After a pretty ignominious (read: meh) start to the run, Girls has improved considerably in the past few weeks, and even more remarkably than that, has sustained that improvement. Specifically, it’s started acting less like a loosely related series of short films and more like a long-form episodic story. Characters experience things and then remember those experiences the following week, or at least do so up until that change starts chafing against their own calcified senses of self. But we’ll get to that in good time. Two episodes have gone by since last we spoke, so let’s cast our minds back.
Girls seems to have settled on a format of splitting its time up into two neat lines, which (until the show gives me reason to do otherwise) we’ll call the Hannahline and Nothannahline. “Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too” has a few neat things to say about compromise and accepting one’s own weirdness, particularly when it comes to your emotional life. How important a topic I find that to be should be pretty clear from the fact I used a phrase like ‘emotional life’.
Anyway, the Hannahline is a little more self-involved so let’s hit it first. Through a series of single shot cuts we learn that Adam and Hannah have been pretty active in their first few weeks of commitment, a commitment that includes discussing their childhoods in graphic terms while sexing each other. Congrats, Dunham, you squicked me out good. Anyway, they’re out jogging and buying ice cream and being intolerable for single people to watch, or overhear, in Marnie’s case (more later).
Adam, you’ll remember, is a conceptual artist (all other artists work without conceptions) and is putting on a play principally concerned with his childhood and how he learned to use sex as a weapon. Hannah goes along to a tech rehearsal and hears his monologue, enraptured, shortly after which he storms out of the theatre and leaves his friend, who coughed up the deposit, with no principle and no show. She later persuades him to go back with the observation that “Do you know how unusual it is to see someone doing something like that … so open and honest and weird and you’re not making fun of them in your mind?” The praise does its work, he goes back, apologises through billboards, grows as a person.
There are plenty of weird things about Adam, but as a character the main thing I have yet to wrap my head around is what the show thinks of him. When he posits that he’d rather never make art again than put his name to something mediocre, are we encouraged to make the leap between the value of his monologue about getting his first erection and his hard line against mediocre work? Is the show’s idea of good art based principally on ‘honesty’, however real or otherwise that might appear to the assumed audience? One major problem Hannah seems to have is her disconnect between recognising destructive behaviour and doing something productive about it. I’ve a feeling that in the long run the show will sink or swim on its capacity to have its characters enact that process of practical change, and what role a character like Adam – clearly both stunted and rather precious about that stuntedness – has on the happy side of that change will be a decent litmus test for how worthwhile a show (dare I say piece of art) this will end up being.
WOAH. Okay. So the Nothannahline is all about Marnie being miserable, having to listen to loud, weird sex and hanging out with your friend and mine Jessa. Not only does this thread have some great words – “You’ve known me for six years and known my name for three”; “You look really gorgeous. I love you all stripped down.” “I’ve never been this miserable in my life.” “It’s totally working.” – but it also has Chris O’Dowd of IT Crowd fame playing a creepy New Yorker financier. Happy me.
This is kind of a light story, and is mostly about throwing Marnie and Jessa together for the first time. Even their kissing scene feels just about the right side of story-logical to make everything else stay funny. What’s more, O’Dowd is probably the first performer on Girls not to do the whole mumblecore approach to delivery. He is loud and funny-funny in a way no one else in the show has been so far. His rant about girls in bowler hats is pretty great, and the whole apartment scene makes a pretty eloquent argument that a sense of entitlement isn’t just for parentally-funded 20-somethings. It’s also for parentally-funded 30-somethings with expensive rugs.
The takeaway from this end of things is that Marnie is ready to change things and get over Charlie and his social media trip to Rome with Audrey the tiny Navajo. Plus: what a strange world we live in where we’re constantly reminded of the rising or falling social stock of our former lovers in a poorly graphically-designed clusterpoop of text and image. Marnie flicking through Charlie’s photos listening to mushy pop tunes is an uncomfortably recognisable scene. Bravo.
Well, this recap is already hecka long, so I’m going to do the decent thing and wrap up this half. The second will be up here as soon as humanly possible. In the meantime, why wasn’t Shoshanna in this episode. Use her or lose her, Girls. BRB.
Edit: Part two is here!