It's not often you find a love triangle on television with equally appealing love interests, but Younger made it look easy for a time; for three seasons the love triangle was perfectly balanced with immensely desirable suitors for its leading lady, the fortysomething divorcée Liza (Sutton Foster). In one corner was Josh (Nico Tortorella), an incredibly romantic but young tattoo artist, and in the other was Charles (Peter Hermann), an intellectual equal of similar age who happened to be Liza's boss — but who until recently thought she was 27.
Unfortunately, something changed in Season 4: the love triangle fell apart after the writers kept finding new ways to keep Charles on the sidelines even after Liza and Josh broke up. But now that some of the major roadblocks standing between Liza and Charles have been cleared, and now that Josh is doubling down on Liza being the one following the implosion of his ill-advised green card marriage, the question that remains is whether or not Younger has bungled its love triangle beyond repair or if there's still hope it can regain some of its former steaminess in Season 5.
Working in the show's favor is the fact Charles' estranged wife Pauline (Jennifer Westfeldt) — introduced last season as another impediment to Charles and Liza's burgeoning relationship — is out of the picture as a potential romantic partner. While her appearance last season was frustrating for many fans and one of the things that contributed to the slow destruction of the show's central love triangle, one can also see it as a necessary hurdle the show had to clear to demonstrate that Charles was ready for a relationship and had no baggage when it came to the mother of his children. Her return, as annoying as it was, helped him to work through his lingering pain.
Another thing that Younger has going for it is that Charles finally knows the truth about Liza's age. Of course, there's a small snag because Liza wasn't the person who told him the truth; he had to hear it from a disgruntled and disgraced author. As a result of the lie and how it unraveled, Charles is rightfully upset and has thrown up yet another wall between himself and Liza. But could this, like Pauline's presence last season, be one of the few remaining obstacles that has to be cleared before a relationship between Charles and Liza can truly blossom? It certainly looks that way.
Romantic comedies often rely on conflict to drive their emotional arcs, and while one can definitely make the case that Younger waited far too long to even pull the trigger on Charles, there exists the possibility that something good will come out of all of this drama. But Charles hasn't been the only person going through growing pains lately: Josh has been suffering some of his own as well.
Once Liza broke his heart by cheating on him (with Charles, naturally) right before he was planning to propose, he jumped relatively quickly into new relationships that were always doomed to fail. Montana was clearly a rebound, while his impulsive green card marriage to Clare was built on a lie. If Younger has taught us anything, it's that for a relationship to be successful, it has to be based on honesty and open communication. So, even if it ended sooner than everyone expected (the breakup was abrupt and happened offscreen, so who knows if this was always the plan or a quick fix by the writers), Josh's marriage was never going to last. However, it might have actually served a purpose. Following the Season 4 finale last year, Younger creator Darren Star said Josh going through with the wedding was meant to show that, despite everything that Josh has done thus far, he is still very young and perhaps emotionally immature. Whether or not you choose to believe that or think Josh's decision was out of character — there's an argument to be made for each — it definitely painted Josh as someone who rushes into things and is not ready to make a commitment of that magnitude.
Still, that doesn't mean it's a reason to count him out for good. Sometimes people have to grow apart and grow separately as people before they can grow back together as one. It's possible that this experience has started to open Josh's eyes to what he wants — and what he does not want. Based on Tuesday's "The End of the Tour," it appears he still believes he wants to be with Liza, regardless of what that might mean for his future. It's likely that Josh has only just begun this journey, though, so like Charles and Liza, it's unlikely anything will come to pass anytime soon.
But no matter what eventually happens this season, whether Charles is able to forgive Liza or Josh is able to prove he is ready for a lasting relationship and all that entails, Younger appears to be making forward progress once again. Like the three people involved in its central love triangle, it has to go through some growing pains and clear a few hurdles to get to where it ultimately wants to be — which is a show that is no longer about the lie that kicked everything off. Based on what we've seen so far in Season 5, it seems like it's finally getting there. And with any luck, the romance and sexiness that once had viewers obsessed with the show's central love story will come roaring back when the paths are finally cleared.
Younger airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on TV Land.