In “The Return” we went back to East Lansing, Michigan with Hannah and watched her grapple with big city girl returns to the suburbs situation. Removing some of the annoying drama between characters like Marnie and Charlie (or Jessa and the father of the kids she nannies) and taking Hannah out of NYC was just what Girls needed after losing traction in the last couple episodes, putting all the extraneous noise in the margins to focus on this extended vignette into East Lansing.
“The Return” was written by Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, who pick up the clichés that surround “home” and see what icky bugs run out from underneath by sending Hannah to her parents’ house in Michigan for the weekend, for their thirtieth anniversary. The episode defines and redefines “home” as it applies to Hannah: as an oblivious twentysomething, as a New Yorker, and as an adult only child. And it starts with the “oblivious” part when Hannah’s heading to the airport. Marnie—Hannah’s mother hen by proxy—leans out the window to remind Hannah that rent is due next week, and admonishes her to “be nice to your parents. Okay?” “I’m the nicest!” Hannah chirps.
I don’t mean to trivialize the rest of “The Return”. My initial distaste for Girls has obviously receded, and this episode maintains the steady run the show’s been on since the third episode. We understand Hannah enough now that it’s not even that annoying tonight when she slips into her worst and most selfish behavior since the pilot.
Watch Girls – The Return Online
Girls S01E06: The Return
Oh Hannah, if you only you acted so secure all of the time and we wouldn’t be in this Adam mess. But back to the situation of returning home. Some people say you can never go home ago and to a degree this is completely true. Things will never be the way you left them. But you also grow to appreciate stuff in a completely new way. For instance going home to your parents house from a city often means cleanliness, better sleep, an overabundance of food, and if you’re coming from NYC then lower prices on everything.
The episode never comes out and states any of this. It focuses almost entirely on Hannah’s adventures in and around her childhood hometown. We don’t go back to New York unless she’s talking to someone there. We don’t have her give a big speech about how she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Indeed, the only time we really spend without her is spent with her parents, who celebrate their anniversary without the daughter they’ve flown out to celebrate with them by having a nice dinner, then having sex in the shower. (The show’s casualness about how healthy the two’s marriage is works very well.) But even this is allowed to be a kind of alternate Hannah world, one where she, too, settles down in the Midwest somewhere and has a daughter who causes her constant worry. Her parents are worried, but they’re also not. They remember what it was like to be 25, and they know Hannah will get through it like they did, even if she doesn’t end up a famous writer on the other side.
But for me, the most interesting part of “The Return” involved Hannah’s mom and dad, who essentially take the place of Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna as this week’s supporting cast. Their decision from the pilot to cut Hannah’s pursestrings gets more shading. Not only has Hannah learned to stop complaining about it — she even lies to her mom about quitting the office job because she’d rather they be proud of her than give her some much-needed rent money — but at the anniversary dinner, we hear Mr. and Mrs. Horvath talk more about their hopes and (mostly) fears for their daughter. Just as Hannah is convinced her old classmate Heather is setting herself up for failure by moving to LA to dance, her own parents worry that Hannah might be over-selling her own talent and needs to start adjusting her expectations — that not everyone who moves to the big city gets to become who and what they wanted to be. And where Hannah’s mom was the tougher one in the pilot, yelling about her desire for a lake house, here she’s the one who’s more optimistic, or at least allowing for the idea that Hannah can have fun now, and learn later.
I’m a little worried about Girls being at its best without any of the other girls taking up screen time, but I’ll chalk that up to an awesome script co-written by Judd Apatow as the reason why ‘The Return’ was such an awesome escape from the realities of Jessa, Marnie, Shoshanna, and the rest of the idiot males on the show. Either way, it was an awesome episode of the show, and the first one that I’ve really felt the ability to relate to Hannah.
“The Return” doesn’t show us much of where Hannah has come from emotionally or intellectually, but it does effectively show how she’s grown as a person since high school. Girls isn’t just an unusually funny show, it has somehow become a thoroughly likable one. That’s about the last thing I would have predicted after the pilot. That’s why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.