Review: ‘Girls’ – ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’

A quick review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as we have a look at the bad one…

“Someday, some fucking asshole is going to make a movie out of your life, and it’s gonna be called, ‘Hi, I’m Jessa, and I Destroy People’s Lives ‘Cause I’m Fucking Bored.'” -Thomas John

After last week’s coke binge and ensuing shame spiral (which she at least was able to write an article about), Hannah winds up taking a backseat to the larger “Girls” ensemble in “It’s a Shame About Ray.” She gets to say goodbye to Elijah (because Andrew Rannells had to start filming “The New Normal”) and continue to display her contempt for Marnie, but her dinner party mainly winds up facilitating stories about her guests, and the episode’s biggest story takes place elsewhere that night.

For all that we talk about Hannah as a selfish, destructive force, she’s got nothing on Jessa, who spent most of the first season causing explosions just for the hell of it. We’ve half-forgotten because she hasn’t been around much so far this year, and because she’s been in a stable – if wildly phony and unhealthy – relationship with Thomas John. But in “It’s a Shame About Ray,” her marriage ends as abruptly as it began, because Jessa can’t help herself from turning dinner with his parents – well (if broadly) played by Griffin Dunne and Deborah Rush – into a 16-car pileup. It’s not even that she doesn’t lie when asked potentially embarrassing questions, but that she seems to go out of her way to give the answers that will most horrify her new in-laws, because it’s simply what she does. (Thomas John, trying to smooth things over after Tessa confesses to a former heroin addiction: “You know, Jessa does her own hair.”)

Similarly, “Girls” doesn’t run away from all the unappealing aspects of Jessa – who generally lacks the wit and vulnerability that makes Hannah so often likable despite herself – but in both the ugly break-up scene and then her visit to Hannah’s bathtub, we’re reminded of how little pleasure she takes from all of this. This is who she is because it’s always been who she is, but though she acts the smug, worldly adventurer, she has no idea what the hell she’s doing and is pained by all of that. She ran into this ridiculous marriage as an overreaction to Kathryn Hahn’s come-to-Jesus lecture, perhaps believing that if she acted the role of a contented adult, she’d start to feel like one. But instead, it’s just another mess she’s made, and while she walks away with a bit of cash, and having given Thomas John’s parents plenty of ammunition to use against him at the next few decades of drunken family gatherings, it’s clear in the final scene that she’d rather not have done this at all.

Hannah’s party, meanwhile, starts out badly for all involved: Shoshanna is mortified to realize Ray essentially moved in with her without telling her, Hannah’s mad at Marnie, Audrey’s disgusted that her boyfriend’s ex seems to be everywhere he is, and Charlie can’t resist once again being sucked back into Marnie’s orbit. (Which you know he will be again and again and again, despite his declaration on the rooftop, and the harsh language he throws at her when they’re back in the apartment.)

The standout story for me was definitely Shoshanna and Ray. Zosia Mamet essentially acted her way into regular status for what was supposed to be a minor role, and though she hasn’t had a lot to do so far this season, she and Alex Karpovsky were tremendous in that subway scene, where Shoshanna and Ray declared their love for each other at what was simultaneously the absolute worst and best time for it. Every other relationship on this show is dysfunction at the very best, and I like the idea that the one couple with a chance of real happiness with a minimum of drama is one where the two partners are so mismatched in age, ambition and temperament. A very nice moment in an episode where almost everyone else seemed to be going out of their way to hurt one another.

What did everybody else think?