Dan Amboyer (TV Land)

Any show can parody Game Of Thrones, and it seems like they all have at this point because of how thoroughly that show has saturated our culture. But Younger shows what it can do in this episode—a series of seemingly easy pop culture references turns out to be so much more. This episode reveals that Empirical’s primary account is with Edward L.L. Moore and his series, A Clash Of Kings. At first, the parallels with the popular HBO series appear to be an easy way to get laughs and maintain relevancy since the premiere of Season Six is only weeks away. But the purpose of this very specific client does not end there. Younger takes advantage of an opportunity and milks the Game Of Thrones parody for everything it’s worth. For one, the writers use this plot point as an excuse to address gender issues in the entertainment business. Whether or not one thinks that the show’s exaggerated portrayal of George R. R. Martin and the casting process of Game Of Thrones is remotely accurate isn’t the issue—Younger saw another chance to comment on real societal problems relevant to this particular show, this particular industry, and this particular world, and admirably took it yet again.

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At first, the pop culture references seem to be tangential to the main plot, ways to make the audience laugh and think that have little to do with the overall arc of the season. This is the kind of ruse that even George R. R. Martin would admire. Younger has always defied the expectations placed on its subject matter, genre, and network, and has taken interest in the variety of power differentials that exist in life. Game Of Thrones concerns itself with political intrigue and complex relationships, as well as topics like loyalty and duty. The episode underlines the surprising numbers of ways in which these seemingly different shows’ themes overlap. The reveal of this important client for Empirical also sheds light on Charles’ complex relationship with the company he leads. Empirical means everything to him and he has won many battles to ensure its success—including the battle to promote the company’s most important series—but his responsibilities are also heavy burdens to bear. In another one of their adult conversations, Charles opens up to Liza about his exhaustion at this stage in his career. Liza is a co-worker so this is an intimate admission to make.

Charles’ scenes are few and far between, but they’re always rich in warmth and personal detail. His growing chemistry with Liza is continuing to pay off; the two discuss the idea of Charles deciding to start over at his age, a temptation that Liza obviously understands. Thad’s interruption of such a potent conversation is probably the worst crime he’s committed at this point, and that’s saying something. The writers know that absence makes the heart fonder; taking the breakup seriously and cutting Josh off from the action completely is a bold move, but a respectable, painful one. At the same time, Charles is advancing his position on this particular board game in the meantime. (No, Liza isn’t a game to be won. That was merely a lazy metaphor relevant to this episode.)

If a show’s premise involves a big secret, blackmail will surely follow, and Younger has never shied away from one of television’s favorite plot points. The Game Of Thrones references foreshadow intense strategizing and Thad plays to win…until he loses. Liza herself made the first move when she threatened to tell Kelsey about his affair in case he refused to tell her himself. Not to be outdone, he counter-blackmails Liza when he discovers her age thanks to an unlikely run-in with Caitlin and equally unlikely access to Dartmouth’s student accounts. Based on his success, good looks, and surprisingly long relationship with Kelsey, it appears that Thad has benefitted from good luck for the majority of his life. That luck finally runs out when he is randomly killed in a freak accident at the close of the episode.

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That falling object’s timing is bad as Thad’s is getting ready to marry the woman of his dreams—or the woman most convenient for him at the time, to be accurate. Still, said object did a public service by waiting to fall until after Liza’s priorities have been made known. Thad gives her a choice—she can hide his affair from Kelsey and keep her job or blab and risk her professional reputation. Liza chooses Kelsey over herself; Liza’s priority of professional and personal loyalty over success is proven.

But the game isn’t over. Earlier in the episode, Caitlin decides to track down her mother’s whereabouts in order to find out what she does for a living. It appears that this confrontation is the major threat to Liza’s secret identity in this episode, but it’s a red herring. Caitlin sees Liza’s costume during the Clash Of Kings promotions and mistakes her profession for something far more casual, to say the least. Liza lies to her daughter by omission and gets away with the ruse, then her blackmailer drops dead. But there will always be another professional rival. Her co-workers will always have fiancés. Her daughter will always be inquisitive. Liza’s already lost her boyfriend in order to protect her secret; what else will she lose before she finally comes clean?

Stray observations:

  • “My God, she walks like a lyric poem!”
  • “Donald Trump wants to wear the crown. Tell him no. Amy Schumer wants to wear the crown. Tell her yes.”
  • You know things are getting real towards the end of a season when Ice-T shows up.
  • Some cutting critiques of GOT here. Your move, HBO. TV Land has officially thrown down.
  • I’m not going to make a final assessment in regards to that over-the-top death until I find out how they deal with the aftermath. I don’t always mind ridiculous scenarios if they’re handled properly. Life is weird.

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