From Edgar’s post-traumatic stress disorder to Gretchen’s clinical depression, You’re The Worst has never been afraid to tackle dark, challenging topics. It’s unsurprising, then, that it handles unhealthy mother-daughter relationships in a similarly unflinching way. Gretchen’s relationship with her mom has been documented throughout the show, but her story has been primarily focused on how her toxic upbringing has affected the woman she is today. That’s still a present part of her, but after five seasons of slow, painstaking growth, it seems Gretchen is finally accepting she can be happy in spite of, not because of, her mother.
When viewers were first introduced to Gretchen’s parents in Season 1, she and Jimmy were newly dating, and Gretchen didn’t want him to meet her parents because they are notoriously hard to please. She’s also decidedly not herself around them. She wears tennis whites and doesn’t drink — a far cry from the edgy, hard-partying renegade we’ve come to know her as.
Gretchen hasn’t mentioned her mother much since then, but her presence is felt in the Jan. 23 episode. Confronted with the idea of having to tell her mom about her and Jimmy’s upcoming wedding, she recalls the emotional abuse she endured at her mother’s hand: withholding food, constant ridicule, going to that “place for bad girls” that was under the staircase in the family home. It was this constant feeling of not being good enough that made Gretchen settle for less than she deserved, and only after finding the right therapist, breaking up with Boone, and getting back together with Jimmy was Gretchen able to pinpoint how her upbringing had affected her adult relationships.
Now, it’s still affecting her — she goes on an episode-long bender at the thought of calling her mom — but after she does finally talk to her, she seems lighter. Her mom is (astoundingly) nothing but happy for her and Jimmy, but it also feels as though Gretchen is starting to let go of her mother’s hold on her. She’s ready to be a little more open with her mom about her life (she tells her she’s getting married, but to Boone), and OK with the possibility that she might not respect or agree with her choices.
Her story works in tandem with Lindsay’s, whose childhood was just as damaging, but very different. Her mother was negligent, running from man to man and abandoning her daughters in the process. She also placed a high value on beauty, making Lindsay feel as if her personal worth was based entirely on outward appearances. Because of this, Lindsay thought that finding a husband, any husband, would mean that she would be cared for and adored forever — which is ultimately what led her to marry Paul, a man she didn’t love.
In Season 4, Lindsay and her sister, Becca, confronted their mother, but she didn’t have much in the way of apology. This helped Lindsay realize that her mother was never going to change her perspective, but she could change her own — and Gretchen seems to be doing the same now.
As it stands, Lindsay is still flighty and silly just as Gretchen is still acerbic and self-destructive, but both women are beginning to forge their own paths, not the ones impressed upon them by their mothers. Lindsay has split from Paul and is holding down a stylist job she loves, while Gretchen has accepted Jimmy’s proposal and set a real, official wedding date. They both know enough to keep their mothers at arm’s length, because if their moms can’t be happy for them, it may be necessary to shut them out. And when they do decide to let them in, they’re learning to let it affect them less.
That being said, Gretchen, too, will likely have to confront the problem directly: Rebecca Tilney, who plays her mother, is listed as appearing in the final two episodes of Season 5. But it seems like this time, she’ll have the tool box to deal with it in a healthy way — by Gretchen’s standards, anyway.