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Hilary Duff and Sutton Foster in Younger
When we last left Liza (Sutton Foster) and the Empirical team, major shifts were afoot. After a significant professional misstep, Kelsey (Hilary Duff) was set on leaving Empirical and starting her own company. Diana Trout (Miriam Shor) was off on her honeymoon with the sexiest plumber in New York, while new baby daddy Josh (Nico Tortorella) was still pining over Liza. Charles (Peter Hermann) had decided that a wedding was a fantastic time to pop the question to a speechless Liza, just in time for a filming hiatus and a pandemic disruption.
Fans will finally get to hear Liza’s response on April 15, when Younger drops its seventh and final season on Paramount+ and Hulu, reaching TV Land later in the year. For those debating whether signing up for a streaming service is worth having their curiosity satisfied, the answer is yes. The final season brings back the wit, heart, and binge-ability of Younger’s finest moments.
Liza is now free to live her truth as a fortysomething woman, and that comes with its own issues. Her job is secure, and her loved ones have forgiven and forgotten her con, but she is faced with a more profound question than that of how short her skirt has to be to play a convincing 27-year-old. Who is Liza, deep down, and what does she actually want? It’s a question that haunts most of the major characters for much of the season. Kelsey is forced to redefine her role at Empirical after being demoted from her publisher role. Charles is confronted with his past, which makes him reexamine certain assumptions he had made about his life. Even Maggie (Debi Mazar), the self-assured free spirit, is ready for the stability of a professorship that proves more difficult than she imagined.
After a year of Gen Z middle parts and TikTok teen sensations, it makes sense that a show rooted in the idea of millennial youth culture is ready to let that go. “We’re not the young kids on the block anymore,” Kelsey points out during Lauren (Molly Bernard)’s 30th birthday party in the premiere—like it or not, they’re all getting older. Thankfully, that acknowledgment only buoys the show’s spirit.
Season seven of Younger is ready to move on from some of the conflicts that had previously threatened to drag down the show. Romantic tension is less focused on the stale love triangle between Liza, Josh, and Charles. Instead, it centers on Liza’s own desire to define her future away from the traditional trappings that had kept her tethered to New Jersey in her actual younger years. This might make for less swoon-worthy moments (though, don’t worry, there are enough to melt hearts), but it breaks a repetitive cycle we’ve seen before.
Gone too is the drawn-out question of whether Empirical will survive another day, leaving room for more interesting workplace drama. One of the more enjoyable aspects of Younger has been the way Liza and Kelsey bring creativity to the zany publishing scenarios the show loves to indulge in. With Millennial on its last legs, Liza and Kelsey spend a big chunk of the season carving their own path in a way that speaks more to the times: underground, grassroots, and anti-corporate.
Despite these shifts, the minds behind Younger are well aware that fans will want more of what made the show TV Land’s sleeper hit. There are clever one-liners and quotable quips in each scene. The show satirizes recognizable trends and figures, most notably a Greta Thunberg-figure who is both an inspiring and nightmarish teen. An aspirational-yet-accessible New York unfolds before us; mercifully, it’s pandemic-free, allowing viewers to frolic in a world rife with cocktail parties, hip literary readings, art openings, and booze-filled gatherings. The only hints of our COVID nightmare might be how often the characters decide to drink in the outdoors, bundled up in chic winter gear. Some of the show’s most notable recurring characters make an appearance including Lauren’s intrusive parents (Kathy Najimy and Josh Pais), the fabulously bitchy Redmond (Michael Urie), and the somewhat-unhinged Pauline (Jennifer Westfeldt).
Bringing back the ambitious, scheming, and manipulative Quinn Tyler (Laura Benanti) injects the show with energy as well. To keep with the season’s theme of redefining oneself, she comes back in search of her own redemption. Next to Chicago—further evidence that the TV powers that be really have a vendetta against the city–Quinn looms over Liza as this year’s villain-plus-ultra. Benanti brings enough nuance, humor, and depth to the role to pull viewers into the same mind game that haunts Liza. We second guess Quinn’s intentions every step of the way, while also finding moments of true empathy for a character meant to come off as cold and calculating.
Unfortunately, the obstacles brought on by the pandemic also mean Younger is deprived of its best character. As reported, Miriam Shor’s Diana Trout has a limited role this time around and the loss is palpable and significant. With her wry sense of humor and prickly attitude, she provided necessary counterbalance to Liza’s more Pollyanna tendencies. The show tries to compensate by giving Lauren a more prominent role, but her antics—though charming in small doses—border on annoying. As the people around her evolve, Lauren is the character that still feels like she wandered off from season one, unchanged. Team Josh also gets the short end of the stick. He gets plenty of screen time, but his storyline feels underdeveloped, as if the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with this pretty face other than having him be a pretty face. Considering he is single dad on a career high, there are plenty of ways in which they could have mined this situation far beyond his status as dreamboat.
Final seasons are tricky because there are so many loose ends to wrap up in a limited amount of time. Episodes are fast paced, easily consumed, but that also means we get expository dialogue in place of action. There’s a lot of regurgitating important conservations and off-camera decision-making. Nevertheless, Younger pulls off a final season that will remind viewers why they fell in love with it in the first place. At its core, the show has always been about our ability to reinvent ourselves. But while earlier seasons might have emphasized our longing for the opportunities we wasted away in our youth, this final one comes off as older but wiser. It’s a hopeful exploration on how fresh starts can occur at any age. “I just got to a place where life can surprise me again,” Liza tells an old childhood friend over dinner. After a year of lockdowns, isolation, and existential boredom, Liza’s journey feels more pointed than ever.