‘Girls’ – ‘Hard Being Easy’: The unsmoteable

Senior Television Writer
05.13.12 66 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as I have a suing app on my iPhone…

“For the story? I don’t know – just to be an asshole?” -Hannah

From the start, “Girls” hasn’t been a show that seems particularly worried about whether you like Hannah or her friends. It lets them be stupid and selfish early and often, operating under the assumption that if their bad behavior is depicted specifically and strongly enough, likability won’t matter any more than it does for the various cable shows with male anti-heroes who do all these things and worse.

But even by the standards of what we’ve seen so far, “Hard Being Easy” is a real piece of work, as both Hannah and Marnie(*) fumble around, unsure of who they’re hurting mainly because they’re unsure of what they’re doing.

(*) Shoshanna is reduced to a brief (but funny) cameo this week in which she’s stuck watching Jessa have sex with her ex. And short of letting Beatrix and Lola actually get kidnapped while she’s busy impressing people with stories about the time she kite-surfed in Bali, I’m not sure how Jessa could get less likable.

We pick up not long after the ugly incident at the end of last week’s episode, with Charlie and Marnie both demanding that Hannah read the offending diary entry so they can hear it in her own voice. Hannah seems vaguely aware of how much trouble she’s caused for her best friend, yet she can’t stop herself from asking Marnie how she would have liked the entry “as a piece of writing” if it wasn’t about her. Later, following in part on Jessa’s advice(**), she decides the best way to deal with her boss’ sexually harassing ways is to try to seduce him, and when he rejects her advances, she quits in a huff, threatening that, “Some day, I am going to write an essay about you, and I am not going to change your name!”

(**) I’m glad I watched this one twice before writing, because Hannah’s behavior with the boss seemed to come out of left field the first time. She explains it better to Adam in their later scene, but I had already forgotten that Jessa had suggested it first. Part of the problem is that that scene is usually part of a familiar trope where the harassed tries to turn the tables on the harasser to get him to stop, and that’s not at all what Hannah’s doing; she actually wants to have sex with the guy for the experience of it. 

That kiss-off line is Hannah Horvath in a nutshell: all her power comes from her belief in her own writing (and that one day, other people will be reading it). And, as she half-explains to Adam later, most of what she does is out of a desire for… something to happen in her life, preferably something she can use as fodder for her writing. She wants experiences. Doesn’t necessarily matter what they are, if they wind up making her feel like a fool, or make others feel the same. That’s at least part of why she’s with Adam, it seems: he treats her like an inconvenience half the time, but she’s going to get one hell of an essay about him, sooner or later. And in the meantime, she finally gets to assert some control in the relationship – albeit in a weird and degrading circumstance where he’s started to masturbate even knowing she’s still there – and it turns out he enjoys it sometimes when she’s the one in charge.

And though Marnie might at one point have seemed like the angel on Hannah’s shoulder to Jessa’s devil, it’s been clear for some time that she’s just as self-absorbed, just in a more pleasant package. For goodness’ sake, she doesn’t even know where Charlie lives, and he’s only been her boyfriend for five years.(***)

(***) I like that the flashback to the girls’ time at Oberlin showed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Their looks may be different, but everyone is pretty similar otherwise. Even Elijah doesn’t come off as significantly less flamboyant than he was in his present day appearance in episode 3.

Marnie’s attempt to win Charlie back was like watching a car crash in slow motion, because it was obvious from the start her motivation – whether she would admit it to herself or not – was entirely to avoid being the dumpee, and that once he took her back, she’d be back to resenting him instantly. I didn’t necessarily expect her to dump him in mid-coitus, but it wasn’t exactly a shocker, either. When a guy tells a woman that he needs her to “Act like my life is real,” it suggests a foundation that can’t be repaired.

On the whole, “Hard Being Easy” felt a bit rougher than the previous episodes – not only the odd tone of the Hannah/boss scene, but the lighweight nature of Jessa’s hook-up (though that story did have a quintessential Jessa moment when she responded to his complaint about the trashed Vespa with “I did you a favor!”) – but still demonstrated how good the show can be in individual moments, and what a strong grasp it has on who its characters are and what their world is like.

What did everybody else think?

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