“What drama? This is just me.” -Hannah
Things had been going so well for Hannah over the last few episodes that an inevitable fall was coming. Because we know how this show works, and how its main character operates, it was only a matter of time before Hannah would find a way to screw things up. As a result, much of “Role-Play” felt like watching an accident-prone cartoon character stumble through a minefield, holding our breath until the moment she blew everything up.
The episode was littered with deadly Hannah Horvath traps. Would she sleep with Joe from advertorial? Even if she didn't, would Adam be unhappy about her spending the night in some guy's apartment? Would Hannah in some way embarrass Adam by showing up at rehearsal?
Instead, nothing really went wrong – and this is the problem. Hannah needs drama in her life, or at least thinks she does, and when things are so perfect with Adam – both have jobs that make them happy, both have been conflict-free since Caroline left – it feels like a bad thing to her. And so (with counseling from Elijah, which is never a good idea) she sets about trying to “fix” something that isn't broke(*), and in the process breaks it very badly indeed.
(*) Of course, we learn near the end of the episode that Adam had already spoken to Ray about staying with him, so Hannah isn't entirely wrong to feel something is off in their relationship. She's still the one who chases Adam out the door, but Adam's the one who was already putting his “Major Barbara” coat on to leave.
Hannah's attempt at role-playing isn't as uncomfortable as some of the series' earliest Hannah/Adam sex scenes, or Adam's brief relationship with Natalia last year. Those were when Adam was in a bad place emotionally, and we've seen that he can be a very cruel sexual partner under those circumstances. Here, it's played more for laughs, as Hannah overdoes everything – even getting Adam punched by a good Samaritan – while Adam is mostly confused by what's happening, and briefly turns into a “Girls”-ified parody of “Nine 1/2 Weeks,” but there's always a level of tension because it's clearly the activity that will prove Hannah's undoing, even if we don't know exactly when or how the back-breaking straw will come. (Ironically, it's when Hannah finally doesn't commit enough to the bit, changing characters in mid-stream to the understandable frustration of Serious Actor Adam Sackler.)
HBO isn't making the last two episodes available in advance, which means all sorts of crazy stuff could be happening, from a bad break-up to a death to Elijah turning out to be the Yellow King from “True Detective”(**). This could just be a bump in the road for these two, and Hannah doesn't explode the rest of her life along the way, but this could also be just the beginning of a downward spiral that will make last year's Q-tip misadventures feel hilarious and upbeat in comparison.
(**) A joke that will almost certainly be badly dated by the time this review (which I wrote on Friday) runs after the “True Detective” finale has aired.
Some other thoughts:
* Because the show is so Hannah-focused – and this season primarily dealing with her relationship with Adam – it can be difficult at times to do big character arcs for the other Girls. Marnie's journey to rock bottom, and attempt to climb back out – taking a job with Soo-Jin that she feels wildly overqualified for, and continuing to flirt with the extremely unavailable Desi – has gotten enough play to mostly work, but Jessa's been such an infrequent presence on the show since she left rehab that her fall off the wagon hasn't really worked as anything but a place to hang the occasional effective joke from Richard E. Grant or Jemima Kirke. And Shoshana continues to just barely hang onto the edge of the narrative, largely because Zosia Mamet is so funny when given almost anything to play, like Shosh's emotionally overwhelmed reaction to the mini-intervention she has orchestrated between Jasper and his daughter.
* That said, the most interesting thing about the intervention is on a Shoshana level, not a Jessa one. Does she set up an intervention only for Jasper because she thinks getting the old creep away from Jessa is the best thing for her, or does she care so little about Jessa at this point (for understandable reasons) that she's more invested in what happens to a friend she made online while dealing with Jessa's drama?
* There is nothing inherently wrong with a beanie for either warmth or fashion, and yet Marnie wearing one somehow made her seem more irritating than ever. A neat trick, that.
Finally, because I won't be seeing the last two episodes in advance, it may be a while before I'm able to review each of them, whether the next day or later in the week.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org