Wednesday, September 6, 2017

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Liza, Kelsey and Diana Explore Their Unhealthy Relationships in 'It's Love, Actually'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 4.11 "It's Love, Actually"

Liza pursues a new relationship, as Kelsey revisits an old one. Diana learns the truth about Richard. Lauren encourages Josh to follow his heart.

I've talked about this being a strong season of Younger in the past. Upon further reflection though, I would say it's been a season of strong moments with some inconsistent storytelling as well. At times, it feels like the season is trying to tackle too much story. Liza and Jay just get together only for them to seemingly break up a week later. At other times though, it seems like there isn't enough story for the season. Everything keeps being delayed for Charles and Liza for no good reason. As such, it's starting to be a little annoying because the big moments that do land need to have more of an impact on the overall show. In the moment, they are great and lead to big, sweeping feelings about this season. When taking a step back though, the story has largely just been one epic tease of Liza and Charles coming together but not really. It's put them at the forefront of the story but created just enough obstacles to keep them from actually pursuing a romantic relationship. That's good too because the deeper the show goes into this season it's clear that Liza can't possibly be with Charles as long as she is lying to him about herself. That's the grand conceit of the show. Everything would change if Charles were to learn the truth. That's the only way for romance to work between the two of them though. But it still seems unlikely that the show is going to actually pull the trigger and go there with them. Of course, that was said for a long time about Liza revealing the truth to Kelsey as well. And now, Kelsey knows the truth and their friendship is stronger than ever before. Telling Charles could be a bigger deal though both because he's her boss and the show values so much on the romantic stories it tells in each season. Sometimes its priorities can be a little off regarding what's more important for these characters.

Pauline is the latest complication getting in the way of Liza and Charles being together. She's not all that interesting of a character. After all the buildup of Charles having an ex-wife who left him alone to raise the girls, she has emerged as a fine and pleasant but one-note character. She has written this book that's basically her own reflection on what happened to her when she was married to Charles. He's now reading it and coming to understand what that time in his life was like for her. He had no idea how she felt. And now, he's seeing that she is full of regrets regarding the choices she made. She hates that she had to put on a façade for him. She wore a mask in order to blend into his world and got lost because of it. She lost sense of who she truly was. She wanted this to be a marriage where Charles loved her for who she is. She's still in love with who he is. And now, there is the basis for an open and honest relationship between them. Most of this story is told through Liza's perspective because she's devastated to see how close Charles and Pauline are getting once more. But Charles and Pauline honestly have the better and more healthy relationship. The lies are a part of the past. With Liza, the lies are still a significant part of the present. For the last few episodes, I've been saying that the show won't do anything between Liza and Charles until the finale. But now, even that seems doubtful because it's coming more and more across as a toxic pairing that may not be right for either of them right now.

Liza can relate to these feelings that Pauline is writing in her book as well. When Charles is reading the final chapter, the audience hears it from both Pauline and Liza. Both of them have felt these emotions of guilt over lying to the person they love. It's a moment played for the audience because we understand that in a way that Charles doesn't. It would be silly if Charles was reading this passage and hearing both Pauline and Liza. He views it as his wife owning up to her mistakes and putting in the effort to change. That's what allows him to open his life up to her once more. The two of them are getting closer. Pauline is moving into the guest room. They are holding hands in public. It's brought them closer and to a more honest place. That's what all the gossip about this book wants to be about. Everyone is asking Liza and Charles about the awkward details of working together to publish this memoir with Pauline. Liza is largely able to put on a brave face. She has something good at the moment with Jay because there isn't the burden of the secret. But she's not in love with him. She's just leaning on him for support. That's literally the case after Charles makes it clear that he's moving on. She's lost her chance to be with him. And she's only now realizing just how much she wanted this relationship to happen. She knows it's wrong in so many ways. But she's feeling these emotions nevertheless. It's brutal to watch while still just delaying the inevitable - despite that possibly not being a good thing at all.

Elsewhere, the show returns to the power struggle between Kelsey and Zane for strength in this professional industry. That was a fine story in the middle of the season. It was always destined to go wrong because they were working for competing publishing houses. They were incredibly competitive with each other. But the show never really delved into those consequences. The loss of Edward L.L. Moore wasn't as seismic for the company as it first seemed. Plus, Kelsey stealing Lachlan from Zane didn't really produce any kind of story whatsoever despite the initial impression that he was a difficult client. Again, these are ideas the show introduced but didn't seem interested in exploring further. And now, Zane returns and wants to go into business with Kelsey. It's an opportunity she is enticed by solely because Charles and Diane want to release Pauline's book as an Empirical title instead of Millennial. That just leaves her frustrated and wanting to be the person at the top making those decisions. That seems a bit formulaic and forced. But this story also reveals that Kelsey has grown as well. She's willing to take Liza's advice and actually do her homework regarding the deal that Zane is promising. Her investigating leads these plans to implode fairly quickly. But it's still just setting up tension in the future because somehow Charles decides to hire Zane and bring Moore back to the company. It feels largely like a way to keep this tension going despite Kelsey and Zane not really being healthy for one another.

That seems to be the overall theme of "It's Love, Actually." It's the characters and the audience revealing just how toxic and unhealthy some of these romantic relationships actually are. That theme is best executed in Diana's story though. For a long time, the show struggled with Diana as a character. She always found herself unlucky in love. That seemed to be the case when she first became involved with Richard. He manipulated her into moving in together because he had no other place to go. Over time, it has felt like it has developed into an actual and meaningful relationship full of love and understanding. But at its core is still a man manipulating a woman so he doesn't have to face the harsh realities of the world. These issues only come up because Richard's son, Ethan, has moved into the one bedroom apartment as well. Richard finds himself incapable of being a good influence who also needs to be tough as a parent. He instead just wants to force this image of a happy family with Diana not caring how she feels about it at all. It's nice to see her get out of this situation. She has grown and become wiser because of it. She accepted this arrangement because she felt it was all she deserved. And now, she has the clarity to know that she deserves better. That's a powerful statement to make. But it's also just as rewarding to see her in her private moments. She's putting on a brave face. But she still needs to take a moment to mourn the end of this relationship. She needs Liza standing beside her on the red carpet. She needs that support because it's the most trusting relationship she's got. Of course, that only increases the tragedy of the situation because Liza is lying to her. That reveal could present as a huge setback for Diana's growth. But right now, it still feels so rewarding for Liza to be there for Diana when she needs it the most.

Some more thoughts:
  • "It's Love, Actually" was written by Grant Sloss and directed by Andrew Fleming.
  • Claire has always been presented as the absolute perfect girlfriend for Josh. In fact, she is too perfect. It has lead to a pretty dull story between the two of them even though their banter and dynamic is pretty relaxed and easy. And now, she's leaving for Ireland and everyone has conflicting feelings at her going away party. It largely just kicks off the theme of complicated relationships for the episode.
  • Of course, it also seems destined that Josh and Claire's relationship is bad as well. He's made the bold and rash decision to follow Claire to Ireland in order to be with her. It's something that Lauren is supportive of with Josh but thinks it's absolutely crazy when she's alone with Kelsey. It also just feels like it is setting up a completely tangential story heading into next week's finale.
  • Liza and Jay never have sex. They have the desire to do so. But they are never actually given the opportunity to do so. Once again, the timing is awkward and there are awkward obstacles in their way preventing it from happening. It's mostly just because Jay's mother is living with him following surgery. He mentions it now only to then say that she'll be gone the next day.
  • This season started off strong with Maggie but she has really just disappeared as of late. Here, she appears at the going away party for Claire. But she's just there as a member of the group of friends. She isn't really given any importance. She just pesters Liza about Jay and if they are going to have sex later.
  • Why is Jay sitting with everyone at Empirical during this big publishing awards ceremony? He works for a different publishing house. Did they not have a table at this event? Was he just Liza's plus one? That would play nicely with her being his plus one at the barbecue event. But there is nothing really said about Jay's presence in this moment.