If you’re caught up on the podcast, you’ll know I’m knee-deep in a binge of the first two seasons of Younger. It’s been a magical ride through some of the best shipping I’ve experienced in a long time. As next week’s guest, author and therapist Kathleen Smith, could probably confirm: my dopamine levels have been off the charts watching these characters.
As season two came to a close, the stage was set for Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) to be the center of a love triangle that will likely be a large part of season 3: Josh vs. Charles. I’ve been thinking about the merits of each of them since I finished watching yesterday and it comes down to a question we discuss often on the show: What are we looking for when we watch romance on TV? Is it about escaping into a fantasy? Is it about being able to relate to a realistic depiction of a healthy couple? Do we want a little bit of both?
The two opposing sides in the Liza triangle present a stark contrast when it comes to the notion of fantasy vs. reality. Both men are handsome, charming, and appealing in their own right. Josh (Nico Tortorella), though, represents more of a fantasy. He’s significantly younger than Liza, making a lasting union between the two them seem unlikely. Certainly, Liza’s 40-year-old friend in New Jersey sees it as having nothing more than fling potential. But what if that isn’t the case? What if Josh has the maturity to recognize that Liza is exactly who he wants to be with and the willingness to give it his all? What if they can find a way to make it work and the 40-year-old woman doesn’t have to say goodbye to the handsome 26-year-old boy?
Aging is an unavoidable fact of life, but it is one that, at least societally, affects women in far more negative ways than it affects men. Women live in constant fear of how the years will impact their skin, their bodies, their overall beauty and sex appeal. Fair or not (it’s not), the notion of a woman in her forties being a relationship with a guy like Josh seems crazy to most people. It’s also easy to expect Josh to do the wrong thing, to make choices that will show Liza why being with someone fourteen years her junior makes no sense. But Josh surprises time and time again, saying and doing the right things at every turn.
The writing is so good and the characters so beautifully developed that it becomes an easy relationship to root for. So much so, that it almost catches the viewer off guard when all of a sudden there is an equally appealing option on the other side of the fantasy/reality spectrum. Watching Josh and Liza for the first two seasons, we become Liza, coming up with all the reasons why this seeming mismatch really could work. Sure, there are lots of obstacles that may arise over the years, but it’s worth it to be with a person you love, right?
When Charles (Peter Hermann) kisses Liza, it pulls some of those obstacles into sharper focus. Are they really worth it? What if Liza can be happy without all of the challenges that come from being with a much younger man? Charles is someone she connects with on an intellectual level who also happens to be in her age bracket. Even though they’ve only shared one kiss, just having him there as an option clarifies just how hard we were trying to make the Liza/Josh union work. Which is not to say that it can’t or that it shouldn’t, but Charles is a reminder that relationships can be easy and wonderful at the same time.
Of course, a Charles and Liza pairing wouldn’t necessarily be easy, either, thanks to the web of lies Liza has spun herself into. Whatever visions of smooth-sailing I have for these two is quickly complicated by the idea of Liza entering another relationship with a man who doesn’t know who she really is. At this point, Josh and Liza have no secrets between them, which is a significant asset on a show chock full of them. However, if Liza can be honest with Charles, and he can accept her, lies and all, there’s a lot to be excited about down that road, as well.
At the end of the day, Younger has done a tremendous job creating a triangle where both sides present appealing options that are easy to get behind as a viewer. Do you have a preference? Share in the comments!
Season 3 of Younger premieres on TV Land on September 28th at 10/9C