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Friendship trumps shipping on the Younger season finale

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On the Season Two finale of Younger, and on many other shows’ season finales before it, the protagonist is faced with a dilemma as to which participant in her love triangle she will ultimately choose as her One True Pairing. On another show, the drama involved in this dilemma would be the main thrust of the episode, in a matter of speaking, but Younger isn’t other shows. The love triangle exists but it functions as a catalyst for examining Liza’s life and the choices that she makes. For one, her former boss attempts to rescue her from the worst possible scenario—a dead end retail job in New Jersey—and a kiss is exchanged. There’s nothing like welcoming a former co-worker back to the professional fold like an impending trip to Human Resources, but Charles isn’t exactly known for his success with the ladies. The kiss was inevitable and appropriately timed, as the intimacy that the two have built up made Charles the best choice to confront Liza about her future with Empirical—and her future in general. The chemistry is still there, but the key part of this exchange is the advice Charles gives Liza as an “older, more experienced” man of the world.

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Liza is working in retail because she decided to quit Empirical suddenly, a choice that bothers Charles as a representative of Empirical and a romantic interest. Kelsey has found out about the confrontation between Liza and Thad before his death and is taking her grief out on her friend because that’s what friends are for. Liza decides that quitting Empirical for the sake of her friend is the right thing to do, but Charles urges her to return, insisting that this tragedy isn’t her responsibility. When she’s older, she’ll realize that shit happens; some things are beyond our control.

Again, the show revisits some of its key interests in this finale. The debate between planning and improvising one’s life trajectory is addressed, as is the process of prioritizing the important elements of one’s life. An astrologer visiting Empirical hits a nerve with Kelsey by suggesting that order can somehow be discerned out of the seeming chaos that is the universe. Her fiancé was just killed by a random accident, so these words aren’t particularly welcome. Kelsey changed her mind several times before deciding that Thad fit into her life plan. In the end, however, the randomness of life took that choice away from her. Liza, on the other hand, is the poster child for making up things as she goes along thanks to the double life that she’s leading. In this case, however, she’s trying to make up for the bad hand that the universe dealt her friend, and is sacrificing herself in the process. Liza is prioritizing Kelsey’s happiness over her own, a decision that Charles advises against for practical, personal, and professional reasons.

The other participant in this love triangle is Josh, who conveniently decides that this is the right time to fight for a reunion with Liza. This conversation takes place at a funeral right not long before Charles makes a move as well, but then Josh has never played by the rules. Not only that, Josh breaks up with his girlfriend for Liza as a gesture to prove that he’s “all in,” but his commitment was never in question. Liza’s commitment to Josh is the issue. He doesn’t know his position on her list of priorities and that hasn’t changed. It’s somewhere below work and above work-appropriate attire. When it comes to life plans, Josh appears to have one that still includes Liza, whether or not she’s accepted the position.

Liza has committed to someone on this series, but this someone isn’t Charles or Josh. Liza didn’t want to divulge her secret and risk her career for Josh but she’s proven her willingness to do so for Kelsey twice now. Liza has now risked blackmail and unemployment in order to protect Kelsey in her hour of need. As generous as it is to prioritize a friend so highly, Liza is going to lengths that her original best friend, Maggie, considers inappropriate. Maggie is familiar with Liza’s dreams and voices her concerns as Charles did. This is a healthy level of interference in a loved one’s life. Liza’s decision to interfere when she found out about Thad’s indiscretions was appropriate as well, even though grief initially blinds Kelsey to this fact. Once she realizes that Liza has actually quit Empirical on her behalf, Kelsey immediately realizes how far things have gone and makes sure that she redirects Liza from the road to martyrdom before too much damage has been done.

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Thad’s death was extreme while this finale’s love triangle-related cliffhangers are overly familiar. The plotting here feels inorganic and overly convenient all around. Still, some of Liza’s priorities have now been clarified while the urgency of evaluating the others is reaching a boiling point. When it comes to life plans and priorities, Liza seems to go with her gut. Leaving Empirical wasn’t even a question; her heart told her that it was the right thing to do before her head could catch up. But Josh deserves clear answers as to where he stands whether he knows it or not. Maybe it would take someone else—someone like Charles—to wreck her priority list; if so, Josh deserves to know that. I guess we’ll find out next season—stay tuned.

Stray observations:

  • Observe as I tried to contain my fangirling in today’s interview with Sutton Foster.
  • There wasn’t much effective comic relief in the finale but Dan Amboyer does some heavy lifting playing Thad’s twin. If that’s his final episode of the show, that’s quite the swan song.
  • The ditsy temp made me miss Mad Men, like most things do. “Nice necklace, lady.” At least she gets it.
  • That’s a wrap for Season Two. At least Season Three is already a guarantee. Thanks for reading.
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