Girls Recap: Lena Dunham Doesn’t Know What Her Show Wants To Be
12:30 pm, May 21st | by Sarah Devlin
I’ll be recapping the remainder of this season of “Girls.” My qualifications are these: I am in my early twenties, live in New York City, just finished an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, work for a media company, and my masters thesis was — you guessed it — a collection of personal essays. Unlike the other 90% of the population, my biggest problem might be that Girls is too relatable. Last week’s recap can be found here.
This week’s episode was credited as being written by Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, which I think is why the writing was both tighter and a lot funnier this week (instead of the sort of cringe-inducing humor that has dominated the past few episodes). This also led to a lot of…inconsistency? I’m still asking myself what the show wants to be every week. It’s maddening, because there’s so much I like about it, and so much I — along with, I know, 0.0001% of the population — relate to, but this episode made me even more confused about how seriously I ought to take the show.
This week we see almost nothing of Marnie, and Jessa and Shoshanna don’t appear onscreen at all, since in this episode Hannah goes back to Michigan to see her parents. It turns out that they would like to spend their 30th wedding anniversary with their deadbeat daughter, who hasn’t told them that she quit her job and brought all of her clothes home in a plastic garbage bag (unless it’s laundry for her parents to do?), which no human besides Angelina Pivarnick has ever done. Rather than answer the important question of who paid for the flight, Hannah’s parents take her home and start doing all manner of irritating things, like chiding her for texting during a movie and asking her to pick up a prescription at 11 in the morning.
Luckily, this errand enables her to see an old friend from high school, who invites her to a memorial service for Carrie, another high school acquaintance who has gone missing while on vacation. She tells Hannah she’s moving to Los Angeles to become a dancer, and when Hannah asks if she has a connection out there she shrugs, “I know enough to know that you really don’t have to know anyone,” which certainly bodes well. She also runs into a former classmate while filling her mom’s prescription, who now runs the pharmacy with his dad, and he very sweetly asks her to be his date to the memorial.
Hannah goes home and asks her parents if it’s cool if she goes on a date, instead of to their anniversary dinner, and while it certainly makes more sense for them to celebrate alone it still seems spectacularly rude, given that I suspect they paid for her to fly home so she could spend that day with them. But that’s Hannah, I guess. She goes to the memorial, where her aspiring dancer friend performs an original choreographed lip synch routine to Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” (sample lyrics: “My name is Keri/ I’m so very/ Fly oh my/ It’s a little bit scary.” Get it?) and Hannah looks on, horrified, while everyone else grooves to the song obliviously.
Obviously it was a funny moment, but it played strangely for me. These are Midwesterners, not sociopaths — would Hannah really be the only person to find a display like that a little weird? Later, in the car, she brings it up with her date and he laughs “It wasn’t that bad,” which is also insane, but then Hannah shoots back with the argument that Heather isn’t a very good dancer, and that she’ll never make it in LA. I buy that Hannah would manage to turn Heather’s appalling tribute to a probably-dead friend into a commentary on Hannah’s own creative ambitions, but I do not buy that she would be the only person to notice how insane said tribute was. Funny moment, but dissonant in the context of the rest of the show. She goes back to cute pharmacist guy’s apartment and they sleep together, and it becomes apparent that all of Hannah’s sex with Adam has made her a little more, um, adventurous than this dude. Nonetheless, it happens.
While all of this is going on, Hannah’s parents wonder at dinner if she’s going to be okay. “What does a person like that turn into?” Her father wonders, which is an honest if somewhat cruel question. Her mother, surprisingly, is the more sanguine of the two, sure that Hannah will turn out fine. She’s the kind of person who has fun and learns from it, she points out, which is a rather tepid summation of her daughter’s talents. Later, we are treated to a scene in which Hannah’s parents are having sex in the shower, but are interrupted by her dad herniating a disc or something, leaving Hannah no choice but to help her mom peel him off the floor, since she discovers the scene when she arrives home from her date. Again, this scene felt very broad, and out of step with the rest of the show, but it’s the engine for a nice moment between Hannah and her mother, where she elects to solve the problem of rent money on her own rather than ask for help.
At the end of the episode, after calling him several times and hanging up, Hannah gets a return phone call from Adam. She tells him she slept with someone else, clearly hoping for a reaction. She doesn’t get one other than “Was it fun?” but she does keep him on the phone, and he makes small talk with her, about the Midwest and the crack addict he can see out his window. Hannah wonders why everyone wants to live in New York so badly, when it’s so difficult — ”It’s like we’re all slaves to this place that doesn’t really want us,” she says, a line I liked quite a bit.
“I wish you were here right now,” Adam tells her off-handedly, and just like that the pharmacist is forgotten and, even though she’s standing in her parents’ yard, Hannah is clearly mentally in New York again, whether the city wants her back or not.
Ultimately I thought this episode was better than the others — the jokes hit better, Hannah’s parents were great and I liked the development at the end with Adam — but the show seemed committed, at the outset, to the worldview of Hannah, a self-absorbed and slightly delusional character who nonetheless existed within the recognizable constraints of reality. Michigan felt like too much of an alternate universe, even though I liked the show’s tone more. It was a weird look at what the show could be in more capable, experienced hands, and I think it might suffer for the comparison.