asleep and the baby in the middle and Gretchen crying on the left. That’s a hats off to remembering everything that everyone’s been through.
I thought their decision was romantic, too. I would say the most cynical part is Jimmy’s monologue about weddings — how they’re opiates and a sham — but if it hadn’t been there, it would have felt like the show was selling itself out.
Falk: What was funny about that monologue, it wasn’t quite working for me and we stepped aside and said, “Let’s do this like Season One Jimmy. Let’s have this really be a remnant of this Jimmy that hadn’t met Gretchen yet.” And so, that speech is almost coming out of an echo of the past, which is always a false way to live, but is very true to how a lot of people conduct their lives. Jimmy and Gretchen are, in a lot of ways, still grasping onto this idea of themselves that they both had when they entered into this relationship. So, even the final proclamation of, “We’re not going to get married, we’re just going to have one foot out the door at all times” is also kind of false. But it’s allowing them to tell that old version of themselves, “It’s fine, we still got it! You’re still cool, man!” And then they can go just live as a fucking boring married couple.
The finale has a lot of callbacks to previous moments in the series. The trash juice, thank God, made one last comeback, and Ben Folds was at the wedding. Were there others you wanted to include, but you just couldn’t get them all in there?
Falk: There was a fine line of doing too much fan service. We may have even gone too far with a couple things, but we chose very carefully. There were a lot of minor characters that I would’ve loved to bring back, or little in-jokes. But it would’ve felt like a band that’s been around 30 years too long doing one more tour. It wasn’t becoming. It didn’t fit in with what we wanted to do. What about you guys? Was there anything that we missed?
Cash: I wish Flo [Stephanie Courtney, who plays Flo in the Progressive commercials] came back. I wanted to see what happened to the bookstore owner, mainly because I just liked her so much. It would’ve been fun to see her, or have Collette [Wolfe, who played Dorothy] come back. But it would’ve felt like piling the dead bodies.
Falk: We did have both Stephanie Courtney and Collette come back, but we had to cut them for believability reasons.
Geere: There were a few guest artists we had so much fun with that could’ve just popped up at the wedding. There was Ray — you know, the guy that played opposite me in the premiere of season four out in the desert. I had great fun working with him. Obviously, he never met any of the other characters. That could’ve been quite fun. But you know, when they bring us back for season six, you’ve got so many opportunities for that.
I was to ask about Edgar. Do you think he’s being a good friend or a bad friend in this last episode?
Geere: Hmm …
Again, no one wants to go first.
Geere: Yeah, he’s being a very good friend to Jimmy. If someone behaved like that with me, I’d have a different reaction. But he’s finally not only reached Jimmy’s level, he’s beating him. He’s won in the end. Going back to your previous question, maybe that was the only decision that we made — that four years later, the energy between them had to be different. I think Edgar made a very brave choice to do and say everything that he did, but it was still fairly hurtful. But maybe that’s what Jimmy needed: a bit of tough love.
Cash: I also think Edgar needed to separate from Jimmy. Maybe he needed to blow up the friendship as well, subconsciously. Because he felt like the sidekick to Jimmy in his own life. We’ve all had those moments where we realize we’re not in a friendship that is serving us anymore.
This is a random question, but when Edgar is listening to that podcast, how much did you actually record?
Falk: Uh, we recorded quite a lot. That was Starlee Kine who is obviously a great podcaster from This American Life and her own podcast.
Cash: Mystery Show!
Falk: I’ve always just loved her voice and love her. I just reached out and asked if she would do it and she did! As we usually do in the writers room, we scripted way more than we needed. We could probably write Jimmy’s book, Width of a Peach, with all that we’ve scripted.
Geere: Quite a few people out there would want you to.
How long has it been since you guys wrapped?
Falk: So it’s been quite a while. Chris and I are coming to town for our big screening finale and wrap party, so we’re all very excited to see each other.
Cash: I’ve seen everyone except Chris, because Chris lives in Manchester. So I’ve seen Kether [Donohue] and Des [Borges] and Stephen and everybody, but I’m most excited to see Chris because I haven’t!
Geere: I know, I can’t wait! Even though I was meant to be flying on Brexit day, so I’m not sure I’d even get in, or be able to come back. But now I’m going to New York for a few days, if you’re still there.
Cash: Yes I am, I’m here! We can hang.
It’s really touching that a show about terrible people has brought you all together in such a positive manner.
Cash: Thanks, Stephen!
Geere: Yeah, it’s funny.
Falk: It’s true. I can’t imagine ever having an experience where not only is the cast lovely and completely un-diva-ish, but genuinely remain friends. I’m sure we’ll all drift a tiny bit, but I see us always staying close and hopefully working together again.
Cash: Stephen, we want you to Ryan Murphy us.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.