Tuesday, June 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Younger' - Charles Wants More Answers From Liza About Her Secret in 'The Talented Mr. Ridley'

TV Land's Younger - Episode 5.04 "The Talented Mr. Ridley"

Liza gets to know a charming journalist and confronts Charles. Diana agrees to a date with a familiar face. Josh wants a reset.

"The Talented Mr. Ridley" introduces new stories for both Liza and Diana. As such, it feels more like an introductory episode instead of one that continues to pay off so much of the story like the rest of the season so far. That makes it a little more lackluster. And yet, it's also important to keep the lives of these characters going. Their lives are always going to be in a state of flux no matter what is going on with Liza's secret. Right now, there is so much tension between Liza and Charles. The tension is palpable throughout that opening scene where Diana is hosting a party and just wants to play a simple game of "Mafia." Of course, it becomes melodramatic right away once Liza is revealed to be the killer and she has to kill an innocent person until the party guesses that she's the killer. It's all in innocent fun. She targets Zane right away just to divert attention onto Kelsey. But she's too drunk to really have a say on how smart and crafty certain individuals are being in this game. At times, it feels like there are only a few people who are actually playing. There is a whole party going on in Diana's apartment. But there are only a few characters of importance. Even the newcomer who has never been seen before is played by a familiar actor in Tony winner Christian Borle. Plus, he only has a few lines in that opening sequence. Instead, the tension comes out of Charles now believing he knows when Liza is lying. He is able to figure out right away that Liza is the killer. He goes on the offensive right after Kelsey makes that initial accusation. But Liza is able to divert the attention away from herself and onto Charles. Of course, that has to be even more damaging in Charles' eyes. She is able to craft the perfect argument in order to continue playing this game. Her purpose is to stay unnoticed for as long as possible. But there are connotations that extend far beyond this game. Charles could just point to it as even more evidence of how capable Liza is as a liar. She has been deceiving them all of this time. Only now has he been able to figure out what the truth is with her. As such, that only increases the tension more between them.

And yet, there are only a small handful of scenes between Liza and Charles after that. Their dynamic is currently the driving force of the season. Charles found out Liza's secret. That immediately changed their relationship because he has been forced to look back and re-analyze every interaction they previously had out of fear that he is being played by a con woman. Liza had no ill intentions towards Charles at all with this lie. She only kept it a secret because she was afraid that it would create even more scandal at Empirical. She didn't want to be responsible for destroying the publishing house's reputation in the literary community. Plus, she believes she's been doing solid work with Kelsey at Millennial. It's also important for Kelsey to be brought up to speed on everything that's been going on as well. Charles just walks into a Millennial meeting to basically reject every pitch that a prospective author has. He sees no value in ordering a project such as this. He genuinely could believe that he was making the smart and rational business decision. But Kelsey and Liza can tell right away that something more is driving his actions. Yes, it's crazy that Kelsey has to ask what's wrong with Charles for Liza to share that he now knows her secret and that he didn't fire her. That could force them to completely re-evaluate their stance on the issue. It may not be as big a deal as they were expecting it to be. But it still hits as this massive betrayal where Liza is fighting to earn back all of the respect that she earned from Charles along the way. That all went flying out the door the moment that he was confronted with the truth.

It's also key to note that Charles isn't perfect in his handling of this situation either. He can hide behind the idea that he rejected this book pitch because it just didn't make sense for the Millennial demographics or the story was already too played out to sell well now. But he mostly wants to stomp on any potential Liza has of enjoying her life while in this workplace. That's abusive as well. He is basically putting a stop to any kind of advancement she could hope for in this company. He is using the truth about her age against her. That's discriminatory and could get him into a whole lot of trouble. He is just so angry at her. As such, he warns her that her new prospective love interest actually steals food from parties and then completely rejects every pitch that the guy comes in to give to Liza and Kelsey. It makes Liza feel like the only way for the business and her career to succeed is if she resigns. She sees that Charles clearly resents her. If she resigns, then it won't be a huge scandal that could possibly take down Empirical. And yet, that's not the solution that Charles wants to have on this either. He is just so incredibly torn about what to do with her. He sees the good work that she has done for the company. He is betrayed on a personal level because he fell in love with Liza. She was always there to support him whenever something came up at home or work. He came to rely on that relationship. That's what's been destroyed here. But it also affects their working relationship. They still have to find that balance again. Liza feels a little cocky because she can say that Kelsey was angry at first but managed to get back to being best friends with her. She expects that to be the outcome here as well. And yet, it shouldn't be as easy as that. The show should challenge itself to tell a different story in that regard. It's already doing so with how Charles found out. Now, he is able to ask her questions about who at work is in on the secret. He'll still think it's wrong to keep this from Diana. But that final moment is also just enough to give the hint that they could become just normal colleagues again. It's just going to take some time.

Elsewhere, Christian Borle is introduced as a potential new love interest for Liza. He plays Don Ridley, a journalist who has recently written articles for Vanity Fair and Vogue. As such, he's the kind of guy who knows so many celebrities and can impress any number of people simply by sharing crazy stories. And yet, he also represents a significant change in journalism where he is struggling to keep up with the times. The show has always just talked around the idea that journalism and the literary industries are potentially dying. Yes, there are so many terrific novels published every year. But the publishing companies have had to find new ways to market them and actually profit off of them as well. Meanwhile, the news is so often instant and online that people no longer need to pick up newspapers or magazines. As such, Don is barely struggling to get by as the writer of clickbait articles that are meant to sell ads by fooling people into thinking something scandalous about a famous actor is true. And yet, a twist like that was always going to happen after that moment where he was stealing food from Diana's party. At first, that could have played as nothing more than a quirk of his. He likes to be frugal in that way. He doesn't want this food to go to waste. But instead, it veers more towards tragedy with this once respected journalist just trying to find new relevance in the world. As such, he doesn't seem like a viable love interest for Liza. In fact, most of the guys introduced for her in that sense who aren't Josh or Charles usually just go away after an episode or two. Yes, the chemistry is there between them. It's a sweet connection with Liza genuinely understanding what Don is going through. It also just doesn't seem like there is much of a future between them.

That possibly stands in stark contrast to Diana who is single and ready to find a new man for herself. Some of the best and most grounded moments of last season came from her realizing that her relationship wasn't what she needed or deserved it to be. As such, she made the right decision in letting him go even though it was also heartbreaking for her. And now, she finds a new connection in the most surprising way. Instead of actually getting a date through this party she is having, she gets one once the plumber comes over and it's revealed to be Enzo. He's the guy she once had sex with when he was busy renovating the apartment across the hall from her. That was a memorable story a couple of seasons ago right before she got involved in a serious relationship. That makes it understandable why the creative team would want to return to it. In fact, the show further fleshing out that dynamic means they get to examine just how unlikely this pairing actually is. There is a great physical attraction between the two of them. But they come from different worlds as well. That could be good for Diana too. It could force her to experience more of the world and see that it isn't bad to expand her horizons. Sure, it's also hilarious when he picks her up for their date in his plumping truck with the intention of taking her out of Manhattan to get Italian food. That's not what she was expecting at all. She thought he would treat her right in a place she was very comfortable in. She becomes so uncomfortable throughout all of this. And yet, she's pleasantly surprised that there are great dining spots throughout the city. She doesn't have to be exclusive to one borough. That makes it nice even though it seems unlikely that he will be able to treat her like this every time they go out for a date. Diana navigating that should also be a fascinating story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Talented Mr. Ridley" was written by Grant Sloss and directed by Peter Lauer.
  • Josh tries to cleanse himself in order to just completely restart his life after being betrayed by many relationships. He wants to find something new within him that doesn't have anything to do with sex or alcohol. As such, he wants to give those up for a couple of months. And yet, it's not long before he falls back into bed with a beautiful woman for a one night stand. All it takes is him being a hero for a dog.
  • Speaking of the dog, it's absolutely horrifying to see someone be so cruel as to just tie him up in a restaurant and never come back. Of course, Josh and Maggie are responsible people as well who know they have to care for this creature. But it's also not surprising when this situation comes to a quick resolution after Lauren points out that there are no pets allowed in their building. However, Josh also says they can't have three roommates which may be an interesting tease for the future.
  • For the longest time, Josh was only defined through his relationship with Liza. And yet, the show has put in the work to make his friendships with Maggie and Lauren just as important. As such, scenes between them can be produced and kept completely separate from everything going on at Empirical and still work incredibly well. Of course, the jokes about gluten allergies didn't really work for me.
  • The show is also pointing out that Kelsey doesn't exactly love her commute from Brooklyn to work every morning. As such, that means she crashes at Zane's apartment after Diana's party because she's too drunk to responsibly make it home that night. But there's also just a random moment where the two of them see each other working late and commenting on the obvious lies they are telling. It's a little too weird though.
  • Will Charles and Kelsey talk about Liza's secret openly to each other now that they both know the truth? That could affect their working relationship as well. It already has because Charles didn't want to listen to anything Don was pitching. But Charles could actually want Kelsey to explain why she became comfortable with telling this lie even while knowing the damage that it could inflict on the company. That could be crucial as well.