Wednesday, March 16, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Blackmailing Thad Has Some Major and Surprising Complications in 'Secrets & Liza'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 2.11 "Secrets & Liza"

Empirical rolls out the red carpet for its biggest author as Liza tries to coerce Thad into telling Kelsey the truth.

All season long, Younger has been analyzing whether or not its central premise is still a good thing for Liza. She lied about her age in order to find a job following her divorce. But now, the lie has become incredibly toxic. She has formed many meaningful relationships. And yet, the lie is still keeping her from forming a genuine connection with anyone. She can only talk to Maggie about how difficult this life has been. Plus, the season has added a ton of pressure to her life. It's been more precarious than ever before. As the season heads into its season finale next week, it pushes things to a really dark place likely to make way for a massive change.

All of the lies have started to add up for Liza. She hasn't been able to be her real self for a long time. She has enjoyed this new reality she has created for herself. But it's also a world that ruined her relationship with Josh and made her incapable of connecting with Kelsey in a time when she really needs it. It's hypocritical of her to blackmail Thad for lying to Kelsey when she has been doing the exact same thing. Earlier in this season, the thought of her secret being exposed would be enough for her to do anything. That's where she was by the end of last season. But now, she has lost so much because she hasn't been open with her life. Her daughter does return in this episode wanting to live with her. That's a surprise that really isn't given much of an explanation. It serves as a complication and plot device to bring two unexpected people together to put the pieces together.

And yet, Liza is at a place in her life right now where she wants to be more open with the important people around her. At the beginning of the season, she convinced herself that she didn't need to tell her daughter about what she has been doing at work. That ultimately pushed her away for pretty trivial reasons. But following last week's episode, she is starting to have a good relationship with Caitlin again. And now, she wants to let her in on the secret so that she can see just how much her life has changed lately. She no longer wants to be hiding this from her. She cares about her. Caitlin may think that her mother has gone crazy. That's certainly what other people have thought when they've learned the truth. But Liza is never given the chance to tell Caitlin the truth. It's a little awkward too. She gets busy with work. And yet, she keeps making plans to tell Caitlin the truth but a reason is never given as to why it doesn't happen. It ultimately just builds until Caitlin finds her mother in Times Square in a fantasy costume. And that's what she believes her mother has been doing in order to pay for her college tuition. It's a sweet gesture that convinces Caitlin that she needs to make the most of her time in school. But it still just kicks the ball further into the future to be dealt with at a later time.

Eventually though, the truth is going to catch up to Liza. That's what the season has been saying all along. This lie has brought her happiness for this moment in time. But it's not sustainable forever. All that it takes is two people from her separate worlds to meet and talk about how they know Liza. That happens in this episode too. Due to a series of events, Thad winds up in front of Liza and Maggie's apartment and bumps into Caitlin who mentions that Liza is her mother. She doesn't know any better because she hasn't been let in on the secret. But it's a life-changing reveal to Thad. Now, he has the leverage to get Liza to back down on her blackmail because she is lying to Kelsey just as much as he is. It continues to confirm that he is a horrible person who doesn't deserve to be with Kelsey. She is still blind to that reality. Liza is doing her best to break up this wedding. But she's also keeping Thad's secret to herself. She's shared it with Maggie who really isn't in a position to do something about it. If Liza had told Lauren about Thad's affair, maybe the two of them would have done something more quickly about it.

But Liza did keep it to herself. She got too distracted by the demands of her job to do anything about it. There's a good enough reason for that too. Empirical's biggest author - who keeps the entire business afloat - is ready to drop the final book in his big fantasy series. The show isn't even trying to hide the fact that this author and his novel series are a stand-in for George R.R. Martin and Game of Thrones. Of course, the show's version of Martin, who goes by Edward L.L. Moore, is probably a much different person than the man he is based on. Its the show once again delving into a situation by making things very sexual. Moore promises to tell anyone the ending of the books if he can later "eat them." It's very awkward. And yet, Charles and Diana let him get away with it because he is the most successful author they have. It shows that powerful men really can get away with anything as long as they continue to be successful. This latest book is no different. It quickly hits the top of the charts on Amazon.

It's still a very awkward experience for Liza though. She is standing in Times Square in a very skimpy costume because she happens to be the person Moore saw as the character in his head. She has to put up with his multiple advances because she needs to be at this event in order to sell the books. And yet, Charles swoops in the first second he can to save her from this embarrassing moment. In fact, that leads to a wonderful scene between the two of them. Liza and Charles have always had a fantastic dynamic that the show hasn't always known what to do with. It's still just a lot of playful teasing here as well. But the conversation they have here is sure to swing some people over to Team Charles regarding Liza's love life. The pressures of this job have been getting to him and he's worried about the future. He may have to start over if this book doesn't do well. Fortunately, he doesn't. But Liza is still there for him and is intrigued by what he is feeling in this moment. She genuinely wants to know what he would do differently if he had to start over. Of course, she never gets an answer because her own secret comes back to haunt her.

So, Thad knows the truth about Liza. He wants to leverage it against her in order to keep things as the status quo without hurting Kelsey. But he doesn't count on Liza being so over having to lie to everyone. She no longer cares about this threat as much as she once did. Part of that probably came from her breakup with Josh. This secret hasn't been the best thing for her as of late. She cares too much about Kelsey to let her own secret keep her from telling her the truth about Thad. She doesn't care what happens to her. She just wants Kelsey to be happy. As she walks away though, the show features a very dark and unexpected twist. A piece of construction breaks off and falls down right on top of Thad. It's a horrifying sight that suggests that he has been killed. It's a startling moment to end on and will lead to some grim prospects for the season finale. More importantly though, Liza's secret has now gotten someone killed. That's something that the show can never undo. She could continue living her life as a 26-year-old because no one is threatening to reveal her secret. But the guilt of this moment could be enough to get her to change and embrace being honest for once. It's a great setup for the finale which should be filled with some major complications in the aftermath of Thad's death.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Secrets & Liza" was written by Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Eric Zicklin and directed by Peter Lauer.
  • For an episode that spends a lot of time talking about Kelsey, she's only in very little of it. Liza and Thad are battling it out for Kelsey's future and Kelsey just isn't present to be an added complication to the story.
  • The show did foreshadow a little bit that surprising death via fallen construction. A number of characters went outside and had to work through the construction sites. That was intentional but it only became clear following the conclusion.
  • Caitlin only decides to follow Liza to work because Maggie gets the bright idea to tease her with "everyone your mother does is for you." Liza's cover is still intact. But honestly, how important is that following Thad's death?
  • Ice T and Diane Rehm put in cameo appearances as celebrity fans of Moore's fantasy book series. A surprising amount of time is spent on Rehm too while Ice T is a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo.