A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as I explain the logic of the queue to you…
“Sleepless in Seattle.”
“Field of Dreams.”
“Freaky Friday” (the Shelley Long version).
“Now and Then.”
These are among the films featuring the young Gaby Hoffmann that have been forever ruined for me (and other filmgoers of a certain age) by the conclusion to “She Said OK,” which features an adult Hoffmann as Adam’s sister Caroline, bottomless and very hairy, staring blankly at Hannah before shattering a drinking glass in her fist.
So thanks, “Girls.” Thanks so much. I will no longer be able to watch Ray Kinsella introducing his dad to his family before they have a catch without thinking of this. If anybody needs me, I’ll be soaking a portion of my DVD collection in acid.
Once we can get past the shock of that moment(*) – which justified every one of Adam’s warnings about the kind of things his sister does, and every one of Hannah’s fears about how terrible her birthday would inevitably be – there’s still a lot to talk about with “She Said OK.”
(*) I’m told this is not a new image for those who saw Hoffmann in a similar state of undress in last year’s “Crystal Fairy.”
The episode continues this season’s aggressive push to remind us that, yes, “Girls” is a comedy, whatever else it has on its mind. Until the ending (which is darkly funny in its own way), it’s even lighter than last week’s episodes. It’s Hannah’s birthday, her friends throw her a party, and things mostly go fine. Her parents are there and happy to see her doing so well (if not thrilled at paying for everybody’s booze). There is violence, but it surprisingly is not instigated by Jessa (backgrounded this week after being so prominent in the two premiere episodes), and involves Ray getting bloody at the hands of Hannah’s coked-up editor David, and the incident actually gives Hannah an escape hatch from the awkward duet on “Take Me Or Leave Me” from “Rent.”
And boy oh boy, Marnie Michaels is something in this one, in matters musical and not. First, we get her overproduced, auto-tuned, hilariously sincere video cover of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am,” and if HBO doesn’t have the full version up online by the end of the episode, then I will be extremely disappointed. It’s another marvelous example of how having talent (in Marnie’s case, a nice singing voice) isn’t the same as knowing how to properly use it, and for all her protestations that Charlie made her make the video, you just know that this is a vanity project she got fully behind. Remember how she chose to redemonstrate her love for him in the middle of his big party last season? And here how she pushes Hannah into the “Rent” duet even after Hannah has explicitly said she doesn’t want to do it? Marnie, like all the Girls, has extreme tunnel vision, and even the things she does for others come out as things that benefit herself. She’s glad to be able to plan Hannah’s party for the distraction of it (and for the opportunity to incorporate a performance venue), and when she compliments Hannah’s ensemble for the night, it’s to passive-aggressively remind Hannah and her parents that if Hannah really wanted to (and if Hannah listened to Marnie’s advice), she could look this good all the time.
“She Said OK” is also the kind of episode the show couldn’t do last season, for both story reasons (several characters were on the outs) and scheduling ones (Jemima Kirke left late in the year to give birth), where the whole cast, plus familiar faces like the Horvaths, Laird and David, are in the same place for an extended period of time. The show doesn’t need the girls to get together every week for brunch or Cosmos, or whatever the dirt-poor, twentysomething 2014 equivalents of those “Sex and the City” hang-outs would be, but things definitely pop when they’re in a shared physical space (like Shosh’s observation of how little the three older women have accomplished since they were her age), sometimes with worlds colliding like Ray and David, or Adam with Hannah’s parents, or sometimes simply by forcing people to interact for the first time in a while, like Ray and Shoshana.
As for Caroline, it’s definitely a memorable debut for the character, albeit yet another unstable personality in a show that has a lot of them. (Though based on early evidence, she’s more unstable than most of them put together.) The more interesting thing she provides is some more insight into Adam, who remains something of a mystery, partly by choice and partly because Hannah isn’t always that inquisitive about other people and their backgrounds. Something made Adam into the mercurial, explosive but at times hugely generous and likable weirdo that he is, and that same background spat his sister out as… this. And now she’s back in his life again, almost certain to screw it up in the way he’s predicting, but hopefully in the process will shed some light on one of the show’s best creations.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org