Nico Tortorella, Sutton Foster (TV Land)

Finales matter. It may seem unfair to put pressure on exhausted writers to deliver more than a few twists and a good cliffhanger in the eleventh hour, but that’s the nature of the beast. A finale is a crucial time to revisit a show’s premise and take stock of the original questions being posed in light of everything that’s transpired. Younger is able to do just that when Liza confesses her sins to Cheryl, a past colleague who inadvertently discovers the age-defying charade. At first, Cheryl seems understanding of Liza’s predicament, equating lying about one’s age with the more common workplace ruse of feigning confidence when in doubt. Asking viewers to relate to a forty-year-old character who is pretending to be twenty-six is a tall order, and the show has repeatedly introduced parallels to try to ground such a heightened premise. In this case, said premise is reduced to its most fundamental level—putting on a façade—and the universality of Liza’s story shines through. Cheryl’s efforts to relate to Liza’s dilemma are short-lived, however, once the opportunity to blackmail a deceptive entry-level employee in exchange for company secrets reveals itself. Once Cheryl drops her own façade, she delivers a line that pulls double-duty, skewering the show’s premise in the guise of an exquisite burn: “Oh and by the way, I have two children and I’ve never stopped working. That’s what nannies are for.”

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In general, the blackmail plot with Cheryl exemplifies many of Younger’s strengths thus far. Thanks to wonderful guest actresses like Martha Plimpton and smart, efficient writing, Younger has proven itself to be especially adept at fleshing out one-off characters very quickly, which is no small feat. Centering the finale on publishing industry politics is also smart; these grounded, serious stories balance out the show’s comedy, romance, and heightened premise. Plots involving money and power create opportunities for twists that are unexpected on a show like this, such as the fist pump-worthy reveal that Liza is prepared to blackmail Cheryl right back.

Liza clearly finds herself at an ethical crossroads in this episode. She’s been living one lie, but is she willing to tell even more in order to maintain the first, and the life it has afforded her? Cheryl offers to keep her secret if Liza is willing to send her numbers regarding Ellen’s book deal—a very big deal considering it’s Ellen. I might’ve called Cheryl’s bluff when she claimed that Gawker would be interested in Liza’s scandal, but I can’t pretend to understand the whims of the internet, so nothing would surprise me. The important thing is that Liza has already betrayed the trust of Diana and Kelsey, and compromising this deal would be twisting the knife.

At first, Liza folds under pressure and asks Kelsey for the numbers. The accusatory way in which Hilary Duff delivers the line, “Why would you want to see those?” is a punch in the gut; it’s a reminder that Kelsey isn’t just a friend of Liza’s, she’s a more established colleague as well. Betraying the company means betraying Kelsey, and the episode reinforces this bond via plotting, location, and blocking choices in order to keep the stakes as high as possible. When Liza confesses to Kelsey that she and Josh have broken up, she does so in the woman’s restroom—the sacred epicenter of female friendships, at least according to television. Knowing her friend is devastated, Kelsey meets Josh on his home turf—the bar where his hilarious nuvo-bluegrass band plays—to argue Liza’s case. The blocking of a later scene where Kelsey gives Liza advice involves both actresses sitting on office cubicle desks, their casual positions suggesting the relaxed, familiar nature of their friendship.

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Kelsey may be a mess in many ways, but she’s also been a great friend to Liza, a woman who can’t risk losing a true ally when she’s lost enough already. The fallout after Josh learns Liza’s secret is predictable but well-executed. In these situations, the issue is never the lie itself; the deception is always the problem. It’s no surprise that Liza’s efforts to open up via adorable slideshow pay off and she gets a second chance. Still, Nico Tortorella’s nuanced performance elevates the writing here. Foster will attract the bulk of the performance-minded praise for this series, but Tortorella deserves a lot of credit as well. While he can play the fun, youthful side of his character, he can also play wounded Josh and confrontational Josh when the script demands; Tortorella delivers a cutting line like, “You’re kind of a lunatic, aren’t you?” in a way that simply devastates. In the end, Josh chooses to walk into the sunset with Liza on their way down a New York City sidewalk into a New York City coffee shop, but this sunset is more like a sunrise; they have chosen to make peace with the past and start over again at square one.

While one of the major tensions of the series has been temporarily resolved, the writers have done themselves a service by giving themselves many opportunities for Season Two storylines. Kelsey, Lauren, and Diana still don’t know Liza’s secret. That undeniable chemistry with Charles is still there, much to Diana’s dismay. Season One improved at an impressive clip as it went along, and proved itself to be very focused and well-planned. That being said, the cost of putting together an interesting cast of characters is that viewers will want to see more of them. Now that Liza has been established, the rest of the characters deserve more shading, especially Maggie and Josh’s roommate. That is one diamond in the very rough.

I’ve had an issue with the actual casting of this series that I haven’t brought up all season; the timing has never seemed right and I decided to see the season play out before addressing it since every episode was already in the can. Now is as good of a time as any to make the observation that this is not a very diverse show and at this point, Darren Star should have made more of an effort to make sure that his show reflects the diversity of New York City, especially after all of the criticism that Sex And The City and Girls received. Younger represents a new direction for TV Land; that direction is very promising in many ways, but true relevance requires putting forth more effort into diversity.

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Stray observations:

· “But I love him. I think I always will.” You’re killing me, Sutton. Sob.

· “There’s no crying in publishing.” Well okay then.

· At least Maggie and Lauren were given some opportunity to shine. Maggie got to dance to music that only she could hear while Lauren got to articulate some more fun Jewish expressions that I’m not even going to try to transcribe right now.

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· The wardrobe for the finale is appropriately divine, between Diana’s black satin blouse and Josh’s coat. I should’ve known that Liza had a few aces up that ridiculous sleeve when she arrived at the bar to meet Cheryl in a cream fuzzy sweater of badassery.

· “I wonder how long you think you can really get away with this.” “I guess we’ll find out.”