Wednesday, March 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Ponders What Her Life Has Become in the Wake of a Tragedy in 'No Weddings & a Funeral'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 2.12 "No Weddings & a Funeral"

When tragedy strikes, Liza wonders if it's time to say goodbye to her 26-year-old life forever.

The second season of Younger has had its ups and downs. It's sense of comedic hijinks can be very hit or miss. That same feeling is present in this season finale as well. "No Weddings & a Funeral" does a number of things very well in the aftermath of Thad's shocking and brutal death. And yet, it also does some very weird things in the end that don't really work so well. This entire season has been building to Liza needing to make a decision regarding her big lie. She has been faced with even more professional responsibility and success at work. But she has also had to deal with the consequences of what maintaining this lie means for her personal relationships. This finale does produce a big moment that is centered around the lie. It shows just how valuable and real this whole experience is for Liza. And all of that comes with Liza not letting anyone new in on the secret.

That's certainly a curious decision to make in this finale following a season that was building up to a massive change. The show easily could have blown apart its entire premise and try to forge a new identity in Season 3. That reality seemed very possible. Liza has had to deal with the repercussions of her actions. And now, her need to keep this secret has inadvertently gotten Thad killed. She didn't like the guy. But he didn't deserve to die. She was fine with him outing her secret to Kelsey so long as Kelsey could find happiness away from Thad, who was cheating on her with his assistant. Thad's death was surprising. It could be seen as the kind of great lengths this show will go to in order to keep Liza's lie a secret for as long as possible. It's nice for the premise to be threatened. But the show doesn't really want to follow through with that action yet. It's still committed to the central premise. Honestly, it would be good if the story started to evolve more. So, it's disappointing that it doesn't here.

But Liza's secret is still something she struggles with immensely. The weight of Thad's death makes her want to tell Kelsey the truth. Once again, Maggie keeps her from doing so by pointing out how everyone is still in grief over the death. Of course, the show still finds a way to keep Dan Amboyer around by introducing Thad's previously unheard of twin brother, Chad. That's a joke that doesn't really work as well as the show thinks it does. It's amusing because Chad and Thad are polar opposites. But it's just weird seeing him interacting with Kelsey and Liza in a way that gets very awkward and sexual very quickly. But nevertheless, Chad's appearance forces some urgency in this story. Liza needs to be more open about what happened during Thad's final moments of life. So, she shares the details of his affair and not her own secret.

Kelsey's reaction to this news is very peculiar. She's had a very weird mourning period. She should be devastated that her fiancé was killed in this freak construction accident. And yet, she can't shed any tears. Deep down, she knew that he wasn't the greatest guy. She just stayed with him in order to keep her perfect life on track. But she is still furious because of just how random and violent this accident was. She can't put up with all of the fake stuff that the world wants to profit off of. She destroys a book pitch that Diana was really excited about simply because she wanted to get back to work as soon as possible. That's not a good idea at all. First, she pushes the book away. And then, she does the same to Liza. Part of that reaction to learning the truth about Thad's affair felt forced in order to push Liza away from her new life for a little while. It did seem a little uncharacteristic. And yet, it's also somewhat understandable because Kelsey's not in a great headspace right now. She's lashing out irrationally. Plus, she takes these words back immediately once she learns that Liza has left Empirical.

Liza decides to leave because she can't live this lie anymore. She has lost too much because of it and just needs to escape this world that she has created for herself. Of course, the reality she runs away to isn't real either. In fact, this exit shows just how real and meaningful the life she made at Empirical really was. Everyone there is devastated by Liza leaving so abruptly. It gets Kelsey to realize just how much she values that friendship. Diana sees that Liza was actually a really good assistant. And lastly, Charles accepts how much he wants Liza in his life. All three of them are willing to fight to get her back. They work to find out where she has accepted another job. Of course, it's weird that all of them are looking for her while she's still living in the same apartment with Maggie. But that's besides the point. All of them want Liza back in their lives. They've come to value her for everything that she has done for them. This is the life she should be living. It's still being propped up by this big lie. But it's actually meaningful to her - much more so than the retail job she gets at a New Jersey mall.

It's great to see everyone rally to get Liza back at Empirical. It shows that the foundation of the show can still be meaningful and built on relationships with trust despite the central premise. But Liza returning to the world she created for herself then spins off into her facing a choice with her love life. The love triangle between her, Josh and Charles has always been present. But it's weird that this finale builds to a cliffhanger with her needing to choose between the two as they both confess their feelings to her. First of all, it completely undercuts all of Josh's previous concerns about their relationship. He remains a character solely defined by his sexual relationship with Liza. After they broke up a few episodes ago, he wasn't a necessary character at all. He reappears here in order to have mourning sex with Liza. That reawakens his desire to be with her. But it still initially appears as a relationship built on sex. Meanwhile, Charles is the one who actually goes to New Jersey in order to get Liza back. He takes that moment - where she is not technically his employee - in order to finally kiss her. It gives her a lot to think about regarding her return to Empirical. She does return but that comes with the knowledge that her dynamic with Charles will be changed. It's something she's going to have to address in the future. She doesn't here. Instead, the finale ends on a very lackluster note of the two guys both wanting to be with her. It's just a weird note to end on - especially after the terrific moment of Liza choosing to embrace her new life because of the real connections she has formed at Empirical. It doesn't change anything going into the next season. Liza will still be navigating her way through awkward and romantic situations while working her dream job as a pretend 26-year-old. But this finale does showcase just how meaningful that can really be.

Some more thoughts:
  • "No Weddings & a Funeral" was written by Darren Star and directed by Peter Lauer.
  • During the funeral, Maggie notes that Liza has only been working at Empirical for a few months now. How much time has passed over these two seasons? The show seems to be suggesting not a lot despite the deep bonds between the characters.
  • Chad keeps bringing up Thad's computer and trying to get into it in order to learn more about his brother. And yet, that's a plot that is dropped off completely halfway through the episode. Will it continue to be a dangling threat next season? Or just disappear completely?
  • Becky, Diana's new assistant once Liza leaves, really was terrible. Though that was probably just to show how great a job Liza was actually doing for Diana despite being distracted by a million other things.
  • Liza's old friend, Michelle, is the one who gets her the job at the New Jersey mall - simply because she's a valued customer and wants a discount when she shops there. She's still heavily pushing for Liza to find an age appropriate love interest. So, she probably approves of Charles - even though she might be angry to learn that Liza quickly left this job to go back to New York.
  • The only reason Kelsey, Charles and Diana find Liza at the mall is because Denise secretly shops there and is unable to keep it a secret from Kelsey.
  • I'm guessing Liza is going to once again try to make things work with Josh. But it would be refreshing to see her try something different with Charles. But again, it would be a relationship that couldn't go very deep because she was lying about her age. Or it could be great to see her single for an extended amount of time.
  • Also, why doesn't Liza just come clean with everyone at Empirical now? She sees how much they want her back. Her being truthful about herself shouldn't change the way they all feel about her. And yet, that doesn't happen in order to keep the narrative filled with secrets and lies for one more year at least.