“Sk8” is a step up for Younger because this week’s conventional love triangle plots are handled effectively while the required edgy material actually feels unconventional for once. A love triangle is heating up between Liza, Josh, and Charles because this is sitcom world and the sitcom gods demand a sacrifice on the altar of narrative shortcuts. As a twentysomething doomed to grunt work, Liza is ordered to babysit Charles’ kids while the rest of the cast gets to hobnob at a lavish publishing awards ceremony—well, everyone except Maggie, but that goes without saying at this point. Semester after semester of Relationship Geometry may be getting old for advanced students of television, but at least this show is capable of building believable connections and chemistry between its characters in its quest to maximize its shipping quotient. When Charles expresses his frustration about the mess his life has become due to his divorce, Liza is able to comfort him in a way that’s both playful and genuinely helpful, not just because she is a warm, fun, wise character, but because she’s been there herself. Her strategy to remind him of the number of successful artists who have been able to produce brilliant work despite having rocky personal lives comes to mind so quickly partly because it’s probably the same mantra that she tells herself when she feels low about her own divorce.
Charles, the new corner of the triangle, is a worthy candidate for Liza’s heart because he is an adult with adult baggage, baggage that looks like hers. (Full disclosure: I have just paraphrased a line from Rent. Such an offense is admissible only because I’m referring to Tony Award-winning Sutton Foster. Look, I don’t make the rules.) On Younger, the men in Liza’s life work as characters, but they work just as well—if not better—as ideas, or symbols of the potential directions her life could take at this crucial juncture. Liza has successfully abandoned her ex-husband, the past, in pursuit of a new life. Charles with his beautiful house, adult responsibilities, and complicated history represents a new and improved version of the mature life that Liza finds appropriate and familiar as a woman who is actually in her forties, despite her efforts to hide this small detail. And then there’s Josh, who may be young, sloppy, and a bit sketchy, but he’s there after her baby-sitting gig, ready to pick her up and take her away abreast the Skateboard of Feeling Alive. Liza won’t know who to choose until she knows who she is at this stage of her life. The only thing for certain is how painful it will be for Diana if Charles chooses Liza; Diana and her relationship with Liza have become strengths of the show, and it would be difficult to watch either implode.
At least a potential pairing between Liza and Charles would be believable since their relationship has been developed subtly throughout the last several episodes. Laying that kind of groundwork for character developments can pay off, but moments of genuine surprise can as well. Between Jane Krakowski’s character face-planting into a glass door and Anton slitting his palm with a knife at the dinner table, Younger is surprisingly adept at creating scenes with real shock value, which is no small feat. In “Sk8,” Kelsey actually quits being self-destructive for once and follows Liza’s advice to end her relationship with Anton; an awards show ceremony isn’t exactly the best location for that kind of confrontation, but Kelsey’s heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, her good decision-making is rewarded with a really dark moment that is true to Anton’s character—this is the kind of move that an emo Scandinavian artist would make to pressure a woman to stay with him—and it’s also a twist on the typical relationship dynamic, as it’s the man who can’t handle rejection instead of the woman. Even though he perpetrates violence on himself, it is an abusive act. It was immature on the parts of both Kelsey and Anton to complicate this type of working relationship with a sexual affair, but the difference in their behavior here supports the common assertion that age is nothing but a number. This is a risky scene that’s much less familiar—and therefore, fresher—than Younger’s previous attempts at edginess.
Some might argue that this isn’t the type of show for palm slitting, but trying to figure out what kind of show it wants to be is exactly what Younger should be doing in Season One. At least there’s time; as Liza is learning, the process of self-actualization never ends. Great results require experimentation.
· On that note, it wouldn’t be an episode of Younger without some vagina and Sweden jokes, and the best running gag of the episode combines the two. This episode gets an impressive amount of mileage out of the joke that likening a woman’s vagina to a walrus’ fold is the highest compliment in Sweden. “I am the walrus,” indeed.
· Diana upping the ante with her statement necklace game every week reminds me of the growing white wine glass in Inside Amy Schumer’s Friday Night Lights sketch. I swear on Carrie’s nameplate necklace that Diana better have a bowling ball hanging from her neck by the season finale or Patricia Field is dead to me. Really, Carrie’s signature flower should have swallowed her whole by the end of Sex And The City, Little Shop of Horrors-style.
· This episode is especially appealing aesthetically due to some beautiful location finds, such as the settings chosen for Charles’ house and the awards show.
· I would start watching Downton Abbey again if it meant doing so with wine in the company of Sutton Foster and Debi Mazar. If that makes me old at heart, so be it, because that is one sacrifice worth making.
· Liza is in a love triangle with a Josh and a Charles. Josh Charles’ most recent role as a series regular involved a love triangle on The Good Wife. This coincidence could mean nothing or it could mean everything.