Wednesday, December 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Younger' - A Trip to the Hamptons Forces Liza to Reanalyze Her Life in 'A Book Fair to Remember' & 'Get Real'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 3.11 "A Book Fair to Remember" & 3.12 "Get Real"

Liza draws closer to Charles at the Hamptons Book Fair. Kelsey feels erased from Colin's narrative. A famous life coach, whose book Empirical is pursuing, forces Liza to face hard truths.

The basic premise of Younger stopped being a necessary part of the show a long time ago. Liza lied about her age in order to get a job at Empirical. Since then, she has built this whole life as a 26-year-old. And yet, the need to maintain that life isn't as important as it once was. She has built friendships with the people at Empirical. She has genuine bonds with many of them. It has often felt like the show has kept the central premise alive solely to keep the status quo. It enjoys using it for story fodder. It's an easy way for them to come up with tension in an episodic plot. Other times though, it has been clear that the lie has been maintained because of Liza's own neurotic tendencies. This is a fantasy world that she has created for herself and she loves it. She can't let anyone know the truth or the fantasy will come crashing down to reality. If she is exposed as a 40-year-old, then she'll go back to being the depressing New Jersey housewife. Again, the audience probably doesn't see that as something that will likely happen if she tells the truth. But it's instead about the character and how she feels about the lie. Liza has always been in her own head so much. She freaks out and over-thinks everything in her life. Simplicity could be good for her but she needs to accept that she needs to do this. All of this creates a very fascinating season finale that is devastating and shocking while also paving an interesting path for the fourth season.

It's also important that the deconstruction of the central premise comes out of Liza's romantic relationships. The show had already been planting the seeds of destruction in her relationship with Josh last week. They've been stable as a couple this season. But now, Josh is hopeful about having children while Liza is certain she doesn't want to go through all of that again. It was a genuine conflict between them. One that could break them apart without having to included the central lie at all. It would have been an emotional and mature ending because they want different things out of life. It's about them and not the fantasy they put out into the world. And yet, these two episodes that end the third season highlight how immature Liza still is. She doesn't sit down and have this difficult conversation with Josh. He's planning for the future because he is fully committed to this relationship. He wants to propose and start building their lives together. Meanwhile, Liza is spiraling out in the Hamptons and making reckless decisions that will only complicate several of her key relationships.

It's easy for Liza, the creative team and the audience to think that with things ending with Josh that opens the door for Liza to start dating Charles. This season has been about her building a genuine relationship with Josh. One with no expectations or limitations. This was the most serious they have ever been. He has been so good to her and has grown so much this season. And yet, Liza is constantly finding herself distracted by the appeal of something shiny and new. That's Charles. He is still the safe and expected answer to Liza. She's attracted to him. Kissing him again is what ultimately destroys the love between Liza and Josh. He sees and realizes that Liza isn't ready for anything serious right now. He's ready to take that next step. Meanwhile, Liza really doesn't have anything in her life figured out at all. Charles is very mature about all of this as well. He's upfront about his feelings for Liza. But he knows she has to figure things out with Josh first before anything serious can happen between them. He has loved the kisses just as much as she has. But he has the understanding that Liza is still just a 26-year-old not entirely sure what she wants out of life. However, it's all the more tragic because Liza is a 40-year-old woman who is incapable of living in reality and handling her true feelings.

To Liza, it has become a normal part of her life that she's constantly putting out fires in regards to maintaining her secret. Every once in awhile, someone new figures things out and blackmails her. In this case, it's Emily from her group of assistant friends. She is able to leverage this information to get a book deal at Millennial. Liza does that without Kelsey's consent. She does so for selfish reasons. She doesn't do it because it's a wise investment. She doesn't do it because it will be a good deal for everyone. In fact, this could ruin her bond with Kelsey. This is really just the latest example of Liza's lie coming ahead of her friendship. But now, it's much more tragic and toxic than ever before. Liza's comfort in this lie has led to disastrous repercussions in her life. She's not going to have anything real until she finally steps into the truth. That's something she needs to do. She needs to accept that the lie is doing more harm than good. It's ruining the relationships she genuinely loves. Telling the truth is scary to do. But it's something that she has to do. If she doesn't, then that could be the thing that leads to her having an empty life once more.

It's amusing that Liza comes to these big revelations about her life while attending a self-help seminar. It's just the latest environment where her past and present lives come crashing together. She goes there with Kelsey as a way to see if a best-selling book can be found within this person. But David is there as well talking about how he wants to win her back. It's a silly and outrageous concept completely in line with what the show typical does. This woman seems to help whichever person she's speaking with in big statements without genuinely bonding with people. It's the latest instance of Liza being able to maintain her lie. She is able to run to the bathroom and answer David's phone call before Kelsey can connect all the dots. But this moment is so much more than that. It's less about Liza learning she needs to forgive what David did. The show takes the stance that David is just a silly character no one should take seriously. It's more about her accepting that she does love Josh and wants to be with him for the rest of her life. She's willing to run to him to share this newfound commitment. She gets out of her own head for a moment and just embraces the love she feels for him. But his eyes have opened up to how she truly is. She isn't ready for this kind of commitment. Her lie is too consuming of her life for her to have anything real. So instead of getting engaged, they break up without any hope of getting back together.

That action forces Liza to tell the truth about herself to Kelsey. She has wanted to tell Kelsey so many times over the seasons. And yet, she has never gone through with it. She never felt she needed to. Something always happened that allowed her to keep her secret. And now, she has lost Josh. Her reckless decisions and inability to be real are the reasons to blame. Liza takes that as a moment of self-reflection. She comes clean to Kelsey not because she has to but because she wants to. She doesn't want things to end as horribly with her as they did with Josh. Kelsey means too much to her for her heart to be broken after she learns the destructive power of this lie. But even in that moment, it's a selfish decision on Liza's part. It comes at a time when Kelsey is very insecure and unstable with her own life. She's moving out of Lauren's parents' house. She can't stay with Colin because he doesn't want to be that serious with her just yet. She comes to Liza because she has nowhere else to go. She's trying to find her own independence. But it's proving more difficult than ever before. And now, Liza tells her that their entire relationship has been a lie. The best friend she thought she knew was a complete fantasy. It's a decision that could ultimately be very healthy for Liza in the long run. But it's also unclear how Kelsey will react to this news. Will she accept it? Or will she leave and be the loneliest she has ever been in her life?

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Book Fair to Remember" was written by Alison Brown and directed by Andrew Fleming.
  • "Get Real" was written by Darren Star, Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Eric Zicklin and directed by Dottie Dartland Zicklin.
  • Lauren and Max haven't been seen in a couple of episodes now. And yet, they are still going strong. They are now the healthiest couple on the show. They've moved in together and Lauren's parents both love him. It just means pushing Kelsey out of the house.
  • Kelsey and Colin's relationship is strong. He's willing to ditch his own party in the Hamptons to be there for Kelsey. He is supportive of her despite how awkward the situation with his book is. But the pressure of the book also wants him to set clear boundaries in their relationship as well.
  • Of course, Netflix never makes a whole lot of sense when it comes to its decision making. But would the executives there really be interested in being pitched a series adaptation of a novel that is still being rewritten? Is the buzz really that great? 
  • Charles still ultimately feels like the right person for Liza in the long run. But this season did a wonderful job in exploring Liza's relationship with Josh and making it seem like something that could go the distance as well. Of course, Liza is the true problem and could use some time by herself to reflect on her past actions. 
  • Diana has a couple of really amusing moments in these episodes as well. First, she finds herself completely naked on a secluded beach. It's empowering when she's taking pictures but awkward when kids playing Pokemon Go arrive and her dress flies away. And then, it's completely humiliating (though a little expected) when she brings her parrot to the office and it repeats the sex noises from the night before.
  • And yet, it's great that Diana now has a stable relationship. After three seasons of being so unlucky in love, she really deserves this. It shows that she is growing as well. She's still herself. She brags about having the best sex of her life while also potentially traumatizing a bunch of kids. But this is a healthy step for her as well.
  • Will Season 4 be the year where Liza tells the truth to everyone in her life? Or will Kelsey be the only one? It's important for her to grow as a person and accept the reality of her situation. But it could be so easy for the show to keep Charles and Diana in the dark.