Archive for February, 2013

Ray and Adam with dog“Boys”, the sixth episode of Girls Season Two, primarily follows two of the male characters, Adam and Ray, as they make a trek to Staten Island to return a stolen psychotic dog.  In a great running gag about the book Little Women, Ray ends up befriending Adam when he visits him to find his missing copy of Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel.  In true Adam fashion, Ray finds a mad dog locked in Adam’s bathroom and when he discovers that Adam stole the dog from its owner, who was yelling at it, he pontificates that dogs are like family members and you can’t steal them.  Adam agrees to return the dog but only if Ray accompanies him.  What follows is Girls first look into the minds of males and their interpersonal relationships.

Going to Staten Island from Brooklyn is like Odysseus’ trip in the Odyssey.  It involves a ferry, and that can feel like ten years.  This gives the men, or boys as the episode is titled, time to talk about women, relationships, and their fears.  Adam attempts to convince Ray that he is over Hannah by using one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard.  He compares Hannah to the inflatable Tweetie Bird you win at a carnival by tossing three rings into a bucket.  It seems easy, but in reality it’s really rigged to torment you.  Then, when you finally win, you’re stuck carrying a big yellow blow up plastic toy around for the rest of the evening.  Ray agrees and makes a disparaging comment about Hannah, and Adam becomes angry, defends Hannah and yells at Ray.  He storms off leaving Ray all by himself with the muzzled dog.

Ray and Adam on Ferry

Ray continues his trek to return the dog and he encounters a Staten Island girl, on her way to work at Webster Hall, who turns out to be the daughter of the dog’s owner.  She tells him she hates the dog and doesn’t want it back.  She then hurls a slur of racial and homophobic insults at Ray and stomps off.  Ray is dumbfounded and he finds the nearest bench and breaks down crying.  His tears aren’t because the uneducated girl from Staten Island called him a “kike” and a “fag”.  They’re because he feels lost.  He’s 33 years old, works at a coffee shop and his longest relationship is the four-week long one he currently has with Shoshanna.  Earlier that morning, Shoshanna tried to convince him to take a class at the Learning Annex where Donald Trump would be speaking.  He asked her why he’d want to do that and she explained because obviously he doesn’t want to work at a coffee shop forever.  It’s not that Ray wants to serve coffee for the rest of his life, but he also doesn’t have the hang-ups that 23-year old Shoshanna has.  During their pilgrimage to that “other island”, Ray tells Adam that Shoshanna doesn’t understand.  She’s at the age when she still thinks her life will turn out exactly the way she planned.  She hasn’t experienced all the letdowns and disappointment that someone in his thirties has lived through.  Ray speaks as though he is okay with not having a perfect life, but his breakdown, later that day, shows that he is bothered by his current life status.  However, he makes some accurate points and one can see the delineation between a Millennial and a Gen Xer.

Ray and dog on bench

The B Story of this episode concentrates on Hannah and Marnie and what is going on in each of their lives.  Hannah attempts to write her first eBook, while Marnie is excited to host her first party with her new boyfriend, Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone).  Each girl wants the other to be happy for her, but when they try to share their world with one another, the only thing that results is failure.  Hannah attends Booth’s party to support Marnie, but she finds herself uncomfortable with Marnie’s posh artist friends and leaves after only a few minutes.  It’s not that she’s jealous of Marnie’s new life, but she isn’t sure where she fits into the puzzle.  She wants to understand Marnie and what she is experiencing, but all she really wants to do is go home and work on her eBook.

Hannah and Marnie at Booths party

If Hannah stayed longer, she would have witnessed a fight between Marnie and Booth, where Marnie realizes that Booth only wanted her for sex and to carry out personal assistant duties.  Like many naive young women, she thought that Booth was her boyfriend.  Booth gets Marnie to admit that she really only likes the idea of him, but doesn’t really like Booth himself for who he really is.  Booth has a temper-tantrum, like a two-year old who wants his mommy, and breaks several bottles of expensive wine from his wine cellar.  Marnie leaves crying, but her mood perks up when she receives a call from Hannah, who’s experiencing a serious case of first-time writer’s block.

Marnie crying in subway

The short telephone conversation concludes the episode, but it leaves the viewer with chills.  Both women are desperate for the other one’s care and understanding, but they gloss over their predicaments and lie to one another.  Hannah fibs that her writing is going extremely well, while Marnie tells Hannah how amazing the party was.  Marnie has tears in her eyes and Hannah reflects the pain she feels in her soulful expression and balled up fist.  It is at this point in the episode that Girls does a tremendous job of pinning down the intricacies of female friendships.  What is important is what Hannah and Marnie are not saying to one another.  There is an eerie uneasiness lurking just beneath their conversation, like an invisible mysterious power threatening to incinerate their friendship.  Both girls can feel it, but they can’t reach out and stop it from seeping into their relationship.  Friendships among women are often similar to male-female love relationships, in that they can often carry the same deep emotional connection despite being strictly platonic.  Many friendships are simply elements of location and time, and friends often grow up and apart.  Most women can probably remember the exact point at which they felt the divide between themselves and their best friend begin.  It’s an ugly feeling when a chasm develops and when one realizes that a person they’ve had a deep connection with may be drifting away from them.  It’s like watching someone float away on a raft and you have no ability to throw them a life saver.  You know it’s happening, but there’s no simple fix.

Any writer will tell you that it’s quite a feat to write from the point of view of the opposite sex.  So it’s not surprising that this sixth episode of Girls was co-written by male writer, Murray Miller.  He and Lena Dunham, both do an excellent job at exploring male to male bonding and female to female drifting.  Actor Alex Karpovsky, who plays Ray Ploshansky, also shines in this episode and we get to see him stretch from delivering one-liners to Hannah to almost carrying an entire episode.  I enjoyed seeing him peel off a few layers of sarcasm and show us his deeper side.  Although, he delivers the funniest line of the episode when he quips, “Whenever somebody says they want to be a writer, they really don’t want to do anything.  Except, you know, eat and masturbate.”

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Grumpys argumentThe fifth episode of Girls Season Two, “One Man’s Trash”, is a departure from the regular formula that Girls follows.  The episode focuses solely on Hannah and plays like a half-hour drama, instead of the single-camera half-hour comedy ensemble show it usually is.  The episode is well-written and Hannah shares screen time with Patrick Wilson, who plays new character, Joshua.  I didn’t necessarily miss the other three characters, because I was drawn into the strange trip that Hannah takes.

Joshua comes into Grumpy’s Coffee Shop and complains that the store has been using his private trash cans.  After an argument with Ray, the coffee shop manager, the man leaves disgruntled but Hannah follows him to his private brownstone.  She innocently knocks on his door and he invites her in.  This is the only moment in this episode where I felt like I had to take a leap of blind faith.  I didn’t understand what Wilson’s character’s motivation was to invite a strange girl into his apartment.  On the other hand, Hannah blindly going into his brownstone, against her better judgment, is quite fitting with her character.

After a glass of lemonade, Hannah admits to Joshua that she is the one who has been dumping the coffee shop’s garbage into his trash cans.  Her excuse is rather convoluted, but Joshua seems to accept her explanation.  Hannah then makes a pass at Joshua and they end up in bed together.  After sleeping with the handsome 42 year-old Joshua, Hannah attempts to make a sexit.  Joshua asks her why she is leaving, and she responds that she wants to give him space.  This response by Hannah is a window into her soul.  She has become so accustomed to immature men treating her like garbage; she doesn’t feel comfortable over staying her welcome.  But Joshua begs her to stay and she does.

Patrick Wilson reading paperThe next morning, Hannah and Joshua act like any other yuppie middle-aged Brooklyn brownstone-dwelling couple, by reading the New York Times in his solarium over coffee and toast with jam.  For most people, this is an ordinary moment, perhaps even a dull moment in the life of a stable couple.  But for Hannah, this entire experience is surreal.  She looks at Joshua as he reads the paper, and one can see a calmness wash over her face.  Is Hannah finally at peace?

Joshua calls into work sick and Hannah agrees to stay for another day and evening.  At one point she decides to take a shower, and she goes into Joshua’s beautifully remodeled bathroom, and stands inside it mystified by the multiple shower heads and steam settings.  To her, this is a world she has never seen before.  Perhaps she’s caught a glimpse of it in a television show or in a trendy magazine, but she’s never lived it.  Her life involves living in a tiny apartment, rotating out insane roommates every other month, and working at a hipster coffee shop.  She never would have imagined she’d be spending a lost weekend with a good-looking, wealthy doctor, who is kind and nurturing.

Dunham breaks downAfter Hannah passes out from too much steam in the shower, Joshua consoles her and she begins crying.  When Joshua asks her what’s wrong, she delivers a monologue.  In her speech, she explains that this life that he has, that she has pretended to have for the last two days, is something she thought she’d never have.  She further details, that she has spent her entire life being an unhappy person that is against societal norms and tries to live outside the box.  But being with Joshua, in his brownstone, has made her realize that she is just like everybody else.  She too wants the beautiful home, great husband, and stable relationship.  This very fact scares her to the core, because she now questions everything she thought she knew about herself.  It is an epiphany moment for Hannah, and she may have matured in a way that previously would have been impossible.

Unfortunately for her, this bold, but honest speech makes Joshua’s eyes glaze over.  Like most men, he liked Hannah when she was sweet and in awe of him.  But as soon as she shows her vulnerable side and explains to him how she feels, he loses interest.  Hannah sees it in his demeanor and, when he tells her he needs to get to bed because he has to get up early for work.  Ultimately, Joshua may have disappointed Hannah, and their short-lived rendezvous may be over.  But, he served as a spark for Hannah’s inner-emotional journey.  It is one that she needed to take and that the viewer needed to take with her.

In an insider’s look into the episode, creator Lena Dunham explains that the idea for this episode started out as a dream that Hannah would have, but then Dunham decided to morph it into reality.  It is interesting that she remarks on this, because the tone of the episode does have a dream like quality, and, although it really happened, the way in which the events unfold is quite allegorical.  I highly respect Dunham for going in a different direction with this episode and really exploring her character.  It has elements of HBO’s other half-hour comedy show, Enlightened.  Perhaps Dunham is a fan and wanted to explore how her character, Hannah, becomes enlightened.  Overall, it was a risk that paid off.

Sweater costs more then my rentI love the series Girls for its ensemble cast and uncanny way of making the most ridiculous and disgusting things hysterically funny.  I think the series works best when all four young women have screen time and there is humor involved.  But, a strange departure now and then is what makes certain television series remind their viewers that the writers are full of novel ideas.