Wednesday, January 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Struggles Moving Forward in Her Relationship with Josh in 'Tattoo You' & 'The Mao Function'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 2.01 "Tattoo You" & 2.02 "The Mao Function"

Liza tries to sort out her relationship with Josh as her daughter Caitlin returns from school. Liza questions Josh's interest in her. Another publisher courts Kelsey.

Younger was one of the most pleasant surprises of last year. It got off to a really clunky start but managed to find its way into its own groove. It's a light and breezy comedy that gets off by the amount of simple comedic setups it does in each episode. It's not ground-breaking or reinventing the formula. But it is still a pleasant experience - mostly because of the immense charm of the very talented cast. The first season was all about Liza forming a connection to this new world she has created for herself. Complications from her old life did pop up on occasion - such as her ex-husband, her former housewife friends, that colleague who tried blackmailing her, etc. But mostly it was a season about establishing the dynamics of this life. It showcased just how meaningful this experience really is to Liza. She formed these strong bonds with so many new friends. It's the happiest she has felt in a long time. This season gets off to a decent start by forcing even more complications of the truth and her old life into the narrative. The show doesn't always know what to do with those complications. But these episodes show a willingness to expand on the formula that worked last season - which is a step in the right direction.

The biggest change to the narrative is the fact that Josh finally knows that Liza is actually 40. It was always bothersome last season that she lied in this relationship as well as at her new job. It seemed a tad unnecessary and simply a way to fully immense herself into this lie. The more powerful the feelings became in that relationship made it more and more devastating for when she finally did tell him the truth. It was a reveal that needed to happen. If Liza wants to have an honest and genuine relationship with Josh, she needs to be open with him. He has come to accept that she is 14 years older than what he thought she was. He's still willing to date her. And yet, it's a little annoying in these first two episodes that Liza worries that any minor detail will cause the two of them to break up.

So much of the Liza-Josh dynamic in these first two episodes of the season is driven by miscommunications. Liza wants to put words into Josh's mouth. She wants to believe that this isn't something that he wants - even though that's not true at all. It is complicated now that he knows the truth. That makes Liza a bit more nervous. But she really needs to relax into this dynamic again so that the two can actually build something that's real. The story that features Liza thinking Josh has broken up with her through a text was particularly awkward. She jumps to irrational conclusions based on one text. It's not how a regular person would react. It could simply just mean he can't make this date work. Liza instead jumps to the conclusion that he's ending things. She's very on edge and anything can set her off. But that largely amounts to Josh having to consistently tell her that he is still committed to making things work between them. That doesn't mean this relationship isn't without its problems. Josh has no idea how to react when he has to start lying to Liza's friends as well. That's not something he's equipped to handle right now. But this relationship is still strong. Liza's asking a lot from him and he's mostly risen to the occasion.

Liza's daughter, Caitlin, has also returned from India. Liza was able to build this whole new life for herself without worrying about the concerns of being a mother because her daughter was largely out of the picture. But now, she has returned and Liza needs to be more aware of her. Caitlin has seen her mother one way for her entire life. This is such a massive change. She has experienced the world a little bit but she's still just a teenager who doesn't know how to make sense of change. Caitlin should know that Liza has gotten a job and is dating a new guy. If she doesn't learn about the whole age lie, she should at least know those details. And yet, the show withholds those details simply to create scandalous moments. Through another series of miscommunications, Caitlin gets a tattoo from Josh, Liza storms out only for the two of them to make up and Caitlin to notice the two of them kissing. It's never properly explained why Caitlin has such a big problem with Liza dating Josh. To her, it's just a gross image that she can't get out of her head. After that, she runs to be with her father. But is it gross because of the age difference or because Caitlin doesn't want to see her mother with anyone but her father? It's needlessly complicated and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It simply states that Caitlin will remain a part of this world but won't have much more of an impact than she did last season. That's a really lame way for the show to deal with this conflict.

Moreover, Josh insists that Liza tell Kelsey the truth because it's so hard for him to lie to everyone. Again, that's another smart thing to do. At first, Liza was easily able to lie to Kelsey. She needed this job and was willing to conceal herself just in order to get it. But she has formed such a strong bond with Kelsey. She relies on her for advice. She's her very best friend at the office. And yet, Kelsey still believes she and Liza are the same age. That creates a wall between the two that keeps the friendship from being completely genuine. Liza doesn't want to get caught in this lie and lose this incredible job - though she's still just an assistant to Diana. If there was enough trust in this relationship, Liza could tell Kelsey the truth and not worry that she'll turn her into Charles - who Liza already has an awkward and somewhat flirtatious relationship with. But Liza is very nervous about everything right now. She doesn't want to upset a good thing. She wants to tell Kelsey the truth. Liza is the reason why Charles is able to give Kelsey her own imprint at the publication. It's a huge deal after she has worked so hard for this company and not always gotten the respect she deserves. It's a huge celebratory time for Kelsey. Liza doesn't want to ruin that with this life-changing secret. So, she commits to the lie. That's only going to further complicate her life and make it that much more difficult to tell Kelsey the truth. Additionally, this could be the thing that actually ruins her relationship with Josh. He's the one who gave her this push and she backed away. He can't lie forever which may be the way this happiness ends for them.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tattoo You" was written by Darren Star and directed by Steven Tsuchida.
  • "The Mao Function" was written by Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Eric Zicklin and directed by Steven Tsuchida.
  • The Bobby Flay cameo was a little unnecessary. But it did a great job of showing just how aggressive Diana is in getting Charles to see her in a romantic way - and how none of those actions actually get rewarded. It's quite amusing watching as he flirts with the dentist. But Diana gets the last laugh by not letting that flirtation continue. Though that may not be the last we see of the dentist.
  • Even Kelsey and Lauren have gotten tired of the on-again/off-again nature of Liza and Josh's relationship. They want more details so that they can better understand what's actually going on. Details that Liza and Josh can't give them. Instead, the excuse is Liza was allergic to Josh's cat and then he died by accidentally getting into bleach.
  • Lauren and Maggie's relationship has also heated up considerably. Maggie even brings Lauren back to the apartment. Liza worries that there may be clues of her age lying around but Maggie doesn't take those concerns all that seriously. Maybe she should considering how much Lauren pressed Josh for answers about Liza earlier.
  • The trivia night scene was a bit too awkward and misplaced. It was solely focused in showing just how vast the generational divide between Liza and Josh really is. It was completely unnecessary.
  • Will Kelsey giving story ideas to the sick lit author who left Empirical have any further complications? Or was that simply a way for Kelsey to get this promotion?
  • Kelsey has also offered Liza a position on her new team which means she may finally stop working for Diana. That could be an interesting setup this season.