What hell hath season seven of Younger wrought, you ask? I don’t even know where to begin with how disappointing this season and this finale episode have been. I’d like to blame it all on the lack of Diana Trout — the Trout will be Younger’s greatest legacy, right? — but the problems are much bigger than anything our One True Statement Necklace Queen could fix. (Although imagine how much more fun this season would’ve been with a newlywed Diana! What could’ve been!) The season has been both infuriating and pointless at times, with characters either lacking any kind of development or simply making decisions that feel so antithetical to who we’ve been led to believe they are, and much of that is on full display in this series finale.
By giving Liza and Charles their big romantic reunion with one episode still to go, the writing was on the wall, really. And by turning Charles into The Worst this season, that writing was highlighted and in bold. Liza and Charles are not long for this world (we’ll always have that cupcake scene from season four, I guess). Yet still, these two sexy giraffes go through the motions for two-thirds of the episode: They’re happy in bed together and promise no more lies from here on out. Liza seems truly excited to tell Maggie that she and Charles are back on. (Maggie could not care less and it is perfect — everyone is over it!) When Kelsey tells Liza about secretly sending Inkubator out to VCs and deciding to leave Empirical and Liza tells her that she’s back with Charles and loves him and the company and could never leave, she seems genuinely fulfilled by this life choice. This could be it. This could work.
But then at the big party celebrating Empirical’s 100th anniversary, Liza learns that Charles has been testing her — thanks to Quinn he knows that Kelsey has been sending Inkubator around and neither she nor Liza have informed him yet, but he’s been waiting to see how long, if ever, it would take Liza to come clean. (She wanted Kelsey to wait to tell him until after the big Empirical party so as not to ruin the mood or steal anyone’s thunder.) And when he tells her he’s been testing her, he does it in a smug way that seems to indicate that he thinks this is totally fine. It’s not, at all. It’s very fucked up, actually. Liza knows this, too. And then that night in bed, Charles makes another comment about Liza keeping secrets from him — she secretly submitted his Henry Cane manuscript to the prestigious Yaddo writers community and he got in, but he wonders if she would’ve even mentioned it had he been rejected — and it’s inevitable: “We’re not gonna make it, are we?” Liza tearfully whispers to Charles in the dark. They’re not and they know it and they hold each other.
The next day at work, things are surprisingly fine between them. Like, REALLY fine between them. So fine that Charles tells Liza he’s going away to Yaddo and he wants her to run the company while he’s gone. And maybe longer if his career takes off. So … he doesn’t trust her enough to be in a relationship with her but he does trust her enough to run his family’s company even though she is highly unqualified. Make it make sense! Somewhere you know there is another editor who has been toiling away at Empirical for 15 years waiting for their shot screaming into a pillow. Sorry invisible editor, didn’t you know that all you have to do is have very minimal experience in the publishing industry, commit identity fraud, sleep with the boss, and you, too, can become editor in chief of a 100-year-old publishing company? It’s that easy!
But that’s not the end to Liza’s story, friends. At the end of the episode, she’s at the neighborhood bar celebrating getting her big dream job with her best gals — not one of them is like really, your dream job is to work at a stodgy old publishing company with your ex-boyfriend and not do something innovative and inspiring with Kelsey, this was your endgame the whole time?, which is a shame — and leaves the booth to get a round of drinks. She can’t get the bartender’s attention. She waves her shoe at him. If this scene seems familiar, it should: It’s the same scene from the pilot episode when Liza and Josh first meet. And lo and behold, who should saddle up next to Liza but Josh. They remember the shoe waving from the night they met. They redo the same banter. They can’t stop smiling. Then Josh says, “I’ve been right here by your side all along,” and there is more smiling and lingering and then the camera pulls back and they are lost in the crowd at the bar. After everything, it’s Josh.
Here’s the thing I can’t shake: It feels like neither Team Josh nor Team Charles won this way. The Charles part of that is obvious — he was turned into quite the insufferable character. As far as the Josh part: If the show wanted to end with Liza finding her way back to Josh all along — the impulse is understandable, even in their quick scene together at the end of the episode the chemistry between Sutton Foster and Nico Tortorella is palpable — why not just put Liza and Charles out of their misery at the top of the season? They could have spent the rest of the time having Liza move forward and rebuild that friendship with Josh that would lead to them rekindling their romance (and also maybe discussing the fact that a major reason they broke up was because Liza didn’t want to raise any more kids and now Josh has a baby daughter, so like, that might be a problem at some point). Instead, we get this tacked-on scene after a season in which Josh and Liza spent very little time interacting. How unsatisfying!
You know what would’ve been great? Letting the camera pan out on Liza, Kelsey, Lauren, and Maggie celebrating their wins and new adventures in that little booth in their neighborhood bar. After all, wasn’t it the strong female friendships that ended up being the sturdy foundation of this show?
But wait! There is one happily ever after that might save this whole finale: Kelsey is getting out. Kelsey knows there are more than two men in all of New York City and wants more for herself than to stay at a company that both demoted her and completely got rid of her imprint, an imprint that saved that company from bankruptcy. She’s a woman who knows her worth, and that’s both professionally and personally. Remember Snoozefest Rob? Well, he tells Kels that he wants a 20 percent cut of any deal she makes for Inkubator with a VC since he’s the one who connected them. And then he says something misogynistic. Kelsey tosses his phone into his drink and kicks him to the curb.
Of course, ending things with Rob means she’s also losing all connections to any potential investors she had in her company. For a moment, she contemplates taking Charles’s less-than-stellar deal and staying with Empirical. She gets up at the Empirical party to make a toast and win back Charles’s favor after keeping her Inkubator plans a secret, but thinks better of it. Instead, she thanks Charles for everything he’s done for her career and for being an inspiring mentor (except for that time he sold out to the man, I guess), but knows it is time she starts the next chapter of her life. She needs to strike out on her own. Kelsey is betting on herself and it is a sight to see!
Not that one ever needs to worry about Kelsey figuring out how to make things work, but it certainly helps that Hello Sunshine contacts her and wants to buy an equity stake in Inkubator. She didn’t need Rob or Charles at all. And so Kelsey Peters will be setting off to Los Angeles to make her mark on the world. Now, that’s something to celebrate.
• What in the hell was that Scamalot thing? Redmond asks Charles and Liza to come to an investor preview of his boyfriend’s musical and it ends up being a rip-off of Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango” but with “infamous con artists” including Bernie Madoff, Elizabeth Holmes, Rachel Dolezal, the Fyre Festival guy, and … Liza Miller. It’s so bad (the investors eat it up, though), and also WHY? I GUESS it’s used as a catalyst to get Charles thinking about not trusting Liza, but this would have much bigger implications and it’s never mentioned again. If that thing got made it would be terrible for Empirical, but even if Liza’s part was eventually cut, doesn’t it seem like a thing Liza would at least want to chat about with her friends? Honestly, what was the point?
• Another “what was the point” moment: Liza sneaks out of Charles’s house early after getting back together so as not to confuse the girls, but his oldest daughter follows her out, tells her she’s so happy she’s back, and gives her a big hug. Those poor girls are going to be VERY confused about how functioning adults have relationships when they grow up.
• In a surprise: The most romantic moment of the whole finale is Cass chasing down Maggie in the subway and planting one on her after their fun, chemistry-filled dinner. Maggie seems so smitten later when she tells her friends about it. We love a happy ending for our Mags, it’s just unfortunate that it had to come on the heels of that terrible cancel-culture storyline.
• Uh, well, Lauren goes to meet up with Max and learns that he was so inspired by her fearlessness and ability to live her life authentically, that he has come out and is engaged to a man he works with. Lauren asks to sleep with both of them. And they do? I just … have no words left. And it’s my job to have words!
• Okay, I would 100 percent watch a show following single dad Josh on his new adventure as a tattoo artist/landlord in Williamsburg. Liza’s not invited.
• And in conclusion: DIANA TROUT FOREVER!