It’s probably unkind to suggest that last week’s You’re The Worst, entitled “Genetically Inferior Beta Males,” was a subtle hint at the subjects of its successor, but the negging of Paul (Allan McLeod) and Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) ends there. The two have served as tertiary punchlines since the show’s inception and finally, three seasons in, get to shine.
As is You’re The Worst tradition, the episode is searingly sad.
“The Seventh Layer” opens with an unwittingly insightful monologue from Vernon about his wife Becca, for whom he and Paul have come to buy a baby bassinet.
“We blame those who are closest to us for our misery,” he says. “Instead of taking responsibility for being unsatisfiable dick nuggets we say ‘Hey there, person I love, I’m unhappy, so clearly you’re failing me.'”
He’s talking about Becca, but it doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that Vernon is doing the same thing by blaming his wife for his own unhappiness.
Seeing these two characters next to each other in the sorry state of their current lives, your heart can’t help give a little whine like Paul passing a problematic bowel movement. The allegedly inferior males have been shunted aside as characters for too long, mirroring how their lives may seem undesirable to the rest of those who populate You’re The Worst.
In reality, Paul and Vernon are unsung heroes and maybe the most realistic characters on You’re The Worst a good husband and someone who wants to be, but just can’t get there.
As is the way of self-discovery in the woods, the brothers-by-marriage reveal personal secrets and the disturbing family dynamics that led them to where they are. Vernon’s parents had already buried their son (remember, he was born dead), and Paul’s siblings and parents were less available to him than his older nephew.
Where they differ is in coping mechanisms: While Vernon is resigned to the sorry state of his marriage and wondering what the seventh layer of seven layer dip is, Paul continues to fight for the salvation of his relationship. Yet as optimistic as he tries to be, there’s a melancholic resignation to it, a despair that bleeds through in his description of a rare bird:
“You see, once a male mates he falls silent,” Paul explains. “He spends all his time attending to his mate and her chicks. Eventually, mute and unneeded, he jumps from the tree and does not fly.”
Paul keeps trying to find a way out of the woods while Vernon grasps at any opportunity for adventure and delaying the return to reality. When it all comes to a head, they shout their truths into the endless night and fight it out like men are allegedly supposed to.
“You and Becca are bad people!” says Paul, while attempting to pummel his brother-in-law.
“Your wife stabbed you!” retorts Vernon.
It shouldn’t be a big reveal, but it is. Not the stabbing but the fact that even the secondary characters on You’re The Worst aren’t exactly bastions of morality. Paul and Vernon know they’re side characters in their own world and see themselves as the moral foibles to less savory people like Gretchen, Jimmy and Lindsay but they’re not. Paul’s loyalty enables Lindsay, and even Vernon’s dudebro persona can’t hide the fact that he hates his wife.
The show’s thesis is in its title, and there are no exceptions.
The episode climaxes when the boys do, by agreeing to run away to Mexico and then sealing the deal by masturbating into the fire. It’s tempting to the audience too, until you remember that both men have pregnant wives at home.
“She is killing my spirit,” Vernon says desperately as he attempts to justify his flight.
By no narrative stretch, the elusive seventh layer is … friendship. It’s whatever the individual cares about, and what’s getting Paul and Vernon through this test is their camaraderie.
Paul backs out of the Mexico escape at the thought of his unborn child, and it’s a trait Vernon is surprised to share. He stays with his brother-in-law and his family, hopefully for longer than the time being, perhaps in search of the eighth layer neither of them ever really knew: family.