Tuesday, June 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Fights for Her Relationship with Josh After He Learns Her Secret in 'The Old Ma'am and the C'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 1.12 "The Old Ma'am and the C"

Liza's lies come to a disastrous head on multiple fronts, threatening to ruin her professionally and romantically.

When Younger began its first season, it didn't feel like it had a comedic purpose. It created this circumstance where the 40-year-old, divorced Liza had to pose as a 26-year-old in order to get a job again. It was a premise that the audience just had to accept and not wonder why there wasn't more complications. The show distinguished itself by finding the humor in the clashing ideologies of the two generations. And yet, that approach never seemed like it had a whole lot of bite to it. It usually just came across as Liza and the other middle aged characters being awkward with technology and current terminology while the younger generation just seemed carefree with a sense of self-importance. Those simply didn't dig that far underneath the service of the concept. After a few episodes of that, Younger decided to become more focused on developing the hearts of its characters and their relationships with each other. Sure, neither Miriam Shor nor Debi Mazar had a whole lot to do this season. But they did help provide stories for the characters who were of actual importance. The bonds Liza has with Josh and Kelsey are the most important dynamics on the show. The finale's best emotional moments are centered around those two pairings. Because of the delicate work the show did over the course of its first wacky season, it earned this finale.

It has always been troublesome that Liza kept the truth about her age from Josh. It's one thing to do so in the work place. It's Liza doing what she thinks she has to do in order to get an edge and win that job. It's another thing entirely doing so in a relationship. It's a dynamic that has only gotten more intimate and personal as the season progressed. There is a genuine love between the two of them. And yet, it is all based around this lie. Josh believes he knows exactly who Liza is. She's the type of woman who is sane but does enjoy being surrounded by wacky friends. She's the girl who will freak out when a friend slips her molly during a hot-mitsvah but who still keeps that person as a friend. Liza is loyal and a good friend. She has a reasonable head on her shoulders which makes her seem wise in certain situations and naive in others. That is the Liza that Josh has come to know over the course of the first season. In reality though, Liza has had this whole other life. It's a life that he deserves to know if the audience is hoping for things to progress forward in their relationship.

The extent of the lies is the most hurtful part of telling Josh the truth. Liza has always wanted to be open and honest with him. She just never knew how to be which only made the situation worse the longer the relationship lasted and the more real the feelings became. Liza doesn't even tell him because she wants to. She does so because she is high on molly. That drug made her more reckless than usual. And now, Liza has to deal with the fallout. She doesn't know if Josh will ever want to see her again. It's a lot to take in. She does finally tell him the whole truth - her divorce, daughter and why she made up this whole lie. He is able to handle the reality of her life. But it's difficult to ask him to be okay with all the lying. Relationships are built on trust. The lack of trust and honesty is what doomed Liza's first marriage. One would think Liza would have been more sensitive to the issue. And yet, she wasn't. And now, she needs to deal with the fallout once more. She doesn't know if she'll continue to have a future with Josh. She loves him and her friends are willing to fight for the relationship for her. It's honorable that Josh doesn't expose Liza's secret when Kelsey and Lauren go searching for an explanation. That's the first step at showing that he cares about her despite all the lies.

Ultimately, it is Kelsey who provides the crucial advice on what Liza should do to win Josh back. She just needs to show him her genuine self. It's different than what he has always believed. But that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Sure, it may be painful. She is putting herself out there in a way that is incredibly vulnerable. It's hard for Josh to turn away after seeing all the effort that Liza does in trying to get him to accept the truth. He isn't aware of how many times she desperately wants to text him - but doesn't know what to say. And yet, the one message that does get through - a slideshow presentation of her entire life up until this point - is the exact thing that does the trick. Their relationship won't be what it was before. But now, there's the opportunity of it being much stronger because of the awareness of who Liza really is deep down. That's a very uplifting ending. Things may be in flux elsewhere in Liza's life. But right now, she wants to fight for Josh. She is exposed in a raw and emotional way that she never expected. They agree to coffee. It's the first step on mending this relationship.

The reveal of Liza's true age was always going to be a plot in the season finale. That's how the structure of the show was always going to be told. It's rewarding that it's Josh who learns about it. That's the most personal relationship to her right now. Neither Maggie nor her daughter need to rely on her anymore. Her life with Josh is what she is striving for. So it makes since that Josh is the one who learns the truth. It will be just as devastating when Kelsey becomes aware. Her friendship with Liza has really grown into something meaningful over the course of the first season. Kelsey has Liza's back no matter what. She respects the breakup but is still willing to try and fix it without knowing all the facts. Her advice is exactly what Liza needed to her. Kelsey may not know the truth lying under the surface but she is aware of what her friend needs. It may be painful but it will be rewarding in the long run. It should be interesting if she holds onto that opinion later when Liza's secret is outed. But right now, it works because of the emotions involved.

Elsewhere in the finale, Liza is also dealing with the threat of a competitor leveraging her big secret in order to get company secrets. It's not a bad story by any means. It's just not as personal as one should expect from a finale. It occurred to thematically link the upheavals happening in Liza's life right now. She could be exposed as a fraud on all fronts. And yet, that threat never entirely feels validated. Martha Plimpton is great as the competitor who desperately wants the info for the Ellen book deal while still throwing shade at the outrageous life Liza has been living. However, she never felt like a real concern to the basic structure of the show. It always felt like Liza would come up with some solution to be loyal to the company and to herself. In the end, that's one happened. She created a situation of mutually assured destruction. That moment does add some interesting character emotions to the mix of the finale. It creates a scenario where Liza is being reckless just like a 26 year old. It's a quality that she knows won't be able to last. She is under constant threat of people discovering her secret. She could be exposed as a fraud at any possible moment. But right now, she's having fun reliving her twenties. This is the most excitement she has had in years. Sure, it may all come from one big artificial contrivance. One that isn't destined to last. And yet, Liza is enjoying her life again. That's empowering to her more than anything else she has experienced lately. That happiness far outweighs the risk. Her future may be uncertain but she is powerful in the moment. Getting to that character development has made the whole season worth it. And now, Younger can move forward with its second season more aware of how it can tell a satisfying story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Old Ma'am and the C" was written by Darren Star and directed by Tricia Brock.
  • Maggie may be useless to Liza in the beginning because she is still riding that high from the molly but she sure was fun listening to that music that was only playing in her head.
  • Lauren was a very grating character when the show started. And yet, the season found a way to make her wacky presence feel like a genuine part of the show. She's a character the show can't overuse. But now, she is fun to have around.
  • Josh didn't tell Liza's secret to Kelsey and Lauren but he did tell his roommates which could become troublesome in the future - granted, of course, if they ever stop playing video games and leave that apartment. 
  • Liza's daughter is also returning home from her study abroad program. Liza was able to get away with this massive life change because she didn't have to focus on being a parent all the time. It should be interested to see how things will change once that character is back in the mix on a more permanent basis.