Wednesday, July 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza and Kelsey's Fight Builds to a Unexpected but Emotional Moment in 'Forged in Fire'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.03 "Forged in Fire"

Liza and Kelsey reach a breaking point at a work retreat, and Liza receives news that changes everything.

Younger is a fun and charming show. Yes, there are emotional stakes to it. But it thrives because of the simplicity of its storytelling. It doesn't take itself too seriously. Each episode is easy to digest. It's a breath of fresh air that is simple and fun. It provides an escape from the real world. It's been a pleasure and a joy to watch across four seasons. The show and the audience understand these characters. We've been a part of their world for awhile now. That's what makes it so meaningful to watch when an episode can get really emotional. The events near the end of "Forged in Fire" are so completely unexpected. I wasn't expecting this show to take that detour to have everything hit in a really emotionally resonant way. I was expecting that Liza and Kelsey would find their way back to each other at some point this season. They would both realize that the friendship has been genuine but also needs to evolve moving forward. But seeing that actually play in the third episode of the season is unexpected and really rewarding. This isn't the type of show where I start to tear up but this episode really did break me. That's the power of storytelling over a long period of time. It's only because the audience has been in these relationships for so long that the scene at the airport hits as strongly as it does. It's absolutely devastating while hinting at change for the future.

Of course, there's an entire episode of plot that happens long before that moment. Liza and Kelsey are still estranged as friends. They are reaching their breaking points as the demands of their jobs are really putting the pressure on their dynamic. Kelsey still feels betrayed. She's helped Liza improve her cover identity. But she's also more than willing to claim that Millennial could do better with someone other than Liza as well. It's something that she only means right now because she's upset with Liza. And yet, that action could have many consequences in the future. It's enough for Diana to take Liza out to lunch to tell her that she can't let a petty squabble get in the way of her promising career. It's a very effective scene as well because it once again proves how much Diana likes and respects Liza even though she ultimately turns the attention back to herself. Diana is trying to help even though she doesn't know the details of what's going on between Liza and Kelsey. She just knows that it is affecting their ability to do their jobs. That in turn makes it a problem for Empirical. One that could end up doing a ton of damage if they don't take ahold of the situation quickly.

Kelsey largely spends the entire episode being really passive aggressive to Liza. They are invited to a prestigious publishing event in the woods. It's less about the panels and discussions and more about partying and hooking up. It's an event for the bright young minds of the publishing industry. And again, Liza and Kelsey are able to keep it professional when discussing the success of Millennial to a room full of their peers. But beyond that, Kelsey needs Liza to fit into a specific mold. One that she isn't capable of delivering because of her age. Kelsey continues to push for it because she wants to get her payback on Liza after she betrayed her trust. It's a little bit of a numbing experience for Kelsey as well. She drinks and has sex with strangers with it being completely meaningless. She's more open to that now because of the state of her life. It could be embarrassing for her but she really doesn't care. She thinks this is the life that Liza wants to be living. All of this is just a chance for her to relive her glory days. But this isn't the life Liza was living when she was in her 20s. She already had a family at that point. She has never been this drunk. She can't contribute to this part of the job. She also doesn't think she has to. It's just Kelsey taking out her aggressions on her. It works too. It makes Liza open to the idea of leaving Empirical to run a millennial-focused imprint at a rival publishing house. That's a tease that should be very important to remember moving forward.

And yet, all of this changes in an instant as soon as they leave the retreat and get wifi service again. Liza's phone blows up with over a dozen missed calls and messages from Caitlin. She's in the hospital because her appendix burst and needs emergency surgery. It's harrowing experience for Liza. It's such surprising and shocking news for her. It's also important to see Kelsey's reaction throughout all of this. She knows the truth about Liza. She has just focused entirely on the betrayal of it. She didn't try to understand why Liza did what she did. She hasn't wanted to mend their friendship. She heard the details of Liza's life but didn't really listen. But in this moment, she has to accept that Liza's life is much more complicated than she ever could have imagined. She has responsibilities way beyond the job and her social life. She has a daughter who she needs to comfort during times of crisis. It's an eye-opening experience for Kelsey. She gets to experience Liza's life firsthand. She's alongside her during this entire journey. They may be fighting right now but Liza needs the support from her friend in order to get through this. She needs to know that she isn't a shitty mom because she prioritized work over her daughter. She needs to know that everything will be okay. Kelsey provides her with that support. It's easy for her to do because she's experiencing more of Liza's life. That moment where Liza reaches for Kelsey and she's there is so significant. It proves that their friendship is still there and strong. In times of crisis, they are still there for each other.

All of that is so moving and beautiful to watch. Kelsey has to take a step back and no longer see things by how they affect her. It's a clarifying moment for her. In this moment, Kelsey is willing to help Liza lie to maintain her job at Empirical without telling the truth about why she's missing. She does that because she knows how important Caitlin is to her. She knows that Liza needs to be with her daughter right now as she recovers. It also shows just how desperate she was in the first place. Liza wants Caitlin to know that when it comes to her heath money should never be a problem. That's why Caitlin waited so long to be seen by a doctor. Hearing that makes Kelsey understand that Liza's life has financial stress in it. That's why she needs this job. That's why she would benefit from a promotion. When she first told Charles that Liza may not be best for Millennial, it was a selfish decision to hurt the person who hurt her. When she tells him that Liza does deserve the promotion and a raise, it comes from a place of empathy. Kelsey doesn't understand the life Liza has lived because she can't walk in her shoes. But seeing it has forced a change of heart. Of course, it should be fascinating to see how much of this moment actually changes things between Liza and Kelsey. Will they return to being friends? Or will they still be awkward around each other? It's probably the latter. But now, their dynamic has less hate in it. That's progress. One that feels so emotionally satisfying by the end of this episode as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • Kelsey isn't about to start meddling in Josh's love life. And yet, her not judging him for his decisions actually forces him to look at her with romantic interest in his eyes. It's a plot twist many in the audience were probably expecting. Nothing has happened yet but the show continues to be laying the groundwork for it.
  • However, Josh does end up sleeping with Montana. He meets her at the coffeeshop when he sees Maggie while Liza is away. He's getting his stuff that he left at their apartment. He notices how cute Montana is. And the rest isn't that surprising. It just means that his leather jacket ends up in Liza and Maggie's apartment much sooner than expected.
  • Also, is it possible for Maggie and Josh to remain friends? Josh is angry with Liza because she cheated on him. That's more important than the lying because he got used to that detail with her. Maggie encouraged the lying but didn't force Liza to cheat with Charles. She's been supportive but critical of her relationship with Josh. She thought it was too serious. She's sharing that opinion with Josh. That just makes for a weird possible friendship though.
  • Diana has a run-in with Richard's ex-wife. She makes sure to introduce herself only to get laughed at. Diana can be a very superficial and petty woman. She needs to have her looks validated by the world around her. This story could ruin a really good relationship for her. But it doesn't. Instead, Richard confirms that he's already with a really beautiful women. That's sweet. It's nice to see Diana with a consistent man in her life after struggling for so long.
  • Jay is the guy from the rival publishing firm who is trying to poach Liza away from Empirical. It's not surprising that she connects with him more than the younger people at this event. They have a ton of fun at the bar until Kelsey has to steal her away to keep up the branding of Millennial. But Liza telling Jay she's interested in the job should come back to hurt her after she realizes how much Empirical wants her at the moment.