Review: ‘Girls’ – ‘I Saw You’

A review of tonight's “Girls” coming up just as soon as I would buy your song as a cassette single…

Last week's episode ended in what seemed like a very dark and distant place for Hannah and Adam, with Hannah's disastrous role playing driving Adam to move in with Ray for a while. “I Saw You” opens as if things are all fine and dandy again, as the two of them enjoy some enthusiastic sex. But it's only a momentary reprieve for Hannah and for us, as within moments of taking off his rubber, Adam is making his way back to Ray's to do his vocal exercises. And thus begins a half-hour in which Hannah Horvath feels powerless and small, and does everything she can to regain control and feel special, no matter how uncomfortable that's destined to make her and everyone around her.

It's an episode that's sympathetic towards Hannah even as it allows her to make an ugly mess of things as only she can. You understand why she would feel the need to follow Adam to Ray's later that night, even as it's instantly obvious that she has just made things worse. (Had she at least remembered to bring the one and a half bananas… well, things would have still gotten weird, but at least Adam would have had some potassium.) And later, after we see Hannah spend more time in the company of Patti LuPone – and, worse, in the company of her stunted husband Peter, who has pleasantly endured decades in the shadow of a star – we can understand why she might again freak out about her comfortable but soul-deadening job at GQ advertorial, even as her outburst is incredibly cruel to people like Joe who have been nothing but nice to her. (It's moments like that where “Girls” has more in common with “Hannibal” or horror movies than it does with other comedies, because the only proper way to watch them is through the space between your fingers.) Hannah asks, “Am I the only one who prides themself on being a truly authentic person?” but she's full of baloney even in that moment, because either she's telling the truth later to Adam's co-stars(*) that this was simply a performance to ensure she got fired or (more likely, given that she briefly tries to take the “You can't fire me, I quit!” high ground) she is just saving face after the fact, these are not things that any truly authentic person (if such a creature exists) would do.

(*) Though her behavior at that dinner is triggered by envy of Adam's artistic triumph (and, to a lesser extent, of Marnie's), the female co-star does not help by referring to her as “Adam's girlfriend,” which is even worse than poor Peter being “Mr. LuPone.” 

There was a stretch of episodes earlier this season where it seemed like Hannah was improbably the one member of the group who had everything figured out. Jessa was doing coke, Marnie was being dumped by Ray, Shoshana was spending too much time partying, and in “Flo,” Hannah even came across as more mature than her own mother. But the parts of her that cause so much discomfort to herself and others didn't magically go away. They were just lying dormant for a while, helped by a good relationship and a lucrative (if unsatisfying) job. Now she's lost the job, seems on the verge of losing the relationship, and is at another awkward crossroads with Marnie after finding her having sex with Ray. (I'm not sure which was a more revealing character moment: Marnie trying to cover for herself by squealing, “He made me!” or Hannah insisting that sleeping with Ray forever takes away Marnie's right to judge her.)

Last season ended with Hannah having burned down every bit of her life but Adam. This year, things have been going so well – and the show has been really interesting and different as a result – but will we come to the end of next season's finale to find her somehow in an even worse position than she was after she put the Q-tip in her ear and tried to cut her bangs?

Some other thoughts:

* Elijah was on fire in this one, both at Patti LuPone's place (“I'm gonna touch that Tony”) and at the open mic night, where he becomes the voice of many a “Girls” viewer in saying of Marnie's singing (or perhaps, just of Marnie as a concept) “She sucks and she needs to stop.”

* That said, Marnie actually does sound very good when she and Desi are on stage, and not in the stiff, awkward but technically impressive style she usually sings in.

* That was not Patti LuPone's actual husband (whose name is Matthew), but actor Reed Birney.  And LuPone continued to be a blast playing herself, particularly here as she got snippy at Elijah's suggestion that she was ever an underdog.

* That was Louise Lasser as wheelchair-bound photographer Beadie. We're closing in on 40 years since she was an earlier generation's difficult comedy leading lady as the star of Norman Lear's soap opera parody “Mary Hartman Mary Hartman.” Her line about not liking to watch television “because all the old women are shells, and it just hurts to be a shell” said so much, even as it was delivered on a show that has done very well by older female characters when given the chance.

* Whether Shosh's goal in staging Jasper's intervention was to help Jessa, help Jasper's daughter, or simply get rid of Jasper, Jessa is clean, sober and irritated as all get-out – and also blunt enough to criticize Beadie's bald guy photograph, taking away Marnie's chance to do the same and impress her.

* Hey, it's occasionally-seen “Trophy Wife” supporting player Natalie Morales as Clementine! She doesn't get a ton to do here – her function is mainly to drive Marnie back to Ray (who is much less effective at enforcing ultimatums than Adam) – but she fits well into this world, and I hope we see more of her.

* I don't know if Judd Apatow specifically contributed to the scene where Hannah gets fired, but the moment when she has to awkwardly pry open the heavy doors to leave is a kind of signature gag from his work: characters trying to make dramatic exits and being foiled by doors that won't cooperate, bags that get caught on chairs, etc.

Like tonight, I won't be seeing the finale in advance, so the review will either go up late Sunday or sometime the next morning.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at