Younger: Season 4 Recap
With the fourth season of Younger, without meaning to, we ended up doing my favorite tv thing - getting to start a new show when there are multiple seasons on file, and then catching up to real time while the current season is airing, so that even if you have to deal with the withdrawal of no longer having endless episodes at your fingertips, you don’t have to go cold turkey - there are weekly installments to ease you back into the world. The last time we did this, we were MUCH more disciplined about saying our piece and then responding. This time, it was a lot closer to a "fucking free for all."¹ Are we insufferable? I think we’re about to find out, because this is a pretty unfiltered look at how we talk to each other, with very little care as to how easy it will be to read! Cool stuff.
¹Alison Byrnes, September 28, 2017.
As before, EVERY WORD OF THIS IS A <SPOILER> Proceed at will.
Every one of these beautiful fools could GET. IT.
Annie’s first take We've established that this is a binge show, so perhaps that's why I was a little underwhelmed by Season 4 as a whole. It could definitely have been the loss of momentum caused by having to wait weekly for a new episode. <SPOILERS> To recap, the main plot points of season four are: Liza acquires a memoir/novel called "Marriage Vacation" that turns out to be by Charles' ex wife Pauline, revealing intimate details of their marriage but also putting Liza in a totally weird position! Meanwhile, Diana's relationship with Richard is tested by his teenage son moving in, Kelsey spars with a sexy rival editor and has doubts about her career trajectory at Empirical/Millennial, and Josh starts dating an Irish lass. Highlights, for me, were the character Jay--played by Aasif Mandvi--a cute, funny, age-appropriate love interest for Liza who quickly learns her secret, and helps her cover it up in a few sticky situations. I also enjoyed the Kelsey story lines about her career and ambition, and how the personal and professional were intertwined in her calculations. The finale, in which Josh surprises Liza by inviting her to Ireland for his wedding, was a bit of an anti-climax. It basically left us in the same place we were at the beginning of the season - Liza alone, with feelings for both Josh and Charles but unsure of whether Charles and her will work out. As usual, there were some really funny jokes and giddy, absurdist moments in Season 4, but it felt like we were treading water rather than moving forward.
Alison’s first take Watching this season was an inherently different experience because I binged the first three seasons, and caught up to real time two episodes into Season 4, so this season was necessarily watched in single-episode installments, unlike the first three. And I tampered with the sample even further by deciding to, mere weeks after finishing it for the first time, REWATCH Seasons 1 - 3 in between episodes of Season 4, so my sense of what was going on was often a little confused. What an utter lack of professionalism on my part.
So, it’s a little hard to figure out how I feel about this season specifically. I know that it was still fun. The jokes were still good. Liza’s outfits remained as BAFFLING as ever. I learned that Sutton Foster is only 5’8”, not 6’1" like I thought. Diana had the best story arc of the season (not surprising, not one bit - the woman has DEPTH). Diana is the best character on the show. Maggie is amazing. Charles is hot! I do not love his wife. She is as bland as a scooped-out bagel. It feels like not that much happened. Josh is unbelievably hot. I’m glad Kelsey got over herself pretty quickly after finding out Liza’s secret. I always wish that there was 100x more Lauren. I love that The Wing got roasted (I also love The Wing*) (*the idea of The Wing - I don’t even have enough money to buy the sandwiches I want and I do not live in New York)
Annie: AHAHA. Yes. Yes to all.
Alison: "Treading water" is EXACTLY right.
Annie: Okay, first topic: this season ended back where it started. Why are Charles and Liza being so weird? Why don't they just bone? I mean, I get the conflict of Pauline being back, but it feels forced. If two people are really that into each other, they secretly hook up first and ask questions later. Ya know?
Alison: Yep. And they ALMOST got there. And then they totally stopped having moments for the last few episodes! (Except for the one in the guest house during the company picnic, I guess.) Why!!!! They're so sexy!
But yeah, that feels like the essential thing. I'd say that within the season nothing really gathered momentum in a meaningful way. (With one major, notable exception - we'll get to it.) Either the story arc was short (which isn’t a bad thing - Montana's arc was only a few episodes long and it was a highlight), or the arc was longer, and would start to gain momentum over a few episodes, but then would unceremoniously abandon any progress it had made (which is a bad thing). Like you were saying earlier, why did they drop the Josh and Kelsey tension so quickly? (Not that I ever did or ever would want that to happen, but you know.) Either way, it felt like very little that happened this season impacted the world of the show.
Annie: Re: Liza and Charles, I feel like there was some uncharacteristic anxiety/insecurity on Liza's part. Like, she is a 40 year old self assured woman, who KNOWS how hot she is because she bagged a 26 yr old for like 2 years. So why is she so easily swayed when she hears/sees things about Pauline?
Alison: The question I can't answer right now is: WHY did they slow Liza and Charles down so much. Why didn't Charles find out halfway through this season? Why didn't Pauline do something crazier? (She was so boring.) What was the calculus there? Were they secretly guaranteed ten seasons and now they need to draw out every single plot point? That's what it feels like. Real life very plausibly could have played out like this, but that’s not what we’re dealing with. Just TWO SEASONS AGO a piece of metal fell out of the sky and killed one of the main characters. The Younger world is not real life.
But in any case - the thing that seemed to most definitively cool their tension down was when they were in the guest house at the company picnic and Liza made the point that they'd have a lot to lose if this blew up. And Charles was like "you mean YOU'd have a lot to lose" as if she was being selfish when he OWNS the company she works for and has two houses, one of which has ANOTHER house, and she's often struggling to make ends meet and is an assistant making her first moves up the ladder. But when she pointed this out to him, he got mad and walked away, which I think was very unfair of him and sloppy on Younger's part. I love the physical world absurdism, as we've talked about, but this felt very out of character for Charles. He's a genuinely caring dude.
Annie: Yes, same - the emotional beats of this whole thing aren't ringing as true to me as previous seasons.
Alison: Your read on Liza is very interesting to me. I didn't really read insecurity in her. More just, generalized intense confusion about how to balance her personal and professional life?
Annie: Here's what I mean by insecurity, and maybe that's not the right word. Beginning of this season, as you have recapped, Charles and Liza had some SERIOUS HEAT
Alison: Ugh, VERY HOT.
Annie: As well as some great emotional connection. Charles has made it fairly clear that he likes her, wants her, wants to be with her. But in the final couple episodes, it was like, despite the fact that Liza has been privy to these moments that only she and Charles share, she was letting hearsay about "Pauline moving back in" and things Pauline said about her feelings sway her, make her rethink where she stood with Charles. It even seemed like she was veering back towards Josh, because of old feelings but ALSO because she felt like Charles was leaving her behind. Which I felt that previously they did a good job of not having Liza fall into these second-guessing spirals. Idk, that's all
Alison: YES this is super interesting and well-spotted. You’re right, she did do that, and it didn’t make a ton of sense. But do you know what I would attribute it to? Liza’s compulsion to prioritize everyone around her before herself, even if that person is a woman she just met and has no personal obligation to (like Pauline). For example, she not only set Josh, a man she is still in love with, up with his new girlfriend, but FLEW TO IRELAND FOR HIS WEDDING on his casual request. JFC. I think that this is actually an interesting, compelling personal quality for Liza, because it is one so many woman have, but the back half of this season seemed to go too far with it, past the point of believability. Or, maybe it is believable that she would have done those things (maybe), but what makes it feel so off is that she is never called out for it. Maggie doesn’t call her out, which makes no sense because she doesn't take that kind of shit, but for that matter, neither does the show itself. It just lets her do this stuff without commenting on it at all.
Annie: Hmm, yes ok I accept this reasoning! You're very right about her de-prioritizing herself.
Alison: And now that I think about it, she's probably also behaving this way out of fear. Much easier to say "Well, his wife wants him back, and marriage is sacred, and I don't want to be responsible for hurting her, and there are some career considerations too" rather than to say "I am in love with this guy" and dealing with whatever ensues. Like having to tell him the truth, and the fact that he might be mad at her, because if she admitted to Charles that she loved him, she would HAVE to tell him.
Zooming out for a second, I think that this emotional landscape ultimately does makes sense and is interesting, but the problem is that we had to WORK, really work, to piece all of this out and figure out why it made sense. The show does not make any of this apparent enough.
Annie: Goodness! Yes. You have brought me into the light, thank you Al.
Alison: Hey, you'
I was trying to say you’re welcome. But hey, I JUST figured this out too. So, that's not too great for Younger. The show is fun when the world is crazy, but the relationships have always made a ton of sense, which has been the bedrock of the world.
Annie: So can we talk about our boo, Diana?
Alison: YES WE CAN. DIANA.
Annie: Diana is the best character on the show. I would argue that like Liza, Diana had a little bit of a full-circle arc this season, but in a productive way. When we meet Diana in Season 1 she is single, and a bit thirsty, so to speak. It's hilarious, but also very emotionally relatable. So when she gets with Richard, it's nice to see her with someone and see her happy in that way.
But as we know, by the end of Season 4 she's identified some significant problems in the pattern of Richard's behavior, and actively chooses independence rather than stay with someone bad for her. So she's back where she started, inexplicable fashion choices and all, but she has grown and is truly herself and it is so exciting/inspiring. I LOVE DIANA.
Alison: "A bit thirsty" hahahaha. Very true, and I even found that inspiring - she has wants, and has never pretended not otherwise. And this made her rejection of Richard and his bullshit even more powerful, because we know that she wants, badly, a partner. But not at a cost to herself. She won't settle or compromise.
Annie: Absolutely. She is so #strong
Alison: I don't know that I have too much else to add, you summed her up so well. She's the best and the funniest. Also, in the course of my (inexplicable) rewatch, moments with Diana have been my very favorite and have stood out to me the most. She doesn't stand for ANYONE's bullshit (like that young, annoying as fuck investor? Who tried to tell Diana she was obsolete? Oooh bad move, little shit), in part because she knows she's fucking GOOD at her job, and has value to Empirical. She also is so kind to Liza, which sounds surprising, I know, but after (one of the times that) she and Josh broke up, Diana took Liza out to lunch, and spends so much more time and effort actively mentoring Liza and encouraging her to lean into her career than I remembered.
Annie: On a side note, Diana being single and Charles supposedly getting back with Pauline leads to another CLASSIC Diana moment, when she puts her hand on his arm and is like "Oh Charles, We're like two ships passing." and he's just like "......." with this stricken look on his face.
Alison: Oh my god hahaha yes. Her jokes land so much better because she is such an unapologetic person that she doesn't even apologizes for them, even when she didn't mean to say them in the first place.
I want to see what Diana's reaction to Liza's age would be, because I think it might really surprise us!
Annie: Oh yes. The next two big reveals will obviously be Charles and/or Diana. The question is, will Younger stagger them, or have the secret come out at work so they both know?
Alison: I want them staggered, so that we really get to zero in on each person, but I hope they're not too far apart. Like half a season apart, or even just four episodes or so.
Annie: Yeah true. But I agree, I think Diana's reaction might be more compassionate than we would expect
Alison: Right?? I think she feels very alone at her age in the publishing world.
Annie: Yea, and she is truly interested in Liza's career, and she probably wouldn't be surprised AT ALL that Liza couldn't get hired at 40.
Alison: TOTALLY. I'm just so interested in what she'll think because she's such a complex person.
You know what would have been a fun way to have made this season feel more essential, without burning through romantic plot (because it seems like they're really trying to preserve those story lines)? Take a bit of a pause on the romantic MOMENTS and give more screen time to the deep bench of very cool, fun friends! What if this season had been all about Liza/Maggie/Kelsey/Lauren doing things together? And if the stuff with Charles and Josh were B stories? They already felt like B stories, but ones that were given the screen time of A stories.
Annie: Ugh I would have LOVED THAT. That episode where Maggie goes and fucks shit up at "Montana"s gallery? Was gold.
Alison: BEST MOMENT OF THE SEASON. And also when Lauren has a crisis, but it's that she’s scared she might be basic? And then she goes to Maggie, and Maggie says the wisest thing on the show all season, which was for Lauren to not try so hard to be interesting. (As she turns around to go back to her art project with naked ladies covered in paint ha.)
Annie: Ahaha. I know, Lauren is amazing. I would like to know the writers’ reason for having Lauren fired, and can only hope it means MORE LAUREN, not less. Are they maybe trying to set Lauren up to have a job that brings her into contact with Kelsey & Liza more, because I would be FOR IT.
Alison: I HOPE SO. They have to know what a gem she is.
Annie: We have to give a shout out to one of the funnier sex moments of the season, which the actress playing Clare pulled off with aplomb: yogurt dick. Just big big props to Nico and Phoebe Dynevor (I looked it up).
Alison: Oh yes yes yes hahahaha. Made even funnier by the way her accent made her say "yhahghurt"
One thought about her - I think what was difficult about her character was that in the beginning she was frustratingly perfect, uninterestingly so, but then the moment she stopped being so perfect, it was because she was being manipulative?? Whiplash
Annie: YES. Like I didn't get AT ALL that she was being sneaky. She WAS funny and cool and overall a good match for Josh until the show sort of forced us to be suspicious of her.
Alison: Same!! Yeah, forced is correct.
I liked the Montana arc so much better because the reveal of her flaw was hilarious and obviously for the sake of comedy. This was so much muddier and not fun.
Annie: Yes!! Clare is a good person, but the writers forcing a wedding into the picture made it feel more "rom com" dramatic than I was expecting
Alison: Yep. Yep. There is so much drama already living in the show, WAITING to be activated, why did they MANUFACTURE this new drama?
My favorite moment of the finale, was, in TRUE Younger form, when Clare's mom was showing Maggie her painting... "And there's a cave. I want to go into that cave so badly."
Annie: YEP. First of all how classic that they found a way to literally put a vulva on screen. Just, straight up. And it was HILARIOUS
Alison: Applause applause applause to that. I love Maggie so much, she was working so hard not to laugh.
Also, she's describing the painting, and then when you see it and the whole thing is PINK, it's all so much more graphic.
Annie: Yes yes. And THE BOULDER on top. ...OK, I think we should sign off with our hopes and dreams for Season 5! Al, you play showrunner: where would you take Younger from here?
Alison: OOOH I LIKE THIS GAME. I will just say before this - we’ve been a bit critical of this season, but every show has peaks and valleys. And the episodes, with maybe one or two exceptions, were always still so fun to watch. There is so much good here.
Okay, now let me think.
- Josh stops the wedding. Integrity means too much to him, he can't go through with it. - Charles leaves a message on Liza's phone telling her that he asked Pauline to move out, and that he is in love with her and wants to be with her. She texts back and says they'll talk when she gets home. When she does, Charles says he's found a really good new job for Liza at another publishing house so they can be together. She then tells him about her age. - Josh is embarrassed by the whole thing so he doesn't talk to Liza about his feelings until they get back to the states, right after she tells Charles about her age. - Lauren gets a job at Empirical (this was your idea, to bring her professionally closer to Liza and Kelsey and I love it). - Maggie gets some professional success and has to deal with having a higher profile as an artist
I could KEEP GOING - I haven’t come up with anything for Diana and Kelsey
Annie: Wow, I should NOT have let you go first.
- Yes, Josh stops the wedding. - Charles leaves a message on Liza's phone, which the audience can see/hear him do, telling her he loves her. BUT international call snafu--she never gets it! - Jay finds a job for Liza at Macmillan, which she takes, which makes Charles upset, but she reveals that she wants to be somewhere where they know the real her, AND SHE REVEALS HER AGE DUN DUN DUN... - Lauren gets hired at Empirical/Millennial - Charles is upset about the age thing/but conflicted because now there are two REALLY GOOD REASONS for him to be with Liza - she doesn't work for him and she is age appropriate
Alison: This is making me think about this from a slightly different angle - what are the major sticking points that the next season will have to figure out?? 1. How to stop the wedding. 2. How to make it possible for Liza and Charles to be together. 3. Liza needs to figure out how to chose between Josh and Charles - she has only ever bounced between them because of circumstance, NEVER because she decided she liked one of them more than the other. 4. Charles needs to find out Liza's age. 5. Diana needs to find out Liza's age. 6. Lauren needs to find out Liza's age. 7. Lauren needs to rebuild.
OMG what if Diana and Jay got together??????????????
Annie: I think it would be amazing for Charles and Josh to somehow run into one another and bond/Josh tells Charles that Liza is the best woman in the world and he would be an idiot to let the age thing screw things up between them. Good closure on Josh/Liza as a romantic couple plus more bromance
Alison: Wait wait wait who is saying that we want closure on Josh/Liza?? Maybe I should be asking - WHO SHOULD LIZA BE WITH??
Alison: Okay wow, that was an immediate response. I don't know if I can actually answer that question.
Annie: I love Josh I do. But. I really do think there was too much of an intellectual distance between Liza and Josh.
Alison: Yeah, I can see that. Although there's also the school of thought that your romantic partner doesn't need to be all things. She could get her intellectual fulfillment from work and from Maggie.
Annie: True… But let me tell you it is rough stuff being with someone who doesn't read when your whole fucking life is literature. And the age difference I think *is* too much in this case - I want Josh to have his hopes and dreams come true, and be able to have gorgeous babies with an age-appropriate lady.
Alison: Yeah so true, their wants don’t actually, truly line up, so I KNOW that Josh doesn't really make sense. But damn if he isn't as good as they come. I can't let him go, not even one tiny bit. And even though I know this wouldn't really be the case, if she got with Charles that would feel a bit like sliding back into her old life. Although it wouldn't be that at all, I can't help but feeling like it would...
Annie: I say Charles now, because that is how I feel now. HOWEVER, a lot hinges on the age reveal.
Alison: GOOD POINT
Annie: Josh has always surprised us with his maturity, especially in moral matters.
Alison: WHICH IS WHY I CAN'T LET THE HOPE OF HIM GO. And Charles has been surprisingly IMMATURE at times!
Annie: I think there is a decent chance that Charles will be more upset about the age thing than even he realizes. He might not think he likes Liza because of her (fake) age, but… the idea of a beautiful young woman being into him? Is probably very powerful.
Alison: Oh shit - yeah, this feels possible
Annie: Once Liza is revealed to not exactly be that (just your standard stunningly beautiful middle-aged woman, not a "young" woman), Charles's reaction will make or break it for me. Not saying that Charles would be totally evil or anything for being attracted to a 26 year old and not a 40 year old. Just that I think it would be an unfortunate example of a realistic human reaction, that sometimes we are a lot shallower than we want to be.
Alison: Which seems, frankly, totally plausible. And would tie in with the show's exploration of such things very well. Okay wow we are writing the next season right now I think?
Annie: Yeah I think we just did. Get at us, TV Land.
Alison: Nice. We have a website now, we're easy to find.
Okay! It's a wrap?
Annie: ya dude, WRAP IT UP.
See you all for Season 5, suckers!