Wednesday, September 28, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza and Charles Need to Discuss Their Kiss While Diana Lets Loose in 'A Kiss Is Just a Kiss'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 3.01 "A Kiss is Just a Kiss"

Liza sends Caitlin off to college and struggles to weigh her feelings for both Josh and Charles.

The second season of Younger ended not with Liza being exposed as a fraud like I wanted the show to do but instead on propping up a romantic cliffhanger of its core love triangle. This show has one of the best, most nuanced love triangles out there right now. It's easy to understand why someone would root for her to be with either Josh or Charles. The case can be made for both of them being romantic prospects for her. And yet, that's just one part of the show. The central lie is way more important. And now, in its third season, Younger no longer needs to rely on it as much as it used to. The lie can't be the only thing the narrative derives stakes from. The characters have all grown and their relationships to one another have deepened. The people in charge of Empirical fought to get Liza back. So, it seems silly that she's still keeping up this facade. These people care about her. The show believes it will be even more devastating now when they find out the truth. That's not necessarily true at all. But it's the approach the show is committed to for right now. So, that means it produces even more angst that is then complicated by Liza's age.

All it takes is the right people who know Liza as a 40-year-old divorced mother of a college student running into someone from her life as a 20-something assistant. Liza has had many close encounters. And yet, her secret is still safe. Thad was killed before he can tell the world the truth. That was a turn for the dark that was a sudden shift in tone for the show. This premiere is largely able to move past that and return to being a fun and campy romp. It's really good at that. So instead of attending funerals, Liza is sending her daughter off to college, trying to pick between her two suitors and helping Kelsey and Diana when they need it the most. First and foremost, Liza is a good friend. She has her priorities straight. The show knows that the love triangle helps create conflict that is engaging throughout the narrative. But it also makes it clear here that Liza cares more about Caitlin, her friends and her job than her silly love life. It's unclear if that's true or not. It's certainly not the order the show would prioritize things. Caitlin would be much lower considering she's still not much of a character at all. But that's hardly the point. Liza has a choice to make that will determine what her immediate future looks like.

Liza is attracted to both Josh and Charles. Maggie doesn't totally get it. She sees Josh as a changed man. He now wants to be a part of Liza's life despite all of their problems and the lies. He didn't think he could be a dishonest person for Liza. That caused a lot of issues in their relationship last season. They've already tried to make things work. They have a hot sexual connection. There's no problem there. But that can't be the only thing a relationship is about. Liza cares about other things too. She's attracted to Charles' wisdom and interests as well. She knows it's not just a crush in her head either. He kissed her in order to bring her back to Empirical. But again, the lie is the central problem of this relationship. Charles believes Liza is a 26-year-old working as an assistant. He likes that she has an old soul. He doesn't know that's because she's actually 40. Instead, he's just the latest case of a boss falling in love with a younger woman. Liza isn't his assistant but it is a potential sexual harassment lawsuit just waiting to happen. That's what Maggie jokes Liza should do. It could be very lucrative for her. But it's much more exciting to Liza to see if there is something between her and Charles. The chemistry is there. They've shared many wise conversations with each other. He comes with his own baggage - including his own divorce and kids. But he still could be the appropriate option for her.

Once again though, the choice is made for Liza. Charles invites her out to drinks so they can really talk things through. Their dynamic has gotten very awkward at work because they don't know what to do around each other now. Things need to be said between them. Liza is willing to blow off Josh in order to explore this new romance. She doesn't care about his new commitment to her. Caitlin has finally come around on him - for no other reason than he helps her with her suitcase for college. But that's not really important at all throughout this premiere. Instead, it's much more about Liza trying to figure things out with Charles. It's exciting, new and different for her. She wants to explore that with him. And yet, she can't. When she arrives at the bar, she spots him talking to the parents of a fellow college student she met earlier in the day. The father, Bob, also happens to be Charles' lawyer. Charles knows his daughter. So this is a whole new potential complication that could expose Liza's lie. She didn't even know about it. She wanted to send her daughter off to college as a mother filled with joy. Instead, it only creates a new worry for her. But more importantly, the lie keeps her from finding happiness with Charles. She blows him off. She offers no explanation. So, this romance is officially dead. He thinks she wants nothing to do with him while she believes she can't be with him no matter how much she wants to.

Liza isn't able to properly explore these feelings though. She is quickly called to help Kelsey and Diana when they get too drunk at a bar. This premiere is a fantastic episode for Miriam Shor. This is the most fun Diana has ever had onscreen. Most of the time, she's too uptight and awkward to the rest of the world. She tries so hard. And yet, she has very little to actually show for it. Sure, she has an amazing wardrobe and a sweet apartment. But she is all alone in this world with nothing to show for it but her work. She needs to let loose at Marie's Crisis. She invites Kelsey just because she thinks Kelsey is like her a little bit. Kelsey is throwing herself into work in order to cope with her mixed emotions about Thad's death. She doesn't want to be just like Diana. She fears she is though. She sees what Diana's life actually entails. It's a failed marriage and nights spent singing show tunes at a gay bar. It's absolutely fantastic to watch the two of them perform "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins. But it's just as insightful to see what happens afterwards. Diana has clearly lived a life full of regrets. She wants to let go of some of the possessions in her life. It just takes getting drunk in order to do so. She throws her wedding dress out of a window. That's an extreme moment that shows just how deeply broken Diana really is.

This premiere really is all about the characters figuring out what their priorities are and kissing the things they don't need anymore goodbye. It's a concept orchestrated by the latest author at Empirical, Kiko. She should be taken seriously in this regard because she got Oprah to give up bread. That's impressive. But it's much more difficult for the characters to give up what they love so much. Liza doesn't want to throw both Josh and Charles out of her life. Romance is still important to her. She's still rediscovering herself. And yet, Charles has no problem kissing this potential romance goodbye. When Liza doesn't show up, it's all the sign he needs that nothing more is going to happen between the two. That seems unlikely. The show still has a whole season to add complications to their dynamic. But right now, Liza's friends are the priority. She is there for Kelsey when she finally admits that she was only marrying Thad because everyone didn't think she would or should. She was trying to prove the world wrong. His death has lifted that pressure from her. It's also cathartic for her to admit this out loud. This could be a huge season of growth for Kelsey. Her bond with Liza is so strong. But it would be so great if it got even better.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Kiss is Just a Kiss" was written by Darren Star and directed by Steve Tsuchida.
  • Liza didn't tell Maggie about getting back together with Josh and his newfound commitment to her or her kiss with Charles. She's her best friend. She always tells her everything. And yet, she clearly forget to share these important and life-changing moments.
  • The show has had an odd sense of humor at times. That explains the scene where Kelsey whispers her secret to a horse named Mike who then releases after he hears it. That was such a weird moment.
  • Julia seems really supportive of Charles dating someone new. But that quickly changes as soon as she learns that she's a younger woman who works as an assistant.
  • Chad still hasn't had any luck in getting into Thad's computer. That was a big tease in the finale that could finally expose Liza's secret. And now, it's clearly something the show wants the audience to remember.
  • How would Kelsey and Lauren know that Thad has thirty new friend requests on Facebook if they can't get into his account?
  • Kelsey: "Diana, what is this place?" Diana: "Marie's Crisis. I come here whenever I'm having one because you can't be sad when you're surrounded by a mob of gay men singing show tunes."
  • Diana to Kelsey: "Wine is for fat people."