In trying to think more about others, the characters were often paradoxically forced to focus more on themselves. This season, they all learned about that more enlightened form of selfishness known as “self care,” and recognized that putting yourself first can also help those around you. Hence, Gretchen and her therapy-related efforts to practice “mindfulness” in her daily life. Jimmy and his attempts to “find himself” in the latter half of the season by opening himself up to new experiences. Edgar working to get the VA to help him with mental-health treatment, partly because of the toll it was taking on his actress girlfriend, Dorothy. And Lindsay openly communicating with her husband about her sexual needs to preserve their relationship.
Even Edgar, the only main character who couldn’t be credibly labeled “the worst,” was forced to reflect and grow. Though he’d long functioned as the show’s main avatar for generosity, in the later episodes, especially after getting his PTSD under control, Edgar had to confront his own ability to indirectly hurt others. The main conflict between him and Dorothy in recent weeks was how he instantly landed a comedy-writing job, while Dorothy had been repeatedly overlooked despite working for years in a sexist and ageist industry. When Edgar tells her he had considered quitting the job for her, Dorothy—rightly—points out that he pities her, and that pity isn’t the same as love. After they break up, Edgar confides in Lindsay, “I think once she said [she wanted to end things], part of me wanted her to go. She was kinda bumming me out. How horrible is that of me?”
But the hard lesson of this third season was that neither selflessness, nor selfishness has entirely good consequences, because it’s impossible to fully disentangle one person’s well-being from that of another. Before, when the characters focused solely on themselves, the interpersonal fallout was expected, a natural consequence of their lifestyles. But by stepping up the moral stakes of the story and the moral capacity of its characters, You’re the Worst moved into more complex territory, one filled with contradictions, spurned good intentions, and a more informed skepticism of traditional bonds between people, including marriage and family.
In addition to self-improvement, the notion of “family” was a focal point of season three. Both Jimmy and Gretchen realize for the first time how their families played a role in screwing them up and making them so self-centered. Lindsay, too, fears striking out on her own, because she wants to be part of a family (a word she dreamily repeats to herself in most episodes). Eventually, Jimmy declares that he is “post-family,” claiming that, “Family is portrayed as a safe harbor, but nay: It is often the very Charybdis that yanks us to the fathoms.” That sentiment leads to the disastrous final act, where Gretchen calling them a “family” is enough to scare him away. Perhaps, to him, family is just another kind of societal trap, one that obscures how people relate to and care for one other. The concept is antithetical, in some ways, to what all the characters are trying to do: to give and take, to be selfish and selfless, but out of desire, not duty.