Lying is bad. Lying hurts people: Basic ethics that “Younger” has kinda skirted around… Until now.
Before “Younger’s” Season 3 finale, Liza suffered virtually no consequences for her deceptions, besides her own anxiety. That constant stress is nothing to scoff at — but when you’re not hurting anyone but yourself, it seems like a small price to pay for a whole new life. But it seems the longer Liza keeps up her millennial front, the more susceptible she is to making the immature, selfish choices of a foolhardy 20-something, to the detriment of everyone around her. When Liza signed her divorce papers with her fake date of birth a few weeks back, it was a warning sign she was getting lost in the game.
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The bottom line — and genius of the show — is that Liza is so charming, vulnerable, and earnest that it’s easy to forget that she’s ultimately a grifter. Without that hint of doubt or shame, the show would just be a weekly attempt to hide the secret: Old-school, like “Bewitched” or “I Dream of Jeannie.” Making us complicit in Liza’s selfishness, without making us feel bad about it — or her — is the show’s secret master trick, and they only push that button when it’s guaranteed to hurt us most. (Well, that and whenever anything bad happens to our Kelsey — that pool gaffe by the “EW” assistant, about being “crushed” if her fiance died, was low-key one of the saddest things that happened all season.)
As with our real-life loved ones, “Younger’s” main players are so likeably flawed, we can usually breezily dismiss their shortcomings and focus on the good — just like the show does. But in the harsh light of day (or in this case, season finale), we make out a different tale. Kelsey blindly hitches her wagon to the stars of selfish guys who see her as “the girlfriend” and not a brilliant, ambitious mind. Maggie enables her friend’s lies and blithely doles out conflicting advice without considering the aftermath of her words. Lauren is a remarkably self-absorbed person who puts her sexuality above all other relationships. Charles has a huge boner for a young assistant who should definitely be off-limits. And Liza, well…
Oh, and Diana is the proud owner of a super pervy parrot now. (Obviously the least offensive out of the list, and Diana is a shining beacon for the world, but still: a disturbing fact that must be recognized.)
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What about Josh? Let us not forget that just a few weeks ago, he magnanimously gifted Liza with a free pass to sleep with new men. That grand gesture is a lot easier said than done. “One night only, never wanna hear about it, ever, ever, ever” probably doesn’t apply to seeing your girlfriend making out with her boss on the night you plan on proposing to her (even if it is with tacky spelled-out rose petals). Josh’s motives here are dicey and contradictory — and totally believable. We wonder if he is really ready to marry Liza, or just didn’t want to lose her and didn’t know what else to do. After that Liza + Charles kiss, though, it might not even matter.
Now that “Younger” has finally ripped down the facades Liza has built up, it’s up to Season 4 to explore that uncharted terrain — and hopefully resolve our emotional cliffhanger. The second we saw the “get” for Empire/Millennial this episode was a Tony Robbins-esque lifecoach superstar whose catchphrase is “GET REAL,” we knew we were in for some pain — although we weren’t prepared for the upshot, which had Liza “getting real” about her real, actual, adult human love for Josh… And Josh in turn getting heartbreaking real about the problems we, and Liza, have long overlooked.
With a high-concept premise like “Younger’s,” you often find yourself asking “Good Wife” questions: How long can this premise hold out? Every season has seen a new revelation of the secret to someone, and followed up next season on the pain that results. We were half-convinced that Liza’s toilet-bowl revelation would have her confessing to Kelsey next, so central is their relationship to the meaning and mission of the show — but it’s even more evocative and poignant that it’s Josh’s strongly worded admonition that gets Liza past that particular finish line.
Josh got real, and — albeit with blackmail hanging over her head and a dumb professional mistake besides — he pushed Liza into a whole new shape. Which is what she’s wanted from him all along, no matter how much she fought it.
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Liza’s blended that cold, cold frosé and now she has to drink it. Her relationships will change; they could break down or evolve into something real and wonderful. Regardless of their frustrating mistakes, we’re invested in Liza and these messy, flawed, good-hearted people she has embraced. One thing is for sure: manipulative Emily better damn well not get a book deal for her terrible dog advice series pitch, at Millennial or anywhere else.
Diana — who has, in some ways, grown the absolute most this season out of anyone — says: Life starts when you’re 40. Maybe after Liza comes clean and starts living authentically, she will find this to be true as well.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to go cry into our frosé and wait for “Younger” Season 4 — coming to TV Land in 2017.
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