A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as I reduce you to a subculture and then fail to accurately name the subculture…
“You don’t want to know me.” -Adam
When I interviewed Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner before the season began, I had only seen the first three episodes (up through Hannah and Marnie dancing to Robyn), and at that point viewed Adam as just a creep whom Hannah was drawn to out of some kind of masochistic streak. Dunham noted that what seemed like an enormous power imbalance would shift as the season went along, and we would begin to understand both sides of the relationship better.
We began seeing hints of a less gross Adam with last week’s phone call, and tonight our perspective shifts entirely. It’s not an episode told from his point of view, but it’s one where Hannah is unexpectedly forced to re-examine both Adam and their dysfunctional fuck buddy relationship when she sees him in a different context (which includes her first glimpse of him with a shirt on). Adam has other friends (one of them perhaps the one who works for a dick doctor), and they know way, way more about him than Hannah does. And as Hannah discovers just how little she bothered to learn about the guy she’s been having sex with, the more obvious it becomes to her and to us that Adam’s treatment of her hasn’t been because he’s an ass, but because it’s what he assumed she wanted given her complete lack of interest in anything about him but his body. It’s not quite “Bruce Willis was dead the whole time!” but it really makes me want to revisit those earlier episodes and watch them in this context. It won’t excuse or explain all of his behavior with Hannah, or his annoying hipster pretensions(*), but he may not be the man I, or Hannah, or Marnie, or any of us took him for.
(*) Here exemplified by his plan to build a boat out of junk that he can sail along the Hudson as it falls apart, piece by piece.
And where last week’s Michigan trip focused entirely on Hannah and her parents, this episode was much more of an ensemble piece, one that nicely matched the warehouse party that the ladies attended. Every space in that building had its own vibe, just as every plot this week had its own tone. Though each story eventually involved someone being injured (Hannah falls off Adam’s bike, Shoshanna kicks Ray in the crotch, Eli slaps Marnie in the face and Jeff gets beaten up because of Jessa), the stories didn’t feel repetitive of one another.
Marnie gets some repeated, welcome comeuppance, as she’s horrified to see that Charlie – who, again, she treated like garbage for a very long time, up to and including the way she made sure the break-up happened on her terms – has quickly moved on to a new girlfriend who’s far more into him. (And who, insult of insults, looks at Marnie’s relatively conservative outfit and asks if she’s one of the Real Housewives.) No one wants to hear her sob story: not the random guy at the party and not Eli (who laughs at Marnie insistence that “Hannah’s the selfish one” in their friendship circle, not her). And when Marnie tries to take all her frustrations out on Adam – whom she only knows through second-hand stories from Hannah (whom we’ve already established is an unreliable witness when it comes to this guy) – Hannah winds up rejecting Marnie’s advice and deciding that she does, in fact, want Adam to be her boyfriend.
The awkward dance between Jessa and Jeff takes another step forward, and then back, when she invites him to the party, not realizing who it is she’s inviting. Jeff is self-aware to a point with his midlife crisis but still can’t resist trying to stay close to Jessa – nor getting indignant when she rejects even the vaguest of advances. And though Jessa is once again a self-satisfied bull in a china shop, her “I can’t do this kind of thing anymore” plays not just as a way to shut down Jeff, but perhaps the dawning realization that her actions do have consequences, and that perhaps she needs to think about them before she acts. Or maybe she’ll be back to being, well, Jessa next week. We’ll see.
Shoshanna has always been pitched at a different comic key than the others. But this episode finally figured out a context where that works, as she inadvertently smokes crack, freaks out and has to be watch-dogged by Ray, who has to (very reluctantly) act selflessly for once in chasing after – and getting beaten up by (and then non-sexually massaged by) – this crazy girl.
This one set up a lot of interesting stories for the home stretch of season one, in addition to ending, as nearly every episode has so far (even the ones that had other problems along the way), on a note that feels perfect: the trio squeezed into the back of the cab, with Adam looking slightly puzzled, Marnie looking irked, and Hannah slowly letting that goofy smile blossom on her face at the idea that something good may be finally happening with this guy.
Some other thoughts:
* As someone anal enough to keep track of TV episodes by title, let me just say that I did not like it when every episode of “Hung” had two titles and I do not like it when “Girls” tried to do the same here. Pick a title and stick with it, people. In this case, my money’s on “The Crackcident.”
* More disapproval of minutiae: nobody at the show or HBO bothered to set up a fake site for Charlie and Ray’s band (who in this episode needed no quotation marks around that word) at questionablegoods.tv. If you mention a URL on a TV show in 2012, you have to expect people are going to go to it.
* Meanwhile, I liked the slightly longer, J-Lo-ified version of the main title sequence, with “Girls” appearing in a variety of styles, fonts and languages. Fit the eclectic nature of the party.
What did everybody else think?