Review: ‘Girls’ – ‘Flo’

A review of tonight's “Girls” coming up just as soon as Chachi means what I think it means…

“Girls” is about Hannah Horvath's adventures as a woman in her early-mid 20s, and all the exciting and terrifying things that go along with that time of your life. But just because she's on her own, living with her boyfriend, hanging out with her friends, working at a job and (mostly) doing what she wants, she still has roots, still has a family she's tied up in, and one of the smartest things “Girls” has done – and done consistently – is to remind us of where Hannah came from and how that shaped her.

The show has done fairly well with family in general – we've also met Marnie's mom, Jessa's dad and Adam's sister – and this year got some good mileage out of Gaby Hoffmann as Adam's sister, but this is Hannah's show, and her family is most important. We began the series with Mr. and Mrs. Horvath cutting her off, and one of the most memorable episodes of season 1 involved Hannah's visit to her family home (and not just because it involved Henry from “Bosom Buddies” having shower sex with Mrs. Weir from “Freaks and Geeks”). Last season, Hannah's OCD flare-up coincided with her parents' return to Manhattan, and this year they came back for Hannah's birthday, while her dad appeared briefly to deliver the bad news about her book deal.

During that appearance, he made a reference to some medical tests that Hannah completely ignored, and when “Flo” opened with Mrs. Horvath on the phone from a hospital, I worried that Hannah was about to get some terrible news about her father. Instead, the dying relative is Grandma Flo (played by Oscar nominee June Squibb, in a performance that will likely get her an Emmy nomination), and the episode is a lovely miniature portrait of the maternal half of Hannah's family: not just her mom, but two aunts (one played by Deirdre Lovejoy from “The Wire,” the other by Amy Morton, who to me will always be Henry's mom from “Rookie of the Year”) and her cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele, aka Eli's daughter on “The Good Wife”).

Even though Hannah's mom is the only one we've met before, “Flo” efficiently sketches in the other characters, and how they all relate to each other, in a way that doesn't feel like strangers hurling backstory at us, but like actual flesh-and-blood relatives repeating the same fights they've had dozens of times in the past. The way that Rebecca, for instance, hurls passive-aggressive insult after passive-aggressive insult at Hannah and yet still wants to go for a drink with her, “because I feel a bar is the right place to go with a person like you” rang hilariously true – and, like so many of the other moments with the aunts and Grandma Flo, reflected aspects of Hannah herself. We're so used to Hannah being the one too wrapped up in her own head to realize how her words and deeds affect others, but here we see all the women in the family doing the same at one time or another – and Hannah, continuing her recent upswing, often comes across as more mature and together than her mom and the other people around her.

Like season 1's Michigan episode, “Flo” takes place largely outside New York and focuses almost entirely on Hannah, though she again has a memorable phone call with Adam. The difference this time is that Hannah's close enough(*) for Adam to hop on Desi's bike and come see her. The cliche would be for Hannah's mom to se Adam's visit, and his decision to play along with the engagement lie, as reasons to give her daughter's boyfriend the stamp of approval. Instead, Hannah gets a lecture about how a life trying to socialize Adam “like he's an unfriendly dog” would just make both of them miserable. And you can see where she's coming from with that perspective, even as we know enough about both of them to see that they're more well-matched than Mrs. Horvath realizes.

(*) Since Hannah is coming out of Grand Central when she gets the bad news, and since Adam makes it there relatively quickly on Desi's bike, I'm assuming Flo's house is either in Westchester or Connecticut.

Add in an amusing mini-PSA about the dangers of texting while driving, that lovely montage of the women shifting positions through the night in the hospital and Jill Sobule's cover of “Don't Let Us Get Sick” playing as Hannah gets the confusing but true to life news that Flo died shortly after it seemed like she was doing fine, and you've got an excellent episode, and another example of how well “Girls” handles trips outside the city.

What did everybody else think?