Midway through “On All Fours,” Charlie tries to shrug off some obnoxious behavior by Ray by telling Shoshanna, “He’s Ray. You know? And that’s how he is.” Shoshanna repeats those words back to him in a tone that makes Charlie think he’s offended her, but the expression on her face in the exchange tells a different story. Shoshanna’s not offended; she’s dismayed to realize she’s dating a guy whose difficult behavior can be written off with those nine words.
“He’s Ray. You know? And that’s how he is.”
Charlie is telling her that he’s long since given up expecting better from his best friend – that Ray cannot change who he is and how he acts. Shoshanna has already been having doubts about this relationship – hence that time she “held the doorman’s hand,” a new euphemism that I expect to be turning into a meme any second now – but when it’s phrased in such blunt, fatalistic terms, it’s easy for doubt to become hopelessness. Shoshanna dated Ray because he was nice and she liked him, but she also clearly viewed him as a fixer-upper, and when we’ve seen them together this season, he hasn’t shown much interest in being fixed.
Or maybe, like Charlie, he’s accepted that he can’t be fixed.
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“Video Games” follows Jessa and Hannah as they visit Jessa’s dad (Ben Mendelsohn) out in the country. He lives in a big, crumbling old house in the woods with a girlfriend he met in rehab (Rosanna Arquette) and her teenage son. He’s selfish and unreliable and directly responsible for Jessa’s depression and fear of settling down. When Jessa confronts him about regularly running out on her he barely even offers a defense. He changes the subject, promises her a favorite meal, and then abandons her and Hannah at a grocery store. It’s no surprise Jessa has turned out the way she has.
Your opinion of “Video Games” probably depends greatly on how you feel about Jessa. She’s the most problematic character on a show that was once filled with them. Girls tends to introduce characters as total assholes before gradually fleshing them out into well-rounded characters. It’s a neat technique, almost challenging us to invest in characters after initially seeing them at their worst. Think Hannah, Adam, Ray. It hasn’t cracked that nut yet in regard to Jessa, though, at least not for me, and that makes this standalone Jessa-centric episode this season’s dullest so far.
It’s not just because Jessa is unlikable. Yes, she’s very mean, and irresponsible in ways that are realistic but also overused by bad, clich?-riddled movies made by, for and about men. She’s neck and neck with Marnie as the show’s least overtly comic character, and despite her fa?ade of strength she’s also probably it’s most brittle. Like all people every character on Girls struggles with doubt, sadness and insecurity, but Jessa is the most thoroughly depressed, and that long, deep depression has informed everything we know about her backstory and almost everything she’s done across the show’s two seasons.
So yes, I feel bad for Jessa. That sympathy hasn’t turned into a genuine interest in her or her storylines, though. Perhaps it’s because she’s been invisible for much of this season (I don’t count the minutes, but I’m pretty sure she’s had less screen-time this year than any of the other major characters, save Charlie).
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The title of “Boys” suggests a high-concept episode told entirely from the perspective of Ray, Adam, and the other male members of the “Girls” universe. The actual episode doesn’t go that far, though, as we spend a good deal of time on what’s going on individually with Hannah (who gets an offer to write an ebook) and Marnie (who proves Hannah isn’t the only regular who can inadvertently talk her way out of a relationship in a hurry), and then about their strained friendship and how they lie to each other constantly to make themselves feel better.
But if “Boys” isn’t entirely Ray and Adam-centric, it makes the most of their time together, demonstrating how complicated, prickly and appealing they can be, both alone and together, in the same messy but fascinating way that the women of “Girls” are portrayed.
Ray and Adam are linked together by the women in their lives and not much else – though, as Adam notes, “we’re both kinda weird-looking.” Ray overanalyzes everything, Adam operates purely on animal instinct, but both approaches often get them into trouble. (The only thing keeping Adam from being homeless like Ray is the money he gets from his grandmother to subsidize his angry existence.) But they get along, however briefly, because Adam needs backup for his Staten Island adventure, while Ray has clearly never been asked to be somebody’s backup before and revels in the opportunity.
Alex Karpovsky and Adam Driver worked very well together, and the script turned their relationship into a funhouse mirror of the dynamic that Adam has with Hannah, where Ray just keeps talking and talking and talking (primarily, but not entirely, about his visceral hatred of Staten Island) until he eventually drives Adam away. (Without realizing it, he backs Adam into a position where he has to defend Hannah, even after he’s renounced her.)
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Hannah and Ray are at work, discussing the semantics of “sexit” when a neighbor from up the block comes in to Grumpy’s to complain that some of the coffee shop’s trash has been disposed of in his trash cans.
Hannah looks unmistakably guilty but Ray doesn’t notice. The conversation gets heated right quickly (Ray gets immediately aggressive) and in the end, neighborguy storms out. Hannah berates Ray for his poor customer service.
“That was horrible to watch. This is a toxic work environment. You know what? I’m out.” and she walks out on her job.
Hannah then goes to neighborguy’s house, a beautiful, opulent brownstone. He lets her in, somewhat befuddled, and she nervously explains that she did, in fact, dump the Grumpy’s trash into his cans.
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Hannah sits, uncomfortably, for an interview for a freelance gig with a website called jazzhate.com. The blonde interviewer suggests she write about a threesome, or doing cocaine, and then points to a sign on the wall indicating where your comfort zone is (outside the circle), to which Hannah responds, “Uh huh. Okay.”
The girls are having a yard sale (which in Brooklyn is more of a street sale) and Hannah asks Marnie where she could actually procure said cocaine. Answer: Laird, her weird junkie neighbor.
She goes to Laird’s apartment where she asks “Um, let’s see, how do I articulate this properly. I need some cocaine, and I know that you’re a junkie, which I do not want you to think I am judging, I am completely cool with it and get that it takes what it takes to get through life.”
Laird nods and responds, “I’m clean now.”
“I watched Girls, but I didn’t really have an opinion of it” ? said no one ever. Last year the show started off shaky and turned some viewers off, but got progressively better as the reality of what the series is – and not what the divisive hype claimed it was – became clear. Girls is really a fine show.
Series creator and star Lena Dunham is not “the voice of the generation” (which was a satirically uttered line that HBO turned into a sincere tagline), but she has moments where she gets it really right. So maybe getting the most out of the show means accepting it as an ironic embrace of White Girl Problems, without being dismissive of its truths. Hit the jump to find out where all of the girls are now, and why things are already so much better than before.
I should maybe start by saying, in full disclosure, that I hated most of the first season. But tuning out the buzz helped, and I thought last year that things ended pretty well, all things considered. Hannah (Lena Dunham) remains the most irritating character of all of the whiney leads, and so naturally gets the most screen time. (Sidebar: speaking of screen time and management, we went almost the full half hour in “It’s About Time” without seeing or hearing anything about Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and her husband Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd) that she married out of the blue to end last season).
“It’s About Time” was also much funnier than much of last year’s fare, thanks in part to the fact that, yes, we already know the characters, but also because of the full-time addition of Elijah (Andrew Rannells) as Hannah’s roommate instead of Marnie (Allison Williams). Marnie and Hannah together are a storm of annoyance, filled with useless moaning and an obscene amount of vocal fry (like in the scene where Marnie confronts Hannah about them not being as close). Elijah keeps things moving along though, and doesn’t put up with either girl’s BS, which is a relief. He also happens to get some of the best lines so far on the show.
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In the season 1 finale of HBO’s Girls, a small sense of closure brings about a whole bunch of new open doors. “She Did” took place almost entirely at a wedding. Jessa’s wedding! That was the surprise of the century, and yet, it made absolutely perfect sense. Even when I didn’t like something the show would do, I was impressed at its sheer poise and confidence in doing it. It wasn’t a perfect season of television, by any means, but it was as promising a debut season as I can think of, and it ends with a finale that makes me very much want to see where things end up in season two.
So, it seems very fitting that the events that transpire in the season finale revolve around Jessa’s surprise wedding to Thomas John (played by Chris O’Dowd, the character she turned down the three-way with Marnie a few weeks back). It’s shocking, for sure, but not all that surprising considering Jessa’s personality and the journey her character has taken this year. She claims to be happier than she’s ever been (and when asked if she feels like a “real adult” now, she answers “Mmmmmmmmmmm…Yes.”), but knowing Jessa, this brief moment of bliss will eventually come to a (most likely horrible) end sometime next season, but she makes no qualms about living for the now, and falling in love with a guy and marrying him two weeks later, however silly, worked perfectly well for me.
“Girls” is a show that never flinched, never worried much about making you like the main characters — even though I developed affection for several of them in spite of their constant screw-ups and selfishness — and instead let them make mistakes, hurt themselves and each other, in a fashion that was at times very funny, at others heartbreaking.
As predicted, Ray is really into Shoshanna; Shoshanna is really horrified that, not knowing that the party was a wedding, she dressed in white, and she’s almost too preoccupied with that to overthink what she’s agreeing to when Ray proposes taking her home that night. Later, in bed, Shoshanna’s suffering from her usual logorrhea (observing that her aunt told her that losing her virginity felt like “scratching a sunburn” . . . wow, what?), but Ray is seemingly undeterred, and we’re probably to assume that Shoshanna is relieved of her V card shortly thereafter.
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Leave Me Alone
Hey girls, here’s the recap on Girls, S01E09, ‘Leave Me Alone.’ It goes without saying, but don’t read if you haven’t seen it already, spoilers galore below.
Well, it seems that Hannah and Marnie had been feeling resentful towards each other for awhile. All it took to get the fight moving was a trigger. The trigger in this case was an old nemesis of Hannah’s named Tally Schifrin. Tally’s the kind of girl who is all about the success and not afraid to rub it in your face. Obviously this is not someone who would mesh well with Hannah. Especially because Tally has the one kind of success that Hannah really wants: recognition for her writing. Enter guest star Michael Imperioli, known to many as Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos. I love when HBO keeps it in the family! As Hannah’s former writing professor and crush, she was thrilled when Imperioli agreed Tally was a crappy writer and invited Hannah to read a piece at a workshop. I would’ve liked to hear her piece on the hoarder.
This felt like a “plot” episode, one that moved the story along but lacked the thematic unity of Girls at its best. (And it was once again directed by Richard Shepard. Do we blame him, or do the producers just like giving Shepard these episodes to deal with?) Still, friendships in one’s early 20s are genuinely vulnerable—as Girls keeps reminding us (a bit heavy-handedly at times, as in that scene between Jessa and her ex-employer), most of us at that age are still figuring out who we are.
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Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too
We have to congratulate Girls on surprising us this week (Season 1, Episode 8: “Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too”). We thought we knew Adam, but our eyes opened just as wide as Hannah’s did last week when his character opened up. And Hannah still has that look of amazement in her eyes whenever she looks at her new boyfriend. We, too, have been turned into Adam fans. Just when we think we know everything, we realize we never will — another important life lesson gleaned from this show, and life in your 20s.
In this case it was Jessa (the free-spirited British one) asking Marnie, (the uptight one) about Adam. We’ve come to know Adam in episodes 1 through 7 as the perverted large-eared love interest of our self-absorbed protagonist Hannah Horvath. So far, we’ve seen him texting a picture of his genitalia intended for someone else to Hannah, playing with Hannah’s fat while in bed, lying about getting an STD test, lying about using condoms, etc, etc, etc.
I also liked that the episode gave us more of a look at Jessa, who’s the kind of girl who can make it seem like she’s making fun of someone even when she’s complimenting them. (I have this affliction as well, and when Jessa started outlining how she really admired Marnie’s commitment to good hygiene, it was hilarious.) In past weeks, I haven’t been able to really embrace Jessa’s aloof cool, the way that she always seems to be slightly detached from everybody and everything. In the show’s world, Hannah’s the writer, but Jessa’s often the one who seems to be outside of herself, watching her and her friends go through the motions of one story or another. In this episode, though, Jessa’s nature is exactly what’s needed when she and Marnie need an exit from the venture capitalist’s apartment. She’s the friend who always seems to be separate from everybody else, but that comes in handy when all of her friends need a lifeline to carry them back above the surface. Jessa’s cool, yes, but it feels more and more like that coolness has an origin story we’ll get at some point (probably further down the line than this season). It’s not simply a fact of life.
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Welcome to Bushwick (aka The Crackcident)
It was sweaty and thick in Bushwick this week, when the girls of Girls met for some partying. Hannah asks in the beginning of the episode – “how good can it be?”, and at the end it may be only Hannah that is really happy and kind of satisfied.
The warehouse party is one big game of hipster bingo — Indian-style braided headbands, high-waisted shorts, feathers (courtesy of Jessa, naturally), spirit animal hoods, and Adam with an ugly shirt. Yes, we finally see the shirtless Adam out in the wild, wearing a shirt, and we begin to understand why he doesn’t because frankly, that is one ugly shirt.
What is it about parties that captures a certain spirit of boundless possibility? As Jessa says, it’s the hope that each one might truly be the best party ever, that’s what drives us to put on lipstick and venture to potentially dangerous points unknown. Jessa says this while dressed as an extra from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and so I am inclined to believe her. She is ready to dance, as is this episode’s golden days of MTV-esque title sequence.
You see there are two sides to every story, and it looks like up until this week’s episode, we’d only been getting the “Adam is a total douchebag” story from Hannah’s perspective. However, Lena Dunham managed to find a way for us to sympathize (ever so slightly) with the shirtless potential sociopath. He’s just misunderstood! Why, you ask? Because Hannah never took the time to understand him. So what better time than a warehouse party in Bushwick?
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