Sutton Foster, Dan Amboyer, Hilary Duff (TV Land)

After some relatively intense episodes exploring both the conflicts and bonds that Liza has forged with people in New York City, it makes sense that Younger would be interested in traversing some lighter territory with a standalone as mid-season approaches. As always, the casting director (or whomever was responsible) starts things off on the right foot by casting Justine Lupe (a standout alumna from the dearly departed Cristela) as a Client of the Week. Jade Winslow is a fashion blogger poised as a whistleblower in the fashion industry. She’s ready to release a tell-all that Kelsey has the opportunity to publish if she can impress Jade. At first glance, this character appears to be as shallow as the industry she’s prepared to attack, but a night out at the club in order to get to know her potential team swiftly reveals Jade to be much more. Yes, she’s over the top but she’s also genuinely interested in shedding light on the manipulative practices that the fashion industry has adopted in order to make a buck. Lupe shines in this type of role where she plays a seemingly ditsy character easily underestimated by others, and her presence elevates the standalone considerably. At the same time, Younger is the perfect show to address timely topics like the use of airbrushing on fashion magazine covers; not only does the topic tie into the theme of society’s obsession with youth, but one of the show’s strengths is the fact that it is so unapologetic in its interests in the female perspective and traditionally feminine subject matter.

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Unfortunately, introducing such an intriguing character for a one-off is a double-edged sword. The agent’s line regarding Jade’s issues with eating insinuates that she herself still struggles with the pressure to conform to fashion industry ideals. Jade—a pairing of rich character and talented actress—could’ve carried a show all on her own, yet she doesn’t even enjoy the kind of grand send-off that she deserves on Younger. The episode’s slight twist involves Jade’s preoccupation with Josh—they once dated and he ended things badly, and it’s his apology that convinces her to sign with Kelsey. Jade is one of many strong women on this show who can keep it together in the boardroom but cannot in the bedroom, and the repetition of the trope is at best lazy and at worst concerning .The conflict is easily solved and a show that tends to overachieve when it comes to following through on ideas and connecting dots limps towards the finish line. Overreliance on the Liza and Josh dynamic is a mistake; her annoyance that he treated Jade this way is painted all over her face, however, and barely addressed. Kelsey and Liza reassure Jade that everyone makes mistakes in relationships but that theme isn’t expounded upon—a missed opportunity when a subplot involving Maggie’s romantic history provided material on a silver platter.

Maggie’s relationship with Lauren may appear to be her big storyline for the season, but at least she has a great scene partner and the new dynamic is showing potential. While this is the typical story of a fling that turns into something more, the players’ age gap provides a parallel to the Liza and Josh arc. Maggie finds herself in the odd position of giving her younger lover advice about protecting herself in the very relationship in which Maggie herself is involved. Due to her age, Maggie is a more experienced person when it comes to relationships—if not necessarily wiser—and the backstory about her heartbreak over Belinda helps explain the thick skin that she’s developed.

Diana is less fortunate, having to elevate another clichéd subplot with Charles—but elevate it she does. While a storyline involving an unintentionally scandalous photo being shared online already seems dated, the awkward banter sings—off-pitch in this instance, but confidently—thanks to great performances. These writers seem to enjoy going nuts riffing on any subject, a real strength of this particular writers’ room, so the subplot produces a barrage of funny lines regardless of the quality of the premise. When it comes down to it, the show has so many strengths at this point that a relatively weak episode is still really entertaining, and that’s no small feat.

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Stray observations:

  • “I’m sorry, do I look like I’m made of time?”
  • “How do you say ‘power bottom’ in German?”
  • “I heard that, Ann Taylor Loft.”
  • “I’m sorry but ‘marketing strategies’ sounds like something a sad dad would have on his LinkedIn page.”
  • Justine Lupe would like to remind everyone that she isn’t Beth Behrs. She knows what you’re thinking and appreciates your interest.
  • Favorite details: Liza’s head resting on Maggie’s shoulder. Jade throwing food at the lumbersexual until he goes away. Maggie’s description of her Belinda tattoo as a badge of honor. The endless material this show gets out of the symbolism of tattoos.

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