Wednesday, July 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - A Death Leads to New Love Interests for Liza and Kelsey in 'In the Pink'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.04 "In the Pink"

Liza and Kelsey dive back into the dating pool and quickly discover it's much more complicated than they'd hoped.

Younger foregoes a fascinating conversation about the misconceptions and generalizations of the romance genre in "In the Pink" in favor of easy jokes to put the characters in awkward situations. There is a lot to be said about the sexist nature surrounding the criticism of the romance genre. Younger wants to be taken seriously as a show that represents the publishing world in an honest way. It wants to be seen as a show that understands this profession. It's a show that has fun with the over-the-top eccentricities of the pitching process and how random the authors can be. But most of the time, that's all there is to the joke. An author is a one-note character who ties into the episode's themes in some way without adding a whole lot of merit to the actual business model of Empirical or Millennial. Sure, some authors have been recurring faces whose works have been propped up as the things that keep the business afloat financially. But the show has never really wanted to dig deep with many of these topics. As such, it's not surprising that the show dodges this meaningful conversation in favor of some broad jokes. It's the standard operating procedure for the show. But there is still something insightful and meaningful within this story that feels like the show letting the audience down for not exploring it in a much more detailed way.

Plus, Younger would fall into the romance genre as well. It balances the line of a workplace and relationship ensemble. All of it is told through the prism of Liza lying about her age. How does that affect her romantic relationships? How does that affect the perception of her at work? Does it make her life easier at all? She has found a home at Empirical with people who love her and respect the work that she does. They show that appreciation here by giving her the promotion they talked about in the previous episode. Of course, that plot point reveals that the show really doesn't want to change up its formula at all. Liza is now an associate editor for Millennial. She'll have new responsibilities for the imprint. But she will still be Diana's assistant too. That makes no sense. It seems absolutely ridiculous. The promotion feels important. It's the characters and business evolving over time to reflect how relationships change. But staying on as Diana's assistant represents a rigid adherence to what has worked and not tempting fate by changing things. That's weird especially because this season has already experienced so much change and has been better because of it.

Liza and Kelsey fighting has been a huge part of the season so far. Liza exposing herself as liar has been a huge betrayal for Kelsey. She couldn't accept her into her life fully knowing the truth right away. But last week's episode mended things between them. It was a series highlight episode too because it had such respect for the past and all the history between these two characters. It worked in some phenomenal ways. It did leave things unclear over how things would be for Liza and Kelsey moving forward. And now, it's made obvious that they are back to being best friends. Kelsey is incredibly supportive of Liza both professionally and personally. She helped ensure she got this promotion. And now, she's taking her out to bars to meet guys who are more age appropriate for her. It's a nice gesture. It's a sudden shift from what the season has been up to this point. Kelsey only started living with Josh because they were in Liza recovery together. They understood what the other was going through. That tension is now gone. That tension gave the show a solid hook for the season and it doesn't quite find anything to replace it with in this episode even though it's nice to see Liza and Kelsey as friends again.

But of course, "In the Pink" is largely about introducing new love interests for both Liza and Kelsey. They are on solid ground in their friendship once more. So now, they have the ability to look for romance and rely on the support from each other. They are able to fall back into that dynamic pretty easily. It's fun to watch. That's what makes it so meaningful to have a conversation about the romance genre in the publishing industry. One of Empirical's top authors has been with the company for over 40 years and writes a romance novel every year. That's impressive. And yet, it's something that has gone under-appreciated. No one respects Belinda the way they did Edward L.L. Moore. Romance just has a stigma attached to it. It's unfair. But that's not really the point. The actual point is that Belinda dies while on the toilet and everyone has to wear pink to her funeral. It's a broad story that fits in with what the show has done in the past. It just kills a very intriguing story and the parallels it could have for all of the characters. Liza wants to believe in the success of romance. She doesn't want a hookup despite how much pressure Kelsey is giving her to get over Josh. When she does act on her feelings for a new guy, he turns out to be married. So, life is complicated. That's what makes it so endearing when she comes home to her female friends waiting for her. It's a nice final scene that highlights the power of female friendship despite how chaotic all of their love lives are at the moment.

Meanwhile, Kelsey's new romance plays more as an introductory story. It's not something that is easily wrapped up by the end of this episode. She meets an editor from a rival publishing firm when she is trying to steal one of his clients. It once again plays into the notion that lots of books have female audiences but aren't properly marketed to them. Kelsey understands that because she has an appreciation for all types of literature. But that's such a minor part of this story. Instead, it's largely about Kelsey getting close to this really charming gentleman while also feeling torn about potentially stealing one of his clients. It's a fun setup for a recurring story this season. It puts Kelsey's life in the forefront in some interesting ways. But she gets swept up into this guy's appeal really easily. That makes it even more precarious when his author wants to leave because of what Kelsey says to him at the funeral. Again, it's an interesting setup. But it's mostly just the setup in this episode. It's nice to see Kelsey go after someone romantically who isn't her normal type. Zane may even be the best guy she's ever dated because he actually is a gentleman. But the awkward tension of both being in publishing will likely doom them as a pairing. That seems apparent right away and will likely only cause more problems in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "In the Pink" was written by Grant Sloss and directed by Todd Biermann.
  • The show even cast a great actress in Lois Smith to play Belinda. That just makes her quick death sting even harder. It was clearly the direction the show was always going in as soon as she got to the bathroom with Liza. But it feels like a waste of Smith who is capable of doing so much more and was delightful with the little of what she was given.
  • Liza's brief fling with Diego did feel unburdened because she didn't feel the pressure to lie to him about her age. She could just be her genuine self with him. She was willing to share her lie with him after just one night together. But of course, that's easily corrupted by him equating his own lie of cheating with hers.
  • Lauren and Max's breakup isn't that surprising or emotional because the show never knew what to do with them as a couple. It was just the same joke over and over again of him being a normal guy who worked crazy and odd hours. That was basically it. They were more important in getting Kelsey to finally move out of Lauren's parents' house.
  • Speaking of Lauren, it's still a little odd that she doesn't know Liza's secret. It makes it so things completely shift as soon as she enters the room. There is no reason to lie to her anymore. It doesn't serve some grand purpose. And yet, it doesn't feel like the show has any intentions of letting her in on the secret anytime soon either.
  • Montana feels really bad about sleeping with Josh after learning that he is Liza's ex-boyfriend. Sure, she doesn't know Liza that well but she still feels guilty. As such, it leads to a swift exit for her as Maggie's new assistant. That's surprising. She'll probably continue to appear as Josh's new girlfriend but that's about it.