I guess after back-to-back-to-back very good episodes to open the series, each one topping the one before it, a part of me was simply expecting Girls to tail off a bit. It’s not the type of show I normally gravitate towards. It’s a comedy with a very distinct and new voice, but the jokes don’t drive the action, like in HBO’s other spring comedy Veep (which churns out jokes faster than the characters can breath). So far, Girls’ appeal is in its unique way of exploring familiar stories, which excuses the show for not being as funny as maybe an Apatow-produced show can or should be.
About halfway through “Hannah’s Diary,” it was embarrassingly obvious to me that I hadn’t laughed once. Sure, I found bits amusing — Dunham’s writing style is witty enough — but some things in this episode just didn’t work for me: Hannah’s Staten Island-ish co-workers and her penciled eyebrows, the awkward banter between Shoshanna and the dude she reconnected with from camp, even Ray, who’s presence was more than welcomed in the pilot, couldn’t squeeze a laugh out of me with his creepiness in the girls’ apartment.
But just when my disappointment set in and I was about to chalk this one up as a loss, we’re given three scenes that served as a reminded to why this show continues to stick with me.
First we deal with Jessa, who is so far No. 1 on the Girls character power rankings (Marnie is last, clearly). She’s experienced the most change so far after her pregnancy scare, having gone from a self-centered and pretentious drifter to someone who is honestly trying to buckle down and get her shit together. After a scare with her babysitting kids at the park, she owns up to the dad that she lost them, feeling she’s failed at something she’s trying so hard to succeed in. The Woody Harrelson-look-alike dad (his name is Jeff, apparently) makes a sweet gesture by saying that everyone’s done it, and he hopes the kids turn out as good as Jessa did. I really do like the dynamic these two have. Hopefully Girls can buck sitcom stereotypes and not have them sleep together, but I’m not optimistic on that front.
We move to Adam’s apartment, where Hannah shows up to break up with him after he sent pictures of his junk to her, only to follow up with another text saying that they were meant for someone else. Hannah delivers a great monologue, telling Adam what she deserves and why he’s the worst, and with each sentence we become more and more convinced that this is actually the end of this sorry relationship, partially because it’s Dunham’s most well-acted scene to-date. But then she caves, like I should have known she would, and sleeps with Adam. Having Hannah leave Adam in this scene would have been good, but having her stay with him is somehow better. We know she’s trying to change. She tries so fucking hard sometimes. But it never happens all at once, and in a vulnerable moment, she just needs a win, even if it means sleeping with the douchy guy she was trying to break up with in the first place.
The final scene opens pretty hilariously with Charlie’s and Ray’s ‘band’ playing badly at a half-empty club (a show we’ve all been to). It seems harmless at first; Hannah comes in feeling better after getting laid, Marnie shows a supportive smile to her boyfriend, Jessa re-assuredly tells Shoshanna that if she had a dick, she’d fuck her, in her ever-so Jessa tone. Then shit gets real when Charlie introduces the next song as “Hannah’s Diary,” which contains direct excerpts from Hannah herself calling out Marnie for letting poor, sweet Charlie hang on for so long. Where Hannah was the receiver of a message not meant for her earlier, now she’s the accidental sender to an unsuspecting Marnie.
Charlie’s been kind of a punching bag for me so far this season, but the line delivery from Christopher Abbott was so exceptionally painful here. Marnie’s and Hannah’s mortified looks were equally impressive, which culminates in Marnie misplacing her anger by throwing her drink on Hannah, while Jessa laughs at the whole thing. And for the fourth week in a row, Girls wraps up an episode with a great final scene that both brings together all the subplots and drives the action forward.
This is why I can excuse Girls for it’s lack of laughs from time-to-time. There’s concern, sure, as there should be with plot-driven comedy. Shows like Parks & Rec, Community, Happy Endings, and New Girl don’t need forward motion in plot to be effective. But, so far, Dunham and company have done the nearly-impossible in creating a handful of socially abhorrent and flawed yet bafflingly likable characters with actual thought-provoking scenes and overarching themes. I can’t wait to spend time with these people every week, and that’s ultimately all anyone can ask for.
– I was at first intrigued by Shoshanna’s storyline with her former summer camp crush, but the scene in her apartment fell flat for me. I love a good awkward sex scene, but this one lacked the emotional weight of the others, like it only existed so we could feel bad for a character we don’t know that well. I also don’t believe that he wouldn’t have sex with her. I just don’t.
– “You’re smarter than this, Hannah,” Marnie says after Hannah received the dick pics. Hannah knows that’s true, but she succumbs to the sexting and sends Adam a topless shot anyway.
– Hannah having trouble with Windows because she’s more of a Mac girl. Of course she is.
– To put up with sexual harassment, or to gain sweet perks? Also, Hannah got a job? That should have been a bigger deal, no?
– Jessa calling little Lola a “see you next tuesday” is both terrible and amazing.
– Hannah just wants someone to hang out with all the time, and tell her how awesome she is, and only wants to have sex with her. But she doesn’t want a boyfriend. Or anyone to get brunch with.
– A little light on the soundtrack this week, but Jake Rabinbach’s “Same Mistakes” over the closing credits is a little too perfect for this show.