The second half of today’s recap features “Leave Me Alone”, which for all you English Lit majors out there features the happy occurrence of a piece of writing about the act of writing, specifically one successfully published memoir (the eponymous Leave Me Alone) by Hannah’s nemesis, one short story by Hannah herself, and a healthy dose of compare/contrast. I’ve seen enough poetry readings to gather that this is the subject upon which writers expend most of their energy, it being a subject that necessitates some good old fashioned self-examination.
On the plus side it’s a great wee bit of television. This week there are some pretty major developments as far as the characters’ arcs (learning curves maybe) are concerned. This time we’ll start with the Nohannahline, which joyfully kicks off with Shoshanna talking and Jessa reacting to Shoshanna talking. They could make an entire episode in which Jemima Kirke looks nonplussed about developments and I would watch that episode. Sho’, inspired by the one paragraph of Leave Me Alone that she bothered to read, has set up a dating profile, and will go reap the rewards of this later, sadly off-screen, and we say farewell for another week to the most natural comic actor this show refuses to exploit. Sigh.
For Jessa, her interesting day has just begun, as midway through a highly metaphorical furniture rearrangement Katherine (of sketchy husband Jeff fame) comes round to partly ask her to come back to work as a nanny, and partly to relate a creepy-ass dream about eating her and then shitting her out again. Talk about mixed messages! Anyway it falls to Katherine to be the only character in the show mature enough to identify precisely what Jessa’s problem is: she is too wrapped up in her own drama factory to become the grown up person she wants to be. “She might not look what you pictured when you were aged sixteen, her job might not be cool, her hair might not be flowing like a mermaid (at which Jessa’s face is like ‘aw hell no’), and she might really be serious about something, or someone, and she might be a lot happier than you are right now.” Again, Jessa’s face suggests someone taking in a heavy dose of timely wisdom, and she is a definite dark horse for the Let’s All Stop Being Reprehensible Derby 2012.
In Hannahtowne, gee whiz it is all go. First things first, Hannah’s nemesis Jenny Slate is more or less a Lena Dunham stand-in. There are little references to appearing on Fresh Air (the radio show that helped boost Dunham’s profile), and she is largely set up as a slightly more successful Hannah. At the most lush book launch I have ever seen (it’s in what looks like a hotel, they have friggin canapés, what publishing crisis) she is saved from a pit of self-loathing by her super-supportive silver fox English prof, who reminds her that she is a good writer (cf Adam and his calibre of work. Who is assessing these people??) and Jenny is shitty. He invites her to do a reading at another super lush and wine-and-nibbles art club. I am in the wrong business.
Before this can happen, however, Hannah must brave a Ulyssean journey through the day’s friendly advice, negotiating Marnie finally taking umbrage at her freeloading and constant problem-dumping, Adam trying to convince her that readings are for people that he ‘just wants to strangle’ – though presumably his own spoken word performance is a-ok – and a trial shift at Ray’s café. Herein Ray shows off not only some excellent comedy business (the episode is worth watching just for his specifying exactly what he wants Hannah to wear for her shift, inc. slim-leg mime from inside a basement), but also some pretty sage advice for her writing, perhaps the only good advice she’s received: quit talking about yourself.
Of course, HH takes this totally the wrong way and at the reading delivers something she knocked off on the subway the way over (that line made my hair stand on edge as memories of past open mics came flooding back) that mimics pretty amateurishly the story Jenny wrote. Her professor is disappointed, her audience is disappointed, she is disappointed. It’s kind of a moving scene, as Hannah realises what she’s tried to sell her own principles to achieve someone else’s success and come away with neither.
At home, the last seven or so minutes of the episode are dedicated to her and Marnie having a huge argument about the state of their friendship and basically their lives. It’s a terrific scene; both are to some degree in the wrong, neither shows any willingness to compromise or concede the last word (although, much like my stance on Rent, things would be a buttload easier if you just paid the guy), and when Hannah finally says, “I don’t really give a shit about being a good friend, I have bigger concerns,” Marnie breathes a sigh of relief. She has just been given the opportunity to do some friendship break-ups. Doors slam, credits roll, to be continued.
This is exciting stuff! Girls seems to be finally getting to the point, and has moved a few of its pieces (this isn’t exactly Game of Thrones levels of plotting) into some high-potential positions. Of course, if it doesn’t deliver some impressive character development after all this I’ll be kinda miffed, but regardless, this has been a season’s worth of high quality television, doing something a little different, even if not radically so. Bring on the finale.
As a “real Hannah”, I never expected the show to be factually accurate, but I did hope for more emotional realism. Check out my Dear John Letter for Lena Dunham: http://janetmackenziesmith.com/2012/06/14/dear-john-letter-for-lena-dunham/