Wednesday, June 13, 2018

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Charles Struggles as His Company and Personal Life Go Through Turmoil in 'A Titanic Problem'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 5.02 "A Titanic Problem"

Liza and Kelsey seek out a potential business partner for Millennial. A newlywed Josh is back in Brooklyn. Charles sees Liza with fresh eyes.

There are moments throughout these opening two episodes where it seems like the creative team is doing some much needed course-correction after the way things played out at the end of the fourth season. They are realizing that the most exciting episodes produced last year were the ones that focused on Liza and Kelsey's relationship after the main secret was out. As such, the show is finding a new twist on the secret about Liza's age being revealed with Charles knowing the truth but Liza not being the one to tell him. Furthermore, it's clear that the show is reanalyzing some of the decisions made last season. Sure, they liked Zane enough to bring Charles Michael Davis back as a series regular. Zane just doesn't have a whole lot of personal agency yet. Right now, he remains in a competition with Kelsey all of the time. That has a spark to it though that is exciting. Meanwhile, the relationship between Josh and Claire was just a bad idea that is completely destroyed here. That's probably for the best even though it leaves Josh's story up in the air moving forward. At least, he has roommates and friends who will be able to help him through this difficult time where he was once again manipulated by someone asking him to lie. And finally, Pauline came back into Charles' life with the expectation of being able to pick up their relationship once more and be a happy family. That was always left in an ambiguous way because it's the right thing that Charles should probably do for his family but he's too busy lusting after the 27-year-old assistant who works for his company. As such, a definitive answer is given here about whether or not Charles and Pauline will try to make things work again. That's exciting and refreshing. It's the show putting an end to some of these stories in order to move ahead with what's more exciting and rich with storytelling potential. Right now, things are very dramatic too following the scandal surrounding Edward L.L. Moore and the impact it has on the bottom line at Empirical.

Charles is understandably stressed right now. When he's onscreen, it's entirely about Liza and him not knowing how to trust her after falling in love with her. And yet, he can easily just give the explanation that he is worried about the company and whether or not they will have to file for bankruptcy. Empirical has been on the verge of financial ruin before. It's a trick the show loves to use from time to time in order to really increase the stakes. However, there's no real need to worry about the future of the company either. Things are looking bright because of the Millennial brand and the upcoming release of "Marriage Vacation." Pauline's book is getting a huge push as a way to distract from all of the Edward L.L. Moore news. It's a push that is proving to be very successful as well. The pre-sale numbers are going up and more and more people are taking notice. It's a huge accomplishment for the company. Kelsey thinks that Charles is actually jealous that Millennial may bring in more money than Empirical this year. She thinks that's his reasoning for trying to keep a deal from closing. And yet, the audience can plainly see that he is in such personal turmoil right now because he doesn't know what to make of Liza. He has grown so close to her over four seasons. They have had so many intimate moments where they almost had sex. He was willing to be in love with her. She is the first woman he has felt that way with since Pauline left. Pauline coming back only made things more difficult because he was so incredibly torn. And now, he has an easy solution for distancing himself from Liza and recommitting to his family. But he also understands that he simply can't do that right now because it's not truthful.

Charles is being asked to walk around smiling and pretending that everything is alright. He is very appreciative of his staff continuing to work even though there may be some delays to payroll. He knows that things are very tenuous right now and could easily fall apart. Pauline is asking him to make a commitment. She sees the girls worrying about what her return means for their family. She doesn't know what to say because she is looking for those same exact answers from Charles. She knows that she is going to be asked about the state of her marriage while promoting this book as well. An answer needs to be given. A deadline has to emerge at some point for Charles to figure out his feelings towards her. It has to be completely separate from Liza. And yet, Liza is fueling every decision he is making right now. He finds it impossible to get her off of his mind. She is all that he can think about. The only friend he can confess all of these complicated feelings with is Bob. He is a loyal friend but also a trusted lawyer. He knows that Charles can't fire Liza simply for learning that she is older than she claims to be. That's just a lawsuit waiting to happen. But he also worries that it's a potential scandal should anything come out to the public. Empirical couldn't survive another brutal news story at the moment. It would officially make the company go under. As such, Bob cautions Charles to just act like everything is normal. He should limit his contact with Liza. He can't get her out of his life completely. But he no longer has to be as flirtatious and personal as he was before. Sure, that makes him seem distant but it's what's necessary to make his company continue to work. Having to lie all the time at work though is exhausting for him. That means he can't come home and do the same exact thing with Pauline. Sure, it's destructive to make that announcement following her big party debuting the book. But it's the emotionally honest and mature thing to do as well.

Charles would also be such a fool to walk away from this very lucrative deal that would see Millennial partnering with Reese Witherspoon's production company. "Marriage Vacation" gets such a boost to its pre-sale numbers just because Reese adds it to her monthly book club. It's through promotions like that that can really help a book succeed in this business nowadays. It's all about getting those mentions out there so that it creates a sense of urgency for people to have to read this book. Sure, it's a story that has a silly moment with Liza sending a direct message to Reese saying she should adapt the book into a movie and play the lead role. The film business is much more complicated than that. But it is a nice start to know that the executives at Hello Sunshine are interested in optioning the book for such an adaptation. That's very exciting even though Reese can't commit to starring in every single project she is also producing. She wants to give opportunities to other women after all too. As such, that sparks an idea for Liza that could be very exciting for both companies. A partnership could really be key to helping new and emerging voices get the kind of support and respect they need in order to make something out of their debut novels. It's just an idea for an incubator. But it creates a relationship that could be very exciting moving forward. Liza and Kelsey are excited about it. Charles is too in the end. There is just an awkward moment in the middle where he is unsure if he can sign the deal knowing that Liza is the one who came up with the concept. But in the end, the business side of things needs the boost in revenue. And right now, Millennial is where most of that support is currently coming from. And so, Charles will continue to play into Liza's lie even though he is unhappy about it.

All of this should be striking a chord for Liza as well. No, she doesn't know that Charles is aware of her true age. She sees that he is being more cold and distant to her. He is looking at her with a new perspective. As such, the show is really amplifying all of the ways the world around her suddenly sees her for her true age instead of as a young, hip 20-something. She suddenly needs reading glasses which is just a ridiculous premise for a lame joke. But it's enough to inform Charles that he was foolish for being deceived for so long. Liza may be aware that he knows the truth too. In their final interaction of the episode, he tells her that she "pulled it off." It's in reference to the deal that she has just made with Reese Witherspoon's production company. She could see it as solely that and take it as a celebration. And yet, the tone and the way that the show portrays that moment would seem to suggest she'll read into it more and once again worry that her secret has been exposed. She sees the changes within Charles. As such, it could be quite destructive to their relationship. Things grew so much more intense with Josh the moment she asked him to lie for her. The show continues to suggest that lying is something incredibly difficult for most people to do. Many people just can't cover up the truth of that magnitude in a way that they are comfortable with. It gnaws at them over time. As such, Liza could be seen as a powerful manipulator who doesn't care about who she hurts. And yet, she does care about her new friends and colleagues. She wants to keep these personal friendships going. Things were tense after Josh and Kelsey learned the truth. But now, their bonds as friends are as strong as ever before. Things will hopefully get there with Charles. It is just going to take some time. And even then, it may still be difficult to ever trust his judgment again. That's the current problem that Josh is dealing with because he once again has his heart broken by a women who just couldn't handle all of the deceptions she was pointing out into the world. And of course, Liza is right there to comfort him in that moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Titanic Problem" was written by Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Eric Zicklin and directed by Steven Tsuchida.
  • After five seasons, it's still crazy that some of the main characters have never met one another. And yet, that does change this week with Diana and Lauren interacting for the first time. Lauren really comes through for Liza and Kelsey in planning this party for the "Marriage Vacation" book launch. It's impressive to Diana as well even though she's unknowingly flirtatious with Lauren too.
  • Lauren is following through on her promise to build her own marketing company. She believes she was fired from her last job for no good reason. And now, she is proud to form "Heller Good." It's a slogan that isn't impressive to anyone who hears it. And yet, she is still building new contacts and proving her worth. As such, this could be a successful new venture for her. She just has to keep putting in the work.
  • Maggie is in such a weird story this week. That has often been the case with extraneous Maggie storylines. She's the character who is most often saddled with ridiculous plot beats that only play out in a handful of scenes. But here, it's just so random that she is annoyed by the tour bus going through the neighborhood. And then, she turns it into her own success by becoming a part of the tour itself.
  • Zane is teasing a book deal that he is currently working on. He can't reveal any details to anyone at the company even though they are in a closed doors meeting. He just promises that it will be a story that will cross genres in some really exciting ways. It is important for the show and the company to keep looking forward and discovering new authors. But this is nothing more than a tease right now.
  • It's also just crazy that Charles is talking to Bob about Liza but Bob doesn't know anything personal about who this woman and her true identity is. He knows Liza as the mother of his daughter's roommate. They've bumped into each other a couple of times. They've always been very friendly. Bob could support Liza eventually. But it's still going to take those extra beats for Charles and Bob to piece everything together.