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How ‘You’re the Worst’ Managed to Make a Great Sitcom Episode About PTSD

And one of the best TV episodes of the year, period.

You're the Worst is a show that's all about surprising you. It usually does this by way of its characters, whom, as the show's title suggests, are all horrible people. It's hard to guess where the show might go in any given moment—because you wonder if the characters are really that bad (usually, yes) and whether or not they'll turn it around (who the hell knows) or if they're actually okay people after all (usually, no). This means they often can do or say just about anything in an episode, from unexpectedly raucous sex to devastatingly honest confessions about depression. These are awful characters, but you root for them, because the show's so good at conveying empathy towards its characters that you want to see them end up alright.

But one of the biggest twists You're the Worst has pulled to date involves one of the few decent characters in its cast in what's definitely one of the best episodes of television this year.

EDITOR’S PICK<em>You're The Worst</em> Starts Season 3 With the Wildest Sex Scene We've Seen in a WhileEntertainmentYou're The Worst Starts Season 3 With the Wildest Sex Scene We've Seen in a While

The fifth episode of the third season, titled "Twenty-Two," is all about Edgar (wonderfully played by Desmin Borges), the roommate of lead couple Gretchen and Jimmy. Edgar is a veteran struggling with PTSD and an overly gracious whipping boy who continues to do nice things for Gretchen and Jimmy, even though they only berate him in return. (It's implied this is out of gratitude to Jimmy, who met Edgar when he was homeless and begrudgingly decided to let him move in.) Sometimes it's funny to see them rag on Edgar, especially when he does things like join an improv troupe. But in Season Three, it's mostly been heartbreaking, as their japes have gotten increasingly cruel. This, it turns out, has been a purposeful move on the show's part.

The clever twist to "Twenty-Two" is that it runs parallel to the previous episode, "Men Get Strong," which kept Edgar in the periphery even as Jimmy and Gretchen berated him. "Twenty-Two" takes place before, during, and after that episode. It shows Edgar, in the throes of his increasingly worrisome panic attacks, unable sleep the entire night before we see him in the previous episode, making his ungrateful roommates pancakes. We see the cabinet full of medications that aren't helping him. We see him deal with the indignity of the understaffed, underfunded VA psychiatrist, expertly trained to offer no substantive help other than the drugs that dull everything.

"That's no way to live", he says, in the show's saddest moment—right before he's called to be berated by Jimmy yet again.

Comedy is often catharsis, and pausing to examine what we laugh at and why we laugh—even if it means sitting through an episode of television that's really quite sad.

"Twenty-Two" is hard to watch at times. It is sad and infuriating and takes Edgar—one of maybe two truly decent people in the entire show—to the very edge, shot and edited in a way that barely starts to scratch the surface of how he must experience the world at times, where something as innocuous as trash on the side of the road can trigger intense traumatic fear of explosives, or utility workers and cops bring back memories of snipers in a time where his life was at stake every moment. It also hurts, because there are real veterans and PTSD victims that we really do fail to help in the same ways, people left with little recourse to grave, immediate problems.

One of the bravest things a television comedy can do is not be funny for a little while. Comedy is often catharsis, and pausing to examine what we laugh at and why we laugh—even if it means sitting through an episode of television that's really quite sad—can do a lot to make the jokes in the eventual pivot back towards Funnyland more rewarding. Comedy heavily depends on connection and closeness; it's why relationships make for such perennial joke fodder. Briefly trading antics for deep pathos makes those connections stronger and more pronounced, and the laughter that follows comes from understanding, which is often a much better place than merely relating.

Which is probably why "Twenty-Two" ends with a joke. And it's a pretty good one. You should check it out.

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