Wednesday, July 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza Searches for a New Writer as Maggie Takes Back Her Art in 'The Gift of the Maggie'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.05 "The Gift of the Maggie"

Liza hunts for a new romance author, bringing her closer to Charles. Maggie slashes an art competitor.

Younger is settling into a number of stories right now. Empirical is largely looking for a replacement for Belinda so that they can still profit off of her brand despite her recent passing. Kelsey is torn about potentially stealing one of her boyfriend's clients. And finally, Josh and Montana are continuing to date which has an impact on Liza, Maggie and Kelsey. All of these are fine stories. Last week I had some problems with how the story out of Belinda's death played out. But now, the show is finding its rhythm again and doing a solid job of twisting things just enough to make the characters uncomfortable and uncertain with their actions. Of course, "The Gift of the Maggie" also brings a decisive end to the Montana story. As such, it feels much more climatic than a transitional episode. Everything that happens between her Josh is pretty fun too. When she first showed up, she came across as a character who Josh quickly got into a relationship with in order to get over Liza. It's not surprising that her time on the show is so short-lived. But at least she gets exposed for the type of over-the-top, hipster artist she was all along. That's pretty amusing and helps the main characters feel even more genuine and real because they no longer want to put up with her.

Plus, the show doesn't even have a good argument defending what Montana is doing for her grand show. She is simply taking paintings from other artists and drawing the state of Montana on top of them. That seems to be the extent of her skills as an artist. It immediately plays as a problem that could result in many legal issues for her. And yet, she's entitled enough to believe this is acceptable to do because she comes from a wealthy family who will happily cover any legal expenses. Her being a barista made her initially seem scrappy and hard-working. But that's not ultimately the case. She's absolutely delusional. She has given herself over to her art. She's changed her name for it. But she believes she deserves respect because she's "struggled" for a year. It's laughable but that's absolutely the point. It's easy to side with Josh and Maggie who are upset that Montana is using Maggie's painting in her showcase and asking for a ton of money. It's ridiculous. It's perhaps a little too easy to side with Josh and Maggie though. This story essentially turns Montana into a one-note character who needs to exit. This brings an end to her time on the show. It's amusing largely because Maggie pulls out a knife to destroy the painting. That's a lot of fun and she doesn't even have to deal with any potential consequences. Instead, she's actually praised for it in the local news. That's incredible.

More importantly, all of this forces Josh and Liza to actually talk about the end of their relationship. Those two have largely been kept apart this season. He felt so betrayed by her cheating on him with Charles that he didn't want to see her or even hear her name. But he lost his partner in Liza recovery, Kelsey, a few weeks ago. She decided to forgive Liza and pick up their friendship again. So, it's not surprising that the show is attempting to do the same here by trying to mend things between Liza and Josh. It does feel genuine too. Their split felt real and appropriate. His friendship with Maggie was a little weird but it had purpose as well. It's meaningful that he's still there for Maggie so that she's not taken advantage of by Montana. He's still a good guy who wants to do the right thing. Liza appreciates that. It forces a conversation between them. She has to dig deep and understand that she wanted to blow things up because she was afraid of the future of their relationship. She didn't truly understand her feelings of love for Josh until it was too late. She can't take back what she did. She wants his life to be full of happiness. She wants to be a part of it even if they aren't dating. That seems like a sweet sentiment. They agree to try and make that happen. It will be more awkward than Liza's dynamic with Kelsey which has returned to being the same as it always was. It will need to be because of how personal and intimate Liza and Josh were. But it could be really beneficial to see them as friends as well.

All of this provides new insight for Liza at work and the expectations of the romance genre. Last week I criticized the show for not wanting to explore this very interesting topic. It instead wanted a character to die in order to make a joke and create a plot. But here, the show actually does put in the effort to analyze whether or not romance novels always need to provide a "happily ever after." It's a staple of the genre. Is it an expectation though? Does it set up unrealistic expectations for the readers? Is it profitable for the business if a romance novel doesn't end in a happy place? These are the questions that Liza and Charles find themselves asking as they look for a replacement for Belinda. They have a very qualified candidate in a literature professor. The show also gets in some biting commentary about her needing to write under a pseudonym because being a romance novelist would hinder her ability to get tenure. That plays as a joke but it's very insightful to modern culture as well and the stereotypes of the romance genre. It can be belittling and taken less seriously than other literary works despite it being very popular. Liza wants to blow up the formula because it doesn't seem real. But by the end of the episode, she accepts it because of the appeal of the fantasy. The readers need to know that this is a potential option for them despite how much more difficult it is to achieve in real life. That's meaningful.

And finally, the Kelsey story is still primarily in setup mode. It's fun and sexy. Hilary Duff and Charles Michael Davis have some incredible chemistry. But it's a story largely defined by the two of them being in the same profession and how complicated it is to keep the personal and professional separate. Kelsey believes she can do that even though Liza knows just how difficult that can be. Of course, Liza doesn't actually explain that to Kelsey. She's still keeping secrets from her about how tense things can get between her and Charles. This story is largely focused on Kelsey though. She feels confident but is continually getting flustered. She doesn't even tell Charles that she is trying to poach Lachlan from Zane. Lachlan shows up for a meeting and Charles is surprised. Of course, Kelsey still successfully lands Lachlan as a client. But then, she has no idea how to break that news to Zane even though he already knows. Plus, that moment comes with an ominous warning that basically reveals that Lachlan is a difficult client to work with. That could be intriguing. But right now, this story is just full of rising action. Once it hits its climax, it's going to be very destructive for Kelsey. Hopefully, the fallout of that will be more interesting to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Gift of the Maggie" was written by Ashley Skidmore & Lyle Friedman and directed by Brennan Shroff. 
  • The show is definitely revealing more of Kelsey's backstory this season for a reason. She reveals to Zane that she only grew up with her mom and books were her escape from the real world. She's scrappy because she needs to prove that she belongs in this business and deserves all the success she already has.
  • It's also so cool to see how confident Kelsey is at the cigar club. Zane took her to this place in order to be impressive. But it only shows just how smart and well-cultured Kelsey really is. In fact, she is more impressed that he knows how to cook without using a microwave.
  • Yes, they were pretty clearly rough cuts but those images from the opening photoshoot didn't look like they belonged on the cover of a book. It was a little too ridiculous. Yes, Diana giving directions to the models was fun. But the actual images were less than believable.
  • Charles and Liza decide not to hire the literary professor because they don't want to reinvent the genre. It plays as an uplifting moment for their dynamic. But it means they still haven't found someone to replace Belinda - who was one of Empirical's top authors. So, that should be a lingering concern for the future.
  • Just how famous is Maggie as an artist? The show has always depicted her as semi-successful without being too recognizable. She has the freedom to do whatever she wants in shows but still needs Liza as a roommate. But here, Montana's mom knows who she is while an article online says she'll have new relevance moving forward. Hopefully, she doesn't squander that.
  • Diana and Maggie have never interacted on the show before. Diana didn't even know Maggie existed. And now, the show seems to be setting up them finally sharing a scene together. That's very enticing. It better not just be an empty tease to produce a solid joke at the end of this episode though. They should definitely meet. That could be a fun character pairing.