Wednesday, November 16, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Gets Multiple Visitors When She Ends Up in the Hospital in 'What's Up, Dock?'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 3.08 "What's Up, Dock?"

Liza finally makes her divorce official. Diana meets a hot stranger outside of work. The two worlds collide as Liza ends up in the hospital.

Younger has always presented its characters with many romantic interests. It's a core foundation of the show. It's interested in the romantic entanglements these characters can get into. Yes, there's the seriousness of the big love triangle between Liza, Josh and Charles. That's always going to be a complicated story. But the show is also interested in showing the romantic lives of Kelsey, Maggie and Diana. None of these characters are happily in love. They are always in pursuit of something. The show very rarely has a stable couple. Liza and Josh have been together for a long time now. And yet, they are almost always dealing with some new complication in their relationship that the show throws at them. It's not a picture-perfect image of stability. It's simply something both of them really like for right now. They aren't worrying about the future or putting limits on what this bond could be. That has been very sweet. Josh cares for Liza so much. And yet, the show still loves finding new problems to make their lives more difficult all in the pursuit of more romantic angst.

After three seasons of this type of storytelling, it could be tiring and repetitive. How many times can Diana flirt with a guy only for it to go horribly awry for her? How many times can Kelsey flirt with a cute guy only for him to not be that great? How many times does Liza have to be torn between Josh and Charles? All of these things have been core dynamics of the show. They are frequently amusing as well. But when one looks deeper at the show, it does feel like things are going around in circles. And yet, that's not the way this show is suppose to be viewed. It's just a light and fluffy show meant to be funny and simple. It doesn't hold up well under extreme analysis. Nor should it. Shows like this can exist just as well as shows where the creators put a lot of thought into the construction of the narrative. That's not Younger but Younger can still be entertaining. In its third season, it has needed to expand its scope a little more. It's needed to dig deeper into the dynamics between the characters. It's needed to do more to justify the tension of the various love stories. It hasn't always succeeded in that regard. But all it takes is an episode like "What's Up, Dock?" for the show to prove it can still be quite entertaining.

At first, it seems like this episode is just going to be the latest with a simple premise. Diana flirts with a guy riding a bike and decides to go biking with him after work. It's the latest instance of Diana being unlucky in love. She can never be happy. That's a foundational part of her character. It would be fascinating to see her find someone she could be serious with. But the show is still only interested in her meeting guys only for things to flame out quickly thereafter. That's what happens here. She's flirting with a gay guy and didn't even know it. She needs Liza to come pick up the pieces of her life. It's something Liza is more than willing to do. Her life is busy at the moment as well. She has just officially signed the divorce papers with David. That part of her is now finally over. She has made this new life for herself in the city. She has changed so much over the course of the show. But the papers still hadn't been signed. And now, they have been - except for the fact Liza writes her wrong birthday on the forms. She's pulled in many different directions. She chooses to help Diana and that ultimately lands her in the hospital.

Liza gets into an accident on a bike. It's a shocking moment. But it's also one that brings the emotions to the foreground to the benefit of all of the characters. Liza being in the hospital forces all of them to come to her side and make some decisions over their lives. Liza is so appreciative of Maggie for all that she has done for her. She made that known long before her stint in the hospital. Maggie changed Liza's life for the better. She has been able to move on from David because of this new life in New York. And now, she has Josh who genuinely cares for her. He is willing to help her through this healing process. He knows how difficult it may be. He's willing to be there every step of the way to help out. Sometimes that's all it takes to know that he's a great guy for her. This episode is all about romantic angst. The situation is tense because so many love interests come into the room to visit Liza. It's tense wondering who is going to run into each other. But it can't be discounted that Josh is the one who actually stays. He's there for her throughout the night. Plus, he'll be there for the recovery. It's easy for him to do because he's the one actually dating her right now. That relationship is officially on. But it still goes a long way in saying that he's good for her despite the age difference - which is what everyone else sees right away.

Conversely, David has no shot with Liza but is still hopelessly pining after her. He has never been an important character on the show before. Their divorce was the inciting incident of the entire series. Him cheating on her pushed her to her life in New York. That was a move that needed to happen. They still have a daughter though. But again, those have only vaguely been important details of the series so far. Yes, both David and Caitlin show up every once in awhile. But they haven't been crucial elements of the series. That may change now because David is determined to make things work with Liza again. He has no idea how much her life has changed. He doesn't know anything about her life in New York. He didn't know who Josh was until they run into each other at the hospital. He doesn't know about Liza's job or her complicated dynamic with Charles. He's completely clueless but still thinks he has a shot. It's hard to take him seriously because he hasn't been an important character. He largely just appears to be the latest complication that Liza will need to deal with. However, him ripping up the divorce papers could signal at more importance for the next stage of the season.

And then, there is Charles who decides to visit Liza in the hospital as well. He claims it's to make sure that the company doesn't get sued because Liza was running a trivial errand for Diana. That's the cover he tries using with Radha. But it's clear he genuinely wants to know how Liza is doing. Radha sees the romantic pining between Charles and Liza. Radha hasn't been an important character this season. She has just been the woman Charles has been dating. Both Charles and Liza had to move on from their kiss last season. For Liza, that has been good. She's back together with Josh and he has really stepped up for her. For Charles, it's been complicated. His company was falling apart and he didn't seem all that interested in Radha. Of course, it's hard to tell what he actually feels towards Radha. Charles' love stories have never been as important as Liza, Diana, Maggie or Kelsey's. He seems destined to be with Liza no matter what so everyone else just seems like a distraction. He genuinely cares for her. And yet, he's not there to hear her say that their kiss actually meant something to her. She wants to make things work with him. He doesn't hear that. David does which gives him hope. So, Charles ends the episode all alone with Radha breaking up with him and Liza not remembering his hospital visit at all. She's clueless to what happened during the night but she will find out about it sooner or later. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "What' Up, Dock?" was written by Alison Brown and directed by Todd Biermann.
  • It's great that the story in the hospital is never really about the anxiety that comes from Liza's two worlds potentially colliding. Yes, it is about that and the audience knows it. It just isn't spelled out for us with Liza freaking out. That's a nice change of pace from how these stories are usually told.
  • Kelsey is unsure if her new relationship is actually real because the guy wants her to read his novel. That could ruin everything if it's bad. She reads it and it's good. But there's potential for all of this to get very complicated for her soon.
  • Kelsey doesn't actually finish the novel. So that means it could have a good beginning but a terrible ending. Plus, it may not be good at all. Liza will be the judge of that. Kelsey needed it to be good to continue dating this guy. So that may have clouded her judgment.
  • It is notable that Kelsey and Lauren don't show up at the hospital to check in on Liza. It's set up that Kelsey has turned her phone off to read the novel and have sex. But Lauren just doesn't appear in the episode at all.
  • Diana is genuinely sorry that Liza got hurt because of her. Because of it, she decides that Liza will no longer do trivial tasks for her. Of course, that mentality lasts less than a day because Liza just does such a good job at getting her coffee.