Wednesday, October 12, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Makes a Foolish Error in Trying to Save a Bookstore in 'Last Days of Books'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 3.03 "Last Days of Books"

Liza rallies the Empirical team to save her hometown bookstore from closure. Kelsey dips her toe back into the dating world.

Liza has found comfort in her new life as a 26-year-old because she was running away from what her life was in New Jersey. She wasted all of those years in a terrible marriage. She wasn't doing anything for herself. Yes, she had Caitlin but that was about it. It's been easy for her to build this new life in New York because there wasn't anything immediately calling her back to the world she came from. And yet, it is possible for her to have happy memories of her past as well. There have been some appearances of her friends from her previous life. They've played a role in stories before. They've just been in plots that risk exposing her secret. It's a formulaic storytelling device that has gotten really annoying and lackluster this season. "Last Days of Books" works because it presents a world where Liza can look back fondly on her hometown and all the good memories she has of the place. Yes, she can be excited about the happiness in her life now. But the appreciation of the past is also wonderful to see here. It works for a character beat. And yet, it's trapped in a pretty horrific main story.

So, the bookstore from Liza's hometown is closing. It's a sad day for her and her group of friends. They are able to reminisce about all the good times they had together in this place. It was a part of their childhoods. It's the reason why Liza fell in love with books in the first place. This was a comforting and stable thing in their lives. It brought them joy and happiness as well as a location to gossip about their husbands. They've enjoyed a lot of good times here. And now, it's being forced to close. The revenue stream isn't as great as it once was. Everyone is moving to digital and relying on bookstores less and less. It's a real issue in the world of 2016. A place like this is a bit of a relic. It takes a miracle for it to survive. A miracle that Liza tries to orchestrate. But that only further inflicts tension and panic in her. It's a rather stupid move on her part to bring her co-workers into this story. It's a threat to her secret that she knowingly accepts but then plays for shock when she learns she'll need to be there with them later on. It's very weird and pulls the viewer out of the story.

Bryce's investment in Empirical isn't as great as everyone expected. He comes in with lots of opinions out everything. His inclusion in the narrative this season only further props up the generational divide amongst the characters. That has always been a part of this story. Liza is a 40-year-old woman trying to be a 26-year-old assistant. She's learning about youth culture everyday she is in this job. She has adapted and changed. But whenever the show goes for big and broad moments about how absurd millennials can be, the show gets a little too ridiculous. It's a part of the style of the show. It's not just going to go away now. It's just odd and random to see the Empirical team meet with Bryce in a virtual reality. It's a very hilarious sequence. Diana's vertigo is a very amusing running joke throughout the episode as is Liza's wonder at this new world that's been conjured up. But it mostly serves as a way to reiterate that Bryce and his company come from a Silicon Valley world. It's a type of new media that old media looks at and is completely perplexed by. The show doesn't strive to dig any deeper than that. So not only one episode after Bryce becomes an investor, Charles is already worrying if he has made a massive mistake in judgment by bringing him aboard - no matter how green his cash is.

Of course, all of this essentially boils down to yet another plot where Charles, Diana and company are about to walk into Liza's old life and expose her secret. Liza thinks Bryce investing in the Book Nook will bring enough good publicity to him. It's a sweet gesture on her part. She doesn't try to take the credit amongst her friends either. She just lets them believe Bryce heard about the bookstore through their Kickstarter for a nude calendar spread. But it's completely ridiculous to think that Liza would be surprised that Bryce and her co-workers would actually want to go to the bookstore. It wouldn't help Bryce's bad publicity if he just donated anonymously. That would defeat the whole purpose. So there needed to be a grand ceremony. Liza talked about how this bookstore meant so much to her growing up. And yet, she's surprised Charles, Diana and Kelsey invite her to go to the ceremony? That just seems weird and not in a way that builds genuine stakes. And of course, her secret isn't exposed. Bryce pulls out of donating the money at the last second because Mark Zuckerberg already did a stunt like this. So, it was ultimately just a way to build a joke where the punchline is Liza proclaiming that she was a slut in high school.

Again, Liza actually being at the Book Nook and remembering how great this place was does provide the episode with some genuine material. It just gets too lost in all of the messy plotting. It's nice to see her amongst friends in New Jersey. Plus, it provides a valuable lesson in cherishing the things you have right now for as long as they last. Nothing last forever. So one has to appreciate all of it in the moment. That's a great lesson. Liza is constantly worried that she is ruining Josh's life by dating him or that her secret will be exposed at any moment. Whenever she or the show worries too much about either of those things, the actual story suffers significantly. But when the show just relaxes and allows things to happen naturally without making a big deal out of things, it's actually quite sweet and genuine. That's what those final moments with Josh are. Her friends just see Josh as a younger boy toy. But seeing him willing to drive her back to the city is enough for them to realize just how serious and in love he really is with Liza. She may have changed since moving to New York but it is a change for the better.

Elsewhere, Lauren has a major freakout over the uncertainty of whether or not she's basic. It's certainly a strange plot. It's clearly just an introductory story for something that could become more important later on this season. It's probably the most significant story she has ever been given on the show up to this point. Usually, she's just reliable for a couple of good one-liners and that's it. Here, the show tries doing more with her. It's unclear if it's necessary though. Her relationship with Maggie hasn't been all that important. It's largely been an offscreen thing. It was established that it was something they both cared about. But the show never really dug deep into them as a couple or how it was good or bad for them. And now, that's officially over because Lauren runs into an old friend from summer camp at a bar. Max is a cute guy. But he's also just a plain and normal guy. He's a straight man working as a doctor. Lauren worries that if she goes out with him she will no longer be seen as edgy. She doesn't want to be lame and traditional. That threat actually scares her. She tries so hard to stand out. That has brought a humorous edge to the character. It could be interesting to see her in a more traditional dynamic and how that could change her. But that's something the show has to actually commit to not just mention it every once in awhile.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Last Days of Books" was written by Alison Brown and directed by Tricia Brock.
  • Lauren only runs into Max again because she takes Kelsey to a bar to find a new man for her. And yet, Kelsey isn't ready to move on. She mentions what happened to Thad at every possible turn which scares every single prospect off.
  • The only guy who isn't taken aback by Kelsey having a dead fianc√© is Bryce. That would certainly be an interesting romance. It would make Bryce more than the annoying investor who has to be taken seriously despite his weird ideas. But the show probably shouldn't rush Kelsey into a relationship so quickly.
  • Maggie has no problem with ending things with Lauren because she's having a ton of fun just painting women in her apartment. It makes for an amusing image. It helps prop her up as a free spirit who is just fun and can't be tied down. But it still feels like the show brushes off this relationship too easily.
  • Why did Diana get in that helicopter? She has made it clear before that she would never set foot in New Jersey. And yet, that's the final destination. Moreover, wouldn't she know it would bring out her vertigo again?
  • In the end, it doesn't matter that Bryce has bad publicity from his investment in Empirical. The publishing house will fix all of that simply by releasing good books. Because it's just that easy! Why did no one think of that before the helicopter ride?