Review: ‘Girls’ – ‘Incidentals’

A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as Kristin Chenoweth passes out because I forgot to feed her…

Hannah Horvath, you might have noticed, is not generally blessed with the greatest fashion sense. Her clothes tend to be ugly and/or unflattering to her physique, and it’s both a source of tension between her and Marnie (who can always ding Hannah’s wardrobe if she needs to score a cheap point) and one of the many ways that “Girls” characterizes Hannah as someone who often has a very poor sense of how she presents herself to the world.

Midway through “Incidentals,” Hannah passes a shop window, spots a dress she likes and – flush with her first, surprisingly large, paycheck from the GQ advertorial department – walks out of the store wearing it. It’s arguably the best she’s ever been dressed on the show, and among the most relaxed and confident moods we’ve ever seen her in. It’s a brief scene – there’s no extended montage where she makes like Julia Roberts and tries on floppy hats – but gets its point across, especially since the song scoring it (Lily Allen’s bouncy “L8 CMMR”) continues into the next sequence, as we watch Jessa struggle with the tedium of her job at the children’s clothing boutique. For once in a rare while, the dress and the song both tell us, Hannah has her act together, while her friends are bottoming out.

After the fun vacation that was “Beach House,” “Incidentals” returns us to the various plots of season 3: Hannah’s new job, Adam’s big Broadway shot, Marnie and Ray’s secret hook-up, and Jessa’s attempt to rebuild her life after rehab.(*) And where season 2 felt at times like a bunch of interesting short stories in search of a larger narrative, season 3 has been methodically charting the way that Hannah’s prospects have been on the rise while Jessa and Marnie’s have been falling.

(*) Shoshana, as has been unfortunately par for the course this season, doesn’t get much to do, but the scene where Jasper mistakes her usual affect for someone who is also high on cocaine was very, very funny.

Hannah has a job that, while not what she ideally wants to spend her life doing, pays her well, gives her a sense of personal satisfaction and puts her in position to meet people like Patti LuPone. Despite the bumps created by Caroline’s brief stint in the apartment, her life with Adam is going wonderfully. Lupone tries to warn her about the dangers of dating a young actor doing his first Broadway show – in a wonderfully Patti LuPone-ish scene that was simultaneously about a long life in the theater and a spot-on parody of advertorials – but Adam isn’t like other men his age, for good and for ill, and their conversation in the tub at the end of the episode points to an almost shockingly healthy relationship, given the emotional issues each half of it brings.

In contrast, we have Jessa being so bored with her life that she goes on a cocaine bender with creepy old Jasper. And we have Marnie suffering one indignity after another: Booth Jonathan’s old assistant Soo Jin is now running her own gallery (funded by her parents), Ray understandably decides he’d rather look for a real girlfriend then continue to put up with Marnie’s awfulness, and when she throws herself at Adam’s new co-star Desi, it turns out he has to get home because “my Clementine’s making paella tonight.” Even her clumsy attempt to figure out whether he’s just speaking colorfully seems like the kind of thing Hannah might do in one of her lower moments.

The episode doesn’t all work. Given how we’ve seen in the past (in this season, in fact) that Hannah will drop everything to help Jessa, even when she’s mad at her, the fact that her fall off the wagon is shrugged off as something to be joked about before everyone else goes back to what they were already doing rings false. But Hannah’s encounter with Patti LuPone was a treat, as was the entire party sequence at the hotel – Adam and Elijah are, like Adam and Shoshana, or Adam and Ray (or, basically, Adam and anyone), a great, awkward comic pairing – and I’m now awfully curious to see where the season goes from here. Not only has this season done a better job with character arcs than the last one, but it has two more episodes to play with. Surely, things can’t keep going this relatively well for Hannah forever, can they? And if she crashes, will it wind up being even worse than what her friends are going through right now?

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at