It’s incredibly telling what the tone of last night’s You’re the Worst is going to be when you learn that the title, “Twenty Two” comes from the number of veterans who commit suicide every day. It’s a fitting title, however, for the first episode of the series where Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are barely a factor, merely side characters in second banana Edgar’s (Desmin Borges) story. While the episode in no way focuses on our two “protagonists,” it does allow us greater understanding of the show’s one saving grace, taking him to his lowest places yet. And it makes for one of the show’s greatest episodes.
We’re immediately tipped off that something is wrong when the episode begins without a cold open. If memory serves, this is the only episode thus far to do that. As the theme song ends, we cut to a window in the middle of the night. Edgar remains unable to sleep. He looks out emotionlessly at the moon, and occasionally tries to distract himself by dancing in his underwear. His eyes remain glazed as he quietly mutters the lyrics to himself before deciding to run down the street shirtless. He freezes as he sees a car approaching in the distance. He begins hyperventilating, and hides behind a parked car, preparing for…something. He discovers that it is a simply a newspaper delivery truck, and breaths a sigh of relief. He heads home and finally manages to get a couple of hours of sleep. Unfortunately, this is short lived, as the garbage truck arrives, and the bang clearly triggers his PTSD. He heads into the bathroom and opens the medicine cabinet, revealing hundreds of bottles of pills. He takes out his toothbrush and closes the door, giving us just a glimpse what it takes for our the gentlest character on the show to be himself.
It is at this point the episode reveals its most brilliant decision: the entire episode takes place at the same time as last week’s “Men Get Strong,” but follows Edgar’s activities. Last week I mentioned that Edgar seemed…off, constantly being sarcastic, rude, and bitter. I chalked it up to the PTSD, but that was wrong of me. It had nothing to do with that-it was simply Jimmy’s perception. Here we see what Edgar was actually like in these scenes, and the result may be even uglier. Jimmy, Gretchen and Lindsay (Kether Donahue) are blurry, and all we can see is the smoke from the burning breakfast. He brings out his heart pancakes, and we see, for the first time, life from Edgar’s point of view. As it turns out, while we find Lindsay, Gretchen and Jimmy’s sarcasm and apathy towards life funny, when seen from Edgar’s perspective, these lines are incredibly cruel. What’s even more troubling, we see, clearly, the pain that these comments cause him. Each and every “funny moment” that Jimmy had last week is seen in its unbearable cruelty this week. And just to make sure nothing was too nice for Edgar, every time he looks out the window, he sees someone who “could” be a bomber or sniper. Jimmy makes his request for his “writing” snacks, but here it isn’t funny-its demanding and demeaning.
Edgar ends up at the grocery store, which, from his perspective, alternates between either packed or deserted. A ringing slowly builds as a Muslim woman walks in and a suspicious looking security guard follows him. As the ringing grows louder, he begins to hear army jargin, and his anxiety goes through the roof. The cashier catches his attention, and we learn the store has been empty for him this whole time. He leaves in a panic. He goes and visits his girlfriend Dorothy; however, here we see just how bad off he is. He immediately begins to get aggressively sexual with her-too aggressive. She keeps saying no, but he gets more and more aggressive. Eventually she pushes him off, pointing out he needs to get ready for his V.A. meeting. Edgar reveals how afraid he really is. “What if this is my best last chance?” Dorothy points out that there’s always another option, but Edgar snaps-“What else is there?!?” Dorothy reveals he doesn’t just need this to go well for himself-he needs it to go well for her, because she’s scared, and scared for him. She gives him the advice that “They can fix you, but you’ve gotta fight for it.” I appreciate and respect Dorothy’s advice, and it seems to encourage Edgar a bit, but this didn’t feel right to me about how to handle someone dealing from severe mental illness.
Of course, if Dorothy rubbed me the wrong way, then you better believe that Jimmy and Gretchen angered me, mocking Edgar as they casually had sex in the backseat (literally, not a metaphor), mocking him with their actions. Edgar begins to see threats everywhere, from the overpass to bags of trash on the side of the road, and starts to swerve, causing Jimmy pain as Gretchen falls off his lap. Realizing he’s having an episode, Edgar scrambles to put in a tape his brother gave him to help him cope, titled “Dreams of Tangier” by Starlight Tidepool. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of it, like me, then it should be known the band-and its music-was made up for the show. It just sounds so natural and so real, that you do believe that they are real. And it seems to have a positive impact on Edgar-until Jimmy notices he’s playing a tape, and he begins to mock him mercilessly, calling him an outdated Uber. While Jimmy is still a funny and likable character, it’s hard to come away from this episode without having serious reservations about his behavior.
As it turns out, I was wrong last week, and Edgar does, in fact, go to his V.A. meeting. And at the start, things are going well. They joke back and forth for a couple minutes, but while it feels natural, there’s clearly an awkwardness and fakeness to the V.A.’s demeanor. Edgar keeps asking why it’s so hard for vets to get in to see her, and she blames underfunding, pushing the blame off herself and onto someone else. She offers him the best program available: a “therapy” session that uses virtual reality to turn his pain into a “video game.” He’s excited, because this is the most desired type of therapy, and he’s been trying for years to attain it. However, he then confesses that he stopped taking his medication. All eleven of them. I’ll repeat that-all eleven. He points out that they weren’t working-all they did was turn things down-sure, it dulled his pain a little bit, but it also completely ruined his life. However, all the V.A. hears is that he was being uncooperative, and refuses to help him. “If you’re hostile to one of our treatments, how can I offer you another?” He begs her to help him, and points out that she’s ignoring their plight, and she rolls her eyes at him. At his breaking point, Edgar declares, “You can’t just give us a ‘one size fits all’ prescription of ‘Shut Up Pills,’” with the passion of Willy Loman’s “Piece of Fruit” speech. The V.A. looks at him and, with a smile, states, “If we had shut up pills, we’d have already given them to you.” No longer able to control his emotions, Edgar smashes a chair. However, seeing this ten times a day, the V.A. woman smiles and casually buzzes him out, telling him to come back when he’s resumed the pills-and considering how difficult it is to see her, essentially kicking him out forever.
Edgar completely begins to break down, driving into the distance and seeing issues everywhere. Unable to continue driving, he climbs out of the car, grabs Jimmy’s bottle of booze, and starts drinking in a canal. Jimmy calls him to demand he be picked up, and we see the most heartwrenching scene of the episode. When this moment played out in “Men Get Strong,” Edgar seemed bitter, sarcastic and unusually cruel. It seemed out of place. Here, we see the reality-he’s struggling with is words, trying to sound respectable as his world crumbles around him. Jimmy hangs up and texts him a Zero Star Uber rating. This is the lowest that Edgar has ever gotten. He breaks down weeping. He walks back to the highway and looks into the road, contemplating. It’s the most heartbreaking moment in the entire run of the show. For a moment, it seems like he’s about to act on it. However, at the last second, he sees a paper boat floating down the river. He takes in the wonder, and the hope, present in this little boat, and for a moment, he begins to look ahead. And then a student film crew walks over, berating him. “What, you think a paper boat is just randomly floating down the river?!?” However, the student director realizes his attitude, and apologizes, before noticing that Edgar has a certain look…
The episode cuts to later that night, and Edgar is returning to his car, which is about to be towed. He begs the driver to cut him some slack, because he is having a bad day. Luckily, the driver is also a vet, and they have a heart to heart inside his truck. The guy asks if he’s feeling the symptoms-seeing IEDs everywhere, thinking every person could be a sniper, and asking if he’s considered suicide. Edgar doesn’t answer, and the driver follows up with the titular line: “You know the stats? 22 every day. Well, the Vietnam guys are pulling those numbers up, but still.” Edgar agrees, blaming the V.A. for their careless, evil attitude, when the driver lays out a fantastic monologue about the way of war: “Here’s what you gotta understand: They’re not evil. None of them are. The military’s job is to sand down our humanity just enough so we can take a life. That’s it. Afterwards, some totally separate branch get to deal with all these purposely broken motherfuckers. Not only is that impossible with the resources, that’s just impossible. Period.” He explains the only way to truly begin healing is to stop waiting for someone to fix you and just find what helps calm you, be it a therapy dog, yoga or stabbing your closet door over and over. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but the minute you stop looking for someone else to cure you, maybe you start living again.”
Edgar is back in his car, listening to “Dreams of Tangier.” He begins to feel at peace, and lets go of the steering wheel. He stands up and embraces the wind whipping against his hair…only to be scolded by the driver. Turns out the car got towed anyway, but Edgar got to ride in his own car while doing it. He looks at the tape’s cover and begins to laugh. He’s finally found peace, at least for now. The episode fades out. However, the episode couldn’t end without one more laugh, so we get a taste of the student film Edgar starred in. It’s a typical silent film, with Edgar as a Charlie Chaplin type. He laments the loss of his one true love, declaring (via title screen) “Shoulda let me get at dem titties!” He sees the paper boat, and takes joy in pissing in it. A woman sees him doing this, becomes impressed by his girth, and the two walk off into the sunset. It’s a masterpiece.
There are only two episodes in the entire run of You’re the Worst that have been as powerful, as brilliant, as perfectly crafted, and as heartbreaking as “Twenty Two.” Both of them dealt with Gretchen’s depression (“There Is Currently Not a Problem” and “LCD Soundsystem,” if you’re interested). This is perhaps the most powerful and respectful treatment of PTSD seen on television, and perhaps in film, ever. It’s touching, it’s funny, and it’s absolutely well crafted. You’re the Worst continues to prove itself as not only the funniest show on television, but one of the best shows on television, period. God bless You’re the Worst.