Wednesday, March 2, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Connects with an Off-the-Grid Farmer to Avoid Dealing with Her Emotions in 'The Good Shepherd'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 2.09 "The Good Shepherd"

Liza pursues an author whose minimalist, off-the-grid manifesto appeals to her.

Last week's episode of Younger was wonderful because of its willingness to force Liza into dealing with the consequences of her lie. It has done a lot of good things for her life. But the consequences can be just as damaging. This season has done a pretty decent job in showcasing just how fragile this whole lie really is. She has built a new life for herself but it's not completely genuine because it is all based on this one lie. It does seem like the show is building up to an event that destroys the basic premise of the show. It shouldn't back away from that though. This episode does retreat from the success of last week's episode simply because it wants to get lost in relationships and romantic connections. It has almost no time for personal introspection. It instead makes way for easy jokes that aren't surrounded by consistent storytelling or build up to anything all that entertaining.

The destruction of Liza and Josh's relationship could provide an opportunity for Liza to analyze what her life has become and if it is all still worth it to her. Of course, the job is still good. So, she continues to keep up her lie. But it also ruined her relationship with a great and supportive guy. Plus, she can't even talk about it with her friends because that would threaten to unravel her lie as well. It's all a little too complicated and gets in the way of the story this episode wants to tell. But it's hard not to be distracted by the fact that Liza still hasn't told Kelsey and Lauren that she asked Josh not to mention her at all in his big article. In fact, they are still under the belief that she broke up with him because the fame got to his head and he selfishly chose not to mention her to the pretty reporter writing this article in the first place. That cover story is even maintained by the fact that Josh and the writer are later seen going to dinner together. Liza and the audience are suppose to infer that that means they are dating. But this episode doesn't even bother confirming or denying that fact. It's just too manipulative and distracting without getting to anything of real substance.

All of this is allowed to happen because this episode is more interested in Liza going on the rebound and finding a new guy instead of figuring out what happened with her relationship with Josh. That new guy comes in the form of Sebastian (Matthew Morrison from Glee), a man who escaped city life for the comfort of a farm upstate. Liza runs into him at a local farmer's market. They definitely have chemistry. But it's hard to take this dynamic all that seriously knowing that she is just coming out of a serious relationship. Those never really go well. In fact, it's really forceful on the show's part to have her get herself back out there so soon. Maggie justifies it by bringing up the fact that Liza didn't have sex for two years before she met Josh and she shouldn't let that happen again just because she is no longer with Josh. But that is such flimsy rationalization. But then again, the show enjoyed the conceit with Sebastian too much and incorporated it to the point that hurt characterizations elsewhere.

Liza is attracted to Sebastian because she is engaged by his story of completely changing his life around and the poetic way he has written it down. She spots a potentially best-selling book from this man. That's why she pursues him at first. It gives her purpose in her life again. She was wallowing in the apartment until Sebastian came into her life. After that, she was determined to make him into an author with a hit book at Empirical. And yet, so much of this story revolves around just how attractive Sebastian is. Morrison is a very good look man. But that characterization took away too much focus of this story. Sebastian has many interesting thoughts about what it takes to change one's life. That's an idea that Liza can really connect with. He could really be a nice voice for her to bounce ideas off of in the wake of her break up with Josh. And yet, it's simply a complicated dynamic between the two of them because of a sexual connection. The passion she sees in him and his writing is gone nearly instantly once he kisses her. It's a very hollow turning point in the story that lessons the effectiveness of the story. It's simply the second time someone on the show has slept with one of their authors. And here, it's even more annoying because of a pretty horrible resolution that makes a joke about bestiality. Younger is a show that would find that situation to be humorous. But here, it was a pretty lousy way to end this episode. It basically means the show enjoyed this conceit as time filler and nothing more. A way to fill story for an episode but not have it be all that meaningful to the overall narrative.

The show is just as confused when it comes to Kelsey's engagement to Thad in this episode. She showed a lot of personal growth in the previous episode when she decided to end things with him due to his lack of maturity. He apologized by proposing and she got swept up in the moment. Getting engaged meant she was on the perfect timeline with both her personal and professional life. And yet, Thad really is a horrible person. Sometimes she realizes that and sometimes she doesn't. It's frankly kind of frustrating. She's still putting up with a lot of his various antics. In this episode, that means she is largely frustrated about him taking a long time to confirm her request to make them engaged on social media. It's a plot without any kind of substance to it. It's just sorta there with no purpose whatsoever. It shows that the engagement hasn't changed anything. They still aren't communicating all that well with each other. They are just too happy to notice it. But that's not enough to build stakes in this story. It's meaningful that her entire group of friends don't think she should marry Thad - and force Liza to confront her about it. But that's a plot thread that gets tossed out the window quickly afterwards. It's replaced by a montage of people hitting "like" on their big engagement announcement online. A sequence that doesn't really have any meaning because of how scattered and unfocused this episode was.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Good Shepherd" was written by Darren Star and directed by Andrew Fleming.
  • So much attention was directed to Sebastian about how lonely living on a farm by himself must be that it's no surprise at all that the show just went there with that visual of potential bestiality. But it really did serve no purpose except to say that this story will never be relevant again.
  • A lot of time is also spent on how off-the-grid Sebastian is and how that's a fresh perspective in today's world. And yet, he can't be too far away because Liza takes multiple trips to his farm and it's no inconvenience whatsoever. That was a poor depiction of travel.
  • Everyone should be questioning Kelsey's willingness to be engaged to Thad. But it's still just a story the show is half-committed too. It's important that Kelsey's friends think Liza is the only person Kelsey will listen to. But that mostly plays as a plot contrivance. Lauren could be just as effective - and much more blunt - about it.
  • Liza and Josh awkwardly learn that both are now on Tinder in the wake of their breakup. It's a very brief story that goes nowhere. But it does show that both of them still have a willingness to talk and joke with each other via texting.
  • Liza just gets less and less professional with Sebastian the more time she spends with him. It gets to the point where a kiss is enough for her to forget to get him to sign the papers that brought her back to the farm in the first place. It was just a contrivance to set up that big reveal in the end.
  • As soon as Sebastian said he had a sheep named Stella, it seemed inevitable that someone would yell out "Stella!" before the episode was over. When it happened, it felt really odd and forced too.