Review: ‘Girls’ – ‘Close Up’: Those who can’t…

A review of tonight's “Girls” coming up just as soon as I'm the girl who gets killed in a Lifetime movie…

Though “Girls” hasn't taken any time off since last week's episode, “Close Up” has the feel of a mid-season premiere, if not the start of a whole new season. Iowa is done, and so is Hannah and Adam's relationship, and now it's time to catch up with everybody and start either introducing new plots or taking big steps forward in other stories. In bouncing from character to character, plot to plot – with only the brunch scene bringing most (but not all) of the regulars together for a few minutes – it didn't have the focus of a “Sit-In,” but it's the kind of episode you have to do in an ensemble-ish comedy like this after such a tight one-character piece.

What links most of the stories together is the way they involve different characters re-evaluating who they are, and/or the relationship they're in. Hannah's therapist, taking a generous view of her recent stumbles, suggests that what she wants to do most in life is to help others, and by episode's end, Hannah's off in search of a teaching job. (Never mind that she has no formal training in this area; maybe we can get a crossover with “The Affair” where she hangs out in the rubber room while Noah works on his novel.)

Ray attempt to get the community board to hear his complaint about the traffic light goes so badly – in a very Pawnee open forum kind of way – that he's inspired to run for a seat on the board, rather than leave his fate and sanity in the hands of Ted (played by comedian, actor and podcaster Marc Maron) and his ilk. Shoshana has another disastrous job interview, but at least this one pivots into an invitation for a date with Jason Ritter's would-be soup magnate. (The relationship is likely doomed, since Zosia Mamet was never on “Gilmore Girls.”) And Marnie and Desi, while equally insufferable, turn out to have wildly different ideas of which band they're ripping off modeling their sound on.

That's a lot going on even before we get our first real glimpse of Adam and Mimi-Rose as a couple, and that one's a doozy. By keeping the relationship mostly a secret from the audience until Hannah found out, and then keeping Mimi-Rose offstage in the immediate aftermath of that discovery, “Close Up” throws us into the deep end with the relationship, as she casually tells him she had an abortion yesterday. This is among the worst things a woman could tell Adam Sackler, not because he's anti-abortion, but because when he's in a relationship he takes seriously (as opposed to the dysfunctional fling he and Hannah were having at the start of the series), he becomes obsessed with honesty and open communication (at least towards him, if not from him). Mimi-Rose telling him this after the fact, and like she's describing a dental cleaning, not only hurts him, but completely throws him, like he's just found out he's dating a member of another species. He can't in any way relate to or comprehend where she's coming from, and it seems like he might have been better off walking out as intended. Instead, she persuades him to stick around, in a way Hannah likely couldn't have if she were in Mimi-Rose's position. It's a weird way for the show to take us into the relationship, but it also does a good job of making us feel just as disoriented as Adam, and he has a seven week headstart on us.

The Hannah stuff feels pretty rushed, though we'll have to see how it plays out in later installments. Her giving up her dreams of being a writer in favor of this new Helpful Hannah mode is a big deal for her – even as we can suspect it won't stick – and so we probably had to see her bomb out at Iowa to appreciate why that and the break-up would drive her to do something so different. But did we need three whole episodes in Iowa, preceded by an episode that was all about her leaving for Iowa? The season feels out of balance at this point, in part because of the desire to try to tell everyone else's stories along with Hannah. “Sit-In” was a terrific episode, and there have been strong moments elsewhere (here, I laughed a lot at Marnie and Desi's musical argument, and at Elijah listing all the jobs Hannah seems better suited for than teaching), but to this point, the parts haven't cohered into a greater whole.

Then again, I felt much the same way around this point last season and really liked how that year wrapped up, so we'll see. And I suppose the shagginess of the overall storytelling and the frequent abrupt turns in direction match up with what Hannah's going through. But because “Girls” is trying to follow so much more than what its main character is dealing with, it sometimes has trouble keeping up with everyone at once.

What did everybody else think?