Wednesday, August 16, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - A New Book Creates an Awkward Situation for Liza and Charles in 'The Gelato and the Pube'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.08 "The Gelato and the Pube"

Liza receives a great opportunity at work, but there's a catch. Josh meets someone new. Maggie ruffles some feathers.

This has felt like a very significant and emotional season of Younger so far. The show and audience have lived with these characters for three seasons already. And now, our knowledge of them is helping to inform each situation. The show is forcing the characters into some morally compromising positions. The stories have new depth to them because of our understanding of the characters. It was painful to watch Kelsey and Liza fighting after Liza revealed her secret. It was so moving to see that story come to end because of Caitlin's appendix bursting. It was rewarding to see Liza and Josh actually talk again and try to figure things out so that they can still be friends. There has been some nice forward momentum with Liza and Charles' dynamic. Everything seems to be building to a full on romance between Liza and Charles. Despite all of this strong storytelling as of late, the show still suffers from wanting to fundamentally be in the same place all the time. Liza got a promotion but is still somehow Diana's assistant. Liza wants to be with Charles but doesn't want to break her promise to Kelsey to keep her secret once more. And now, Charles' ex-wife, Pauline, has returned to the picture bringing even more drama. It now seems unlikely that anything physical and significant will happen between Liza and Charles until the finale. That's very frustrating because it's the show continuing to just tease the audience. But the show also understands just how complicated the situation really is. It's not just diving into this new romance complete oblivious to it. The complications leading up to the big moment though need to be worth it.

So far, Pauline's addition to the main narrative has been compelling. She returned at the most awkward time for Liza and Charles. They weren't expecting her to show up at all. She's been talked about before but never all that seriously. But now, she shows up as a woman whom Liza can relate to. She understands the struggles of losing one's identity in a marriage. A life of sacrifices that just ripped away everything that made her unique. Liza understands that because she lived it. She has found a new life for herself at Empirical. She was able to create this entirely new identity for herself. It's been very self-destructive too. It makes her an insane person who can easily lie to everyone in her life. It will destroy any relationship she has because the lie has been such a fundamental part of her story for a long time. But she can still sympathize with what Pauline wants to do with this book. She needed to take the time away to find herself once more. That woman happens to be a great writer. Everyone is in love with her novel. They love it for all of the juicy gossip about Charles' marriage. But the passages themselves are very well-written and could lead to this novel being a best-seller. It puts Empirical in quite an awkward position. Charles isn't portrayed well and he has to decide whether or not to publish it.

Liza is still proving to be a good influence on Charles as he deals with this unexpected situation. The book hits a raw nerve for him because it's so personal. It's him looking back on his actions in hindsight and not being emotionally equipped to handle them. He wants to shut down like he always does. He wants to get lawyers involved so that this book will never be released anywhere. That's an extreme reaction. It's his first instinct as well. Pauline just stirs up these intense feelings within him. It takes Liza to suggest a more rational approach. Charles and Pauline should sit down and talk about the book. Pauline reached out to Liza at Pitch Fest for a reason. She wanted to get Charles' attention. It was meant to start a conversation between them. It could be a very unpleasant and destructive conversation. But it's one that is worth having between them. Liza is more than willing to fulfill the supportive girlfriend role during this turbulent time too. She steps up to look after Charles' daughters so that he can talk with Pauline. He doesn't want the kids to know that she's back. He fears that she'll leave again as soon as all of this starts to go awry. And yet, that doesn't seem to be the case. The audience isn't privy to the actual conversation between Pauline and Charles. But it lasts for much longer than Liza expected. It was really late when Charles eventually came home. He didn't share any details about the night either. He has shut down and can't even muster any of the typical flirtatious banter the two of them usually share.

But everything is good once again in the morning. Charles just needed a night to process everything that happened during the conversation with Pauline. He needed to do that alone. He needed to make the decision about the book himself. Liza has been very helpful. He still wants to explore an actual relationship with her. But he needs to prioritize the book and the impact it will have in the publishing world. This is his professional reputation after all. The gossip has already started about what he has done behind closed doors. Diana and Kelsey are really enjoying all of the salacious details. There's something epically embarrassing on page 58 that more than likely has something to do with anal sex. The show just alludes to it in a really blunt way that doesn't totally work. But accepting those details and having a strategy forward is key for this story as well. The show is purposefully putting Liza and Pauline together to further amplify that awkward dynamic. Charles doesn't want any of this to change things between him and Liza. She is more than happy to edit the book. It would be a huge work opportunity for her. Her first time during a solo edit for a book that could be a huge success for the company. That's the plan. But it's bound to get complicated very quickly.

In fact, it does. Liza and Pauline already have their first sit-down lunch to discuss the book. Pauline wants Liza to be brutal with her criticisms and advice. She needs honesty in her life after years of faking it in her marriage. She wants to escape that life. Again, Liza can relate to that. But there are some key differences between the two of them as well. Liza questions how Pauline could leave her kids for a year to write this book. It's an accusatory question that paints Liza in an unflattering light. Pauline gives an empowering answer about doing this book for her children and how that question wouldn't be asked to a man. It's an answer that helps forge a bond between the two - even though Liza has always had to be the emotionally mature and available one for her own daughter. She could never check out of her life completely knowing that her ex-husband would handle things. Charles is at least a responsible father. And that's part of why Pauline still loves him. She caused her family to implode. They've had to move on without her. But now, she has emerged and is hopeful that this book restarts the conversation again. Charles and Pauline have found some peace right now. But it's bound to get even more complicated before the season is over. The only questions are: how destructive is it going to get for Charles? And how will it affect his relationship with Liza?

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Gelato and the Pube" was written by Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Eric Zicklin and directed by Peter Lauer.
  • In addition to the main story, there are three subplots in this episode. That's more than the average episode of this show. It makes this episode feel a bit more crowded and chaotic as a result. And yet, the episodes have been running a few minutes longer this season. So, there is still the room for all of these stories to happen.
  • Of course, Maggie's story feels the most extraneous. It's again confirming that Maggie is a badass who won't get pushed around or taken advantage of by anyone. That's a key theme this season. When the new neighbors invite her and Liza to their restaurant only to stick them with a $500 bill, it's fun to see Maggie enact her revenge. It's a good joke in a overall emotional episode.
  • It was just last week that Josh and Kelsey kissed. That was a huge development the season was clearly building towards. And now, they are right back to being chill roommates who complain about their dating lives. They even believe that they would do a much better job of picking each other's dates. That's then something they attempt to try.
  • Of course, Kelsey isn't the one who introduces Josh to a prospective new girlfriend. That honor instead goes to Liza. She meets Claire, an Irish bartender, and immediately brings Josh over to prove to her that he is a sweet, caring guy. It works and they have sparks right away. However, that means Liza is helping the two men in her life deal with other women instead of her.
  • Richard's son, Ethan, has come to live with him and Diana. That apartment is already starting to get very crowded. It's mostly a story about how Diana is annoyed by this lazy 20-something now living with her. It's also surprising to see TV Land be totally okay with showing a fleshlight in one of its programs.