The penultimate episode of the first season of Girls leaves our main characters (minus Shoshonna, but can we all agree that she doesn’t really count at this point?) at an appropriate turning point heading into next week’s season finale. They’ve all spent the season initiating change in their lives, but now comes the part where they have to learn to live with what they’ve chosen.
The fight between Hannah and Marnie that ended the episode has been weeks in the making. Even beyond the fact that Marnie has gone out of her way to talk trash on Hannah behind her back in each of the previous two episodes, the two just never saw eye-to-eye on anything. Their lives mirror each other, even literally, with Charlie exiting Marnie’s life just as Adam became a permanent fixture in Hannah’s.
Though the fallout has been boiling beneath the surface for weeks now, what brought it to a head in this episode was their college classmate’s book release party. Talia (played by Jenny Slate) wrote a memoir called Leave Me Alone about coping with the grief of her boyfriend committing suicide, and while the subject matter is clearly meant to shadow the dark humor that Girls has done so well this season, Hannah is legitimately jealous that Talia had such a traumatic experience she could write about.
Marnie uses the Talia book situation to give Hannah a piece of her mind. The memoir may be trite, but at least Talia never indulges in her negativity and actually takes chances, something Hannah never does (She says that going to readings “isn’t a very me thing to do,” but when asked what is a Hannah thing to do, she can’t answer).
Hannah actually listens to Marnie’s advice at first and attends a reading hosted by her former writing professor (played by HBO vet Michael Imperioli) to share one of her essays, but instead of going with the one about that time she had a crush on a hoarder, she wrote a new piece on the subway about an internet boyfriend who died, which went over about as well as that short description would suggest.
We’ve only been privy to a few small glimpses of Hannah’s writing this season, and the big question for me so far is whether or not she’s any good (a similar fear expressed by her parents). For a while, I thought no, and the story she shared this week certainly didn’t change my mind. But Professor Goldman tells her that she is indeed a great writer, and it doesn’t seem like he has any reason to lie to her (though I don’t think he has any intentions of sleeping with her, I suppose it’s a possibility, which would instantly discredit his opinion). Goldman’s general enthusiasm of Hannah’s writing makes him even more disappointed when Hannah reads the new story that she thought everyone wanted to hear (Ray gave her some ill-advised words of encouragement earlier, telling her that she should write about less trivial things, like death).
Hannah just wants to come home and vent to Marnie, but Marnie’s had about enough of Hannah and her problems at this point (she threw out a great line earlier when Hannah said she needed her support: “I support you, literally. Do you have any idea how much money you owe me?”). Hannah tries so hard not to be trivial yet she pushes all her small problems on other people. Marnie finally calls Hannah out on her selfishness face-to-face (“you judge everyone and yet you ask them not to judge you”) and she is tired of trying to be a good friend with minimal returns. Everything collapses when Hannah admits that she has bigger concerns than being a good friend to Marnie, and the two agree that living together just isn’t working out anymore.
The episode was a bit clumsy getting us to this point, but all was forgiven in that final showdown, where Lena Dunham and Alison Williams knocked it out of the park in a compelling, heartbreaking, and uncomfortably hilarious scene that brought these two polar opposite “best friends” to perhaps a point of no return.
So, who is the wound in this relationship? Is it Hannah and her one-track mind and lack of awareness of other people’s feelings and needs? Or is it Marnie and her perfectionism, naivety, uptight-ness and need for a boyfriend with a luxury rental? Of course, they are both the wound, and neither of them can see it yet.
- Jessa is also making changes in her life (on a smaller scale in this episode, just redecorating the home) and her storyline marks a welcome return for Kathryn Hahn as the mother of her babysitting kids, asking for Jessa to come back to work despite what happened between her and Jeff. Hahn is great as always — especially when describing her dream where she stabs Jessa, eats her, and then shits her out, but not all of her, so she thinks that she’s still holding on to something. Jessa turns down the opportunity, saying she doesn’t need her help, then Hahn gives her a pep-talk about how she pretends to be something she’s not and that eventually she will realize the type of girl she really is. It was a decent speech, but I thought unnecessary, as Jessa has been making strides at realizing this throughout the season.
- Jessa had a couple of great non-verbal reactions, both to Hahn’s oddly vivid dream story and to Shosh’s venture into online dating.
- Adam is pushed back to a secondary role this week, but he wasn’t without his moments, the funniest being him sleep-clinging to Hannah so hard that she can’t escape.
- “My entire life has been one ridiculous mistake after another.”- Hannah
- “…and that’s when Eli realized that maybe everyone is this town is just looking for a bathroom.” – Girl at the reading.
- Wearing a white dress is begging the world to fuck with you.
- Ray’s suggestions for ‘real’ things Hannah can write about: urban sprawl, cultural criticism, acid raid, divorce, the plight of the Giant Panda Bear.
- Over the credits: “Love is Won” by Lia Ices