Wednesday, August 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Kelsey's Twitter Feud Could Have Huge Consequences for Empirical in 'A Close Shave'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.06 "A Close Shave"

The success of Liza and Kelsey's latest title spurns a Twitter feud, ending in disaster. Maggie meets a woman with a little something extra.

Younger has always given off the perception that it cares about the financial state of Empirical. The publishing house is always being pitched new books. The editors decide which ones to buy and which to toss aside. It's a business all about the money and trying to figure out which potential novel will be a breakout hit. The show clearly wants to have a serious conversation about the current state of the publishing industry. But it also wants to be a light and fun show as well that plays into the romantic dynamics happening within this workplace. "A Close Shave" is a very effective episode of the show. The ending especially makes it clear that this is the strongest season of the show so far. And yet, the show has threatened the audience with an uncertain future for Empirical before. It didn't feel honest than and it still doesn't feel honest now. Of course, there does seem to be more of an effort to this struggle this season. First, Belinda died right after she was introduced as one of the top authors at Empirical. And now, Edward L.L. Moore has been poached by Zane and his competing publisher. It's a huge loss because of how significant Moore has been for Empirical. Every season has only made it more clear that Charles relies on him more than any other author despite not likely the guy personally. So with these two big authors gone, Empirical faces an uncertain future. That's an interesting place to find a story. It still seems inevitable that some magical solution will be produced to keep the status quo the same. But uncertainty is exciting as well and I hope the show actually delves into those issues for the second half of the season.

Of course, it's also possible that I'm reading too much into how important Edward L.L. Moore is to this business. Charles makes it known throughout this episode that they are in the midst of contract renewals. He's feeling the pressure to keep Moore at Empirical and needs the leverage to do that at an affordable price. Perhaps the business isn't in as much trouble as I fear because of the development that happens at the beginning of "A Close Shave." Millennial bought a book from Emily Burns because she found out Liza's secret somehow. She blackmailed herself into a book deal. And now, the book which is a memoir from the perspective of her dog is a best-seller. It's absolutely incredible. No one can believe that it happened. No one understands why it is so popular. And yet, it is. Liza and Kelsey did too good of a job with this book. The profits are good for Empirical. Charles even directs them to pursue this avenue more in the future because there is clearly a market for this amongst young readers. That seems crazy but it's what all of the pitches now become. It's enough for the business to feel good at the moment. It helps offset the costs elsewhere. But it's not big enough to completely replace what Moore brings to the company. That's what leads to the uncertainty later on while also making it possible that it's not as big a loss as it seems.

This entire story ultimately hinges around Kelsey's relationship with Zane. It was clear from the very beginning that both of them being in publishing would become a problem somehow. It seemed inevitable that their relationship would end abruptly because of something they did professionally that hurt the other. For most of this episode, they are having fun in a Twitter feud. They are bringing so much attention to their respective businesses. It's good publicity even though Charles is very wary of it in the long run. And yes, it does seem like the show builds it up into something much bigger than it could possibly be - with both William Shatner and J.K. Rowling retweeting Kelsey. The feud doesn't just stop when Kelsey and Zane finally have sex either. In fact, that keeps them from actually enjoying the moment. This relationship could have been good because it was so different than anything else Kelsey has done romantically. But it was always defined by their jobs. And so, their jobs ultimately destroyed it. Zane saw a glimpse of a text Kelsey got about Moore's contract renewals. That was all he needed in order to poach Moore away from Empirical. It's such a devastating moment too.

Younger is so surprisingly great when it makes that shift to the more dramatic in its storytelling. This story has more weight and meaning to it because it's not afraid to go to that more dark place and truly threaten Kelsey's future at Empirical. No, it seems unlikely that Kelsey will lose her job right now. It's the middle of the season and this show definitely has a fear of changing up its formula too much. But the fear of it leads to a strong moment for her. She's not crying over Zane revealing himself to be the latest asshole she has dated. She's crying because she really cares about this job and she may have ruined all of it by getting too close to the wrong guy. Her past relationships ultimately only hurt her in the end. With this one though, it could hurt the company she loves so much. Charles believed in her and gave her this imprint to run. He trusts her judgment. But this is a huge failing on her part. She made a mistake. And now, there could be extreme consequences moving forward. Again, it should be interesting to see if the show actually embraces those repercussions. It could just pretend that none of this is ultimately a big deal. That would feel disingenuous though. It would be much stronger to see the lingering effects of this decision. How will it affect Kelsey, Charles and their relationship? Will he trust her again? Or will there be more doubts in his mind?

Of course, the show also wants the audience to question if his reaction is solely about Kelsey or if his feelings for Liza cloud his judgment as well. All of this happens on his birthday. That's an added detail that really isn't necessary in the overall story. It just makes it clear that everything is going wrong for him on the one day when it shouldn't. It's a familiar storytelling trope that doesn't add much to this episode. The show falls into a similar pattern elsewhere as well with someone else stumbling upon Liza's secret. It was also a lingering concern of when Jay from Bonfire would reappear and complicate Liza's life. He made her an offer to run a youth-oriented imprint for his publishing company. Of course, then Liza was promoted and no longer need such a job. But now, he shows up and has newfound importance because he sees Liza with Caitlin and learns the whole story. He plans on keeping her secret simply because he's a good guy. He even agrees that she can't tell her bosses because then it would become a major scandal. And then, Charles shows up and sees the two of them. It feels very contrived. But it also does its job of throwing everything off in an interesting way. As such, it really stings in all of the appropriate ways during Liza and Charles' heated discussion in the end. They are talking about Kelsey and the future of Empirical. And then, Charles just blurts out that he's jealous that Liza is apparently dating a forty-something in the publishing industry who isn't him. It's a moment that he can't take back. The show should really explore that more meaningfully moving forward as well. It's an exciting time for the show if it would just have the confidence to explore these intriguing issues. But past behavior still leaves me a little skeptical.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Close Shave" was written by Don Roos and directed by Brennan Shroff.
  • Maggie's story is so completely random and bad. It's the reason why the grade for this episode isn't higher. All of the main story is excellent. But this one subplot brings the whole show down. It's Maggie once again in a romantic story that revolves around one joke. The joke here is that her love interest has a mustache. It's just so weird and one-note. It ultimately means nothing. There was no reason for this story to exist.
  • Lauren is closely following Kelsey and Zane's Twitter feud. She's obsessed with it but she's also ready for the two of them to just have sex already. That and going out to a bar with Maggie are her coping mechanisms for dealing with her breakup with Max. Also, does the show remember that Lauren and Maggie used to date?
  • The dog that Emily is bringing along with her on her press tour isn't even the dog she wrote about in her book. That dog died and now she's trying to replace her with her male lover. It's a simple and one-note joke. It's a little crude and ultimately doesn't mean much. But it's still amusing.
  • Diana finds herself obsessed with finding the perfect birthday gift for Charles. And yet, Liza forces her to realize that she cares much more about Richard now than Charles. That's huge progress for her. So, she should no longer being throwing herself all over Charles desperate for his approval and love because she already has that in a man.
  • Zane sends a couple of texts to Kelsey after his big betrayal is made public. He claims that she doesn't know the full story. He may not be as bad as he seems. However, she doesn't want to hear from him right now. That's understandable. Though it also seems like the show is setting up some twist to occur later on.