Girls Recap: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
12:30 pm, June 11th | by Sarah Devlin
The penultimate episode in the first season of Girls was both exhilarating and infuriating, a reminder of why people continue to dissect the show week after week — the peaks and valleys within each episode, not to mention the season as a whole, are fascinating to watch. They are also frustrating, but let’s talk about what was great in this episode first:
The fight between Hannah and Marnie, the one at the end of the episode that seems to go on for hours, was terrifically written and acted, and was a wonderful portrayal of the ways that friends who are extremely close can become irritated by one another, and say and do hurtful things. Marnie had a point when she told Hannah that she’s “not always in the mood to talk about [her],” but so did Hannah when she wondered if the real problem was that she had a boyfriend now and Marnie didn’t, probably for the first time in the history of their friendship. These girls are together so often, share so much, and are both so dissatisfied in their own unique ways that their friendship is mutating, turning each into a reflection of the other’s failures and private miseries. It was a really tightly written, honest, realistic scene of the kind of friendship troubles that are common for girls in their early twenties, who are stretching and reinventing themselves constantly while trying to find a way for their old friends to fit into their ever-changing worlds.
It was great, which is why I was even more annoyed at the episode’s A-plot, which features Hannah going to a book party for a classmate, played by SNL alum Jenny Slate, who wrote a memoir after her boyfriend killed himself. Prior to that, she was Hannah’s least favorite creative writing classmate. Oh, and she was on Fresh Air to talk about the book! Sound like anyone we know? Even if, and this is a big if, Lena Dunham isn’t writing the series with her critics in mind at all, at a certain point the show turns into one big roman á clef about what Lena Dunham thinks of what everyone thinks of Lena Dunham, and that’s a bad position for any writer to be in, no matter how seasoned. Remember how much Aaron Sorkin got made fun of for airing all of his personal grievances through the mouths of characters in Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip? Remember Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?
And then, AGAIN, we get another character in the form of Hannah’s old creative writing teacher, played by Michael Imperioli, who tells her that she’s a great writer and her published former classmate is a terrible writer, and invites her to a reading, which she doesn’t want to go to (because writers getting together and sharing work is gross and embarrassing and should only be done by people who have HBO shows or not at all?), and at which she bombs, because she decides not to read the piece she had in mind originally and instead reads something she WROTE ON THE SUBWAY RIDE OVER about death, because Ray the sardonic barista (and future husband of Shoshanna) told her that she should write more about death.
I’m growing exhausted with the lengths the show is going to to avoid showing us any of Hannah’s work, aside from the diary entry (not an essay, show!) that Charlie turned into a song and this stupid internet boyfriend story that Hannah writes on the subway, which reminds me of the way that my friends and I used to insulate ourselves against the shame of bad grades and criticism in high school by bragging about how all our papers were written “like, the night before.” Either she’s good or she’s not. If she’s good, I’d like to see some evidence of her talent and dedication — Hannah spends the least amount of time writing out of any aspiring writer I’ve ever seen. Even terrible writers have blogs; the most I’ve seen Hannah work onscreen is in service of composing a tweet that’s just a quote from another character (“All adventurous women do”). If she’s not, I’d like to see a little less condescension from her about other people’s art and a little less propping up of her ego from random characters. Why am I supposed to trust Michael Imperioli’s opinion of Hannah’s writing? Why don’t I even get to see the work, and sweat, and dedication from Hannah to her art that would probably make me pretty forgiving if she turned out to not be so great?
This show. It makes me feel things. Also in this episode — Shoshanna is dating online and Jessa gets a visit from her former boss, who apparently learned the circumstances behind Jame LeGros’s epic Bushwick ass-kicking. I’ll be tuning in, angrily, for the finale next week.