Well, that was interesting.
Sunday's installment of Girls certainly strayed from tradition: Rather than intertwine the story lines of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa, Hannah stole the show. And in place of the witty one-liners, we got a healthy dose of character development. Was it working, or was last night’s Girls going the way of its protagonist, trying to be something it’s not? Let’s discuss.
In her typical experimental fashion, Hannah stepped outside the post-collegiate bubble she lives in and stumbled into “real life” for a day or two – real life in the form of a fabulous Greenpoint brownstone.
It starts when Josh – nay, “Joshua” – who lives next to Café Grumpy, walks in with gripes about a mystery trashcan interloper. He soon gets a verbal beating from Grumpy Ray and huffs out. Hannah follows (“This is a toxic work environment. I’m out!”).
Hannah goes next door to confess to Joshua that she is in fact the interloper. That’s when things get interesting. She enters his palace, which she refers to as a “Nancy Meyers movie” (don’t worry, I didn’t get the reference either), and apologizes for “putting trash in places she shouldn’t. It’s sort of my vice.”
Again in typical Hannah fashion, she proceeds to throw herself at him and immediately apologize for doing so. After a pregnant pause, he kisses her back, and so begins Boob Scene #1 (of many).
The prevalence of boobs in this episode was bordering parody. Scratch that, it was a total parody (naked ping-pong? Really?). There’s a line in the episode that I think explains Dunham’s fixation on her own nudity. Joshua says, “You’re beautiful,” to which she responds, “I am?”
“You don’t think you are?”
“No I do, it’s just not always the feedback I’ve been given.”
That is certainly true. Negative comments on Dunham’s naked body are all over the Internet. Was last night’s episode a middle finger to her critics? I think yes.
Hannah and Joshua go on to have two days of undisturbed domestic bliss. He calls in sick to work. He makes her steak. She reads the paper in her underwear. They have lots of sex.
But what’s more interesting to me than the mismatched romance here is Hannah’s sudden material obsession. From the moment she walks into his beautiful home, she can’t stop mentioning it: the nice cups he has, the personal trashcan that impresses her, the sweater that costs more than her rent, the “fruit in the bowl and the fridge and the stuff.” Hannah is suddenly confronted by opulence and realizes she wants this stuff – she likes this stuff – and perhaps her starving artist schtick is all a lie.
It’s not the first time materialism has come up on this show; Thomas-John represented the ugly, greedy side of it. But it’s the first time we (and one of the girls) actually looks upon it favorably. Joshua is a nice, wholesome doctor with a life he built for himself, not a hollow banker pissing his money away on fancy rugs and mash-ups. Could happiness for Hannah be as simple as this?
Of course, we soon learn the answer is “no.” Hannah is way too self-absorbed for that. This dalliance is merely another prop in her bag of “experiences,” which she will continue “experiencing for everyone else” at her own expense.
One thing that bothered me about this episode was the implausibility of it all. And by that I mean, he’s way too hot for her. We see this kind of thing happen all the time on TV, but it’s always the other way around: ugly/dorky guy charms hot girl with his wit. Ugly/dorky guy gets hot girl. Somehow we’re able to suspend disbelief in those instances more so than last night, when gender roles were flipped. Why is that? Why, when watching last night’s episode, was I thinking the whole time, “He’d never go for her. And even if he did, he’d never beg her to stay on one knee, and call in sick, and stroke her hair, and grill her a steak!” I was mad at myself for thinking that, but I thought it. Maybe it was because of how bratty she was behaving the whole time.
Watching Hannah’s process of self-discovery unfold is fun. But the scene in which it all comes to a head, when Hannah is crying on Joshua’s lap, is painful to watch. I imagine it was supposed to be, as this show loves to make its viewers feel uncomfortable. But I cringed throughout the scene, and at that moment I wished Lena Dunham would care more about making her characters likable. She doesn’t care at all, which is what makes Girls such a unique show. I wanted to like Hannah last night – or at least understand her. I really just couldn’t get into it.
Apparently Dr. Joshua agreed. When Hannah finally finished her whiny rant, you could see all that lust and intrigue he had for her slip away. Suddenly she was just a 24-year-old girl sitting on a 42-year-old’s bed, wearing a fancy robe. He couldn’t wait to get out of there, and truth be told, neither could I.
Last night’s episode was a short story on screen with a lukewarm ending. I appreciate the risk they took in making a monologue and digging a little deeper into Hannah’s character. But, not going to lie, I’m excited to get back to all the girls in their post-collegiate glory next week.
Episode Rating: 7 out of 10
A solid experiment in storytelling, but give me back all my Girls.