Archive for March, 2013

Girls“Together”, the tenth episode of Girls Season Two and the season finale, took a surprising twist that evoked emotion and left the audience satisfied.  For the first time, Lena Dunham gave the viewers their happy ending.  The way she accomplished this continues to show how fearless and brilliant she is.  She did it in the vein of David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, where boy gets girl in the end, but a sophisticated audience forgives the happy ending, because it’s done so gracefully.

The episode opens on Shoshanna doing something that typically takes more nerve and maturity than her character has shown in the past.  She breaks up with Ray, rather than continue to lead him on and, ultimately, cheat on him.  Ray is devastated, but deep down he must realize that his relationship with Shoshanna would never have worked.  With a ten-year age difference, the two are in completely different places in their lives.  Ray is also a victim of Shoshanna’s lack of experience.  Now that she has had her first relationship, she realizes she wants to explore and that there are so many other men in the world for her to meet.  In essence, Shoshanna needs to sow her oats, and Ray has become an obstacle to her being able to do so.   This scene also allowed for some evolution in Shoshanna’s character.  By ending her relationship with Ray, she has allowed herself more freedom and is less uptight.

Ray gets dumped

The next part of the episode focuses on Charlie and Marnie.  Over a late morning brunch, Marnie says that she thinks she and Charlie are now dating.  Charlie falls silent and Marnie thinks that Charlie’s lack of agreement infers he is only interested in sleeping with her.  She storms out of the restaurant and Charlie follows her.  Realizing that she has nothing left to lose, Marnie tells Charlie, “I want you. I know I’m a mess, but I want you. I want to see you every morning. I want to make you a snack every night and, eventually, I want to have your little brown babies and, eventually I want to watch you die.”  As a viewer, I found Charlie’s response to Marnie’s candor quite unexpected.  He tells her that’s all he ever wanted to hear.  He also tells her he’s always loved her and he keeps coming back because he loves her.  It’s a beautiful moment and a satisfying one.  All season Marnie needed to figure out what she truly wanted.  Once she realized that what she really needed was already right in front of her, she was able to let her guard down and be honest for once.  What resulted was a reconciliation between two people who most audience members had been rooting for all season.

Marnie and Charlie

The primary storyline of the season finale revolves around Hannah and her continuing breakdown.  Her EBook deadline looms, but she’s unable to write anything and sees her golden opportunity slipping away.  As I predicted last week, Marnie finally decides to reach out to Hannah and, when she comes to check on her, Hannah hides.  Whether it’s because she is too embarrassed for anyone to see her in her current state or because she’s still angry with Marnie is unclear.  But the result is that the reunion between Hannah and Marnie never happens and the season closes with their friendship still in jeopardy.  As a writer, Dunham needed to leave one of her storylines hanging in the balance.  Otherwise, there’d be nothing for the viewer to be anxious about in the opening of Season Three.

When Hannah begins to feel all is lost, she places a desperate, last-minute call to Jessa and tells her she needs her.  Realizing she will not hear back from Jessa, at least not anytime in the near future, she then dials Adam.  It is a moment of utter despair.  Adam picks up and they somehow end up on Apple FaceTime where he can see Hannah twitching.  Adam realizes Hannah is suffering from her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and he tells her not to move and that he’s coming.  Hannah ignores her instincts to hang up and stays on the line with Adam, watching him as he travels to her.  Then in one of the most romantic gestures I’ve seen, Adam, who is not even wearing a shirt, runs down the sidewalks of Brooklyn and down the stairs into the subway.  He finally reaches Hannah’s apartment and breaks down the door and then sweeps her into his arms.  The entire sequence, from Adam running through the streets while still looking at his phone and then busting her door down is unbelievably poetic.

Adam picks up Hannah

In an interview about her show Girls, Dunham has said that her Executive Producer, Judd Apatow, often gives her notes that read do not be afraid of emotion in your writing.  Dunham doesn’t shy away from emotion in her Season Two finale.  In fact she embraces it, and she creates a new cultural icon of the romantic gesture.  No moment like this has been shown in recent cinema or television.  It is a send up of the classic scene from the 1989 film, Say Anything, where John Cusack’s character, Lloyd Dobler, stands in the rain with a boom box over his head and plays a song for his girlfriend.  I’m not surprised that the person who creates a scene that outshines one of the 1980’s most memorable moments is Lena Dunham.  She just gave the Millennial Generation its own moment in pop culture history and cemented her place in the television medium.  It is no wonder, Girls is coming back for a third season.  Simply stated, it’s just that good.

Say Anything 2

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Hannah at office“On All Fours”, the ninth episode of Girls Season Two, had a dark undertone that seemed to sweep the characters further into their destructive behaviors.  With only one episode left of the current season, it seems unlikely that any of the three remaining girls will get her act together or even fully hit rock-bottom.

Hannah continues on her downward spiral and still suffers from her latest attack of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  For the first time this season, Lena Dunham has her character, Hannah, barely speak.  What the viewer does get to witness is her sad state and her general withdrawal from her friends.  She spends the entire episode alone and struggles with a Q-tip that she lodges too far into her ear canal.  It is the best reenactment ever done of someone trying to clean their ears.  As usual, Dunham is a master of observation and she puts a trivial grooming technique into her episode and ,somehow, turns it into a metaphor for Hannah’s current emotional and mental state.  When Hannah ends up in the ER, she acts like a scared little girl, and the viewer is invited to see just how fragile and vulnerable she is, underneath all of her witty sarcasm.  On her walk home from the hospital, she conveniently (a tactic usually reserved for network sitcoms) runs into Adam.  At this point, she craves any type of human compassion and she tries to reach out to him in her own way.  Adam tells her he is out with his new girlfriend, and then leaves her on the sidewalk alone.

Hannah runs into Adam

As predicted in my review last week, Adam is actually more scarred by this run-in than Hannah.  He masks his hurt feelings by diving head first back into a bottle of Jack Daniels.  After a night of heavy drinking and dancing, he treats his girlfriend like a cheap porn star and the viewer witnesses how disturbed Adam has become.

Adam in bed

Shoshanna, Marnie, and Ray attend a party at Charlie’s new bourgeois smart phone App Company.  Shoshanna, still feeling guilty from her tryst with a doorman, tries to avoid Ray most of the night.  Ray detects that something is off and presses her to explain why she is acting so strangely.  Shoshanna admits she held hands with a doorman, and Ray seems to not care.  For a person who usually says exactly what she is thinking, this is Shoshanna’s first attempt at deceit and manipulation.  I’m expecting it to blow-up in her face in the season finale.  Her character is still quite innocent, and her indiscretion is more about being inexperienced and naive, rather than being a female player.

Marnie sings a song at the party against a new track she laid down the previous night, and completely embarrasses herself in front of Charlie and all of his coworkers.  Charlie takes her aside to tell her that her current behavior is not cute anymore.  But, apparently, he loves her anyway because the two hook up at the end of the night.  This has been teased all season and Marnie is infatuated with Charlie and his recent success.  This might be her rock-bottom, where she will finally have to figure out what she really wants.

Marnie sings at Party

The episode concludes with Hannah lying on the floor making a distressed phone call to her parents for help.  She recognizes that her current mental state is off, and she reaches out to the two people who will not judge her.  I’m expecting her to show her stronger side again in the season finale next week, because I don’t  want to see this season end with Hannah’s destruction.  Perhaps, Hannah and Marnie will spend some time together and help one another.   Although, that is the type of happy ending that typically doesn’t happen in Cable dramedies.

Hannah on phone upset

Hannah in shrink's office“It’s Back”, the eighth episode of Girls Season Two, is mostly a filler episode.  Its main purpose is to serve as a set up for the final two episodes of the season.  The title of the episode refers to the reemergence of Hannah’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  The stress of writing her first eBook, compiled with her emotional distance from her best friend, Marnie, causes Hannah to complete everyday tasks eight times each.  Whether it’s opening and closing her door eight times, eating exactly eight potato chips, or just counting to eight, she exhibits odd behavior that she claims she hasn’t had since high school.

Lucky for her, her parents happen to be visiting New York when her latest psychological issues reappear.  After much prodding, they convince her to see a psychotherapist, and in typical Hannah dialogue, she convinces the shrink that this is not your average case of OCD.  Her case is special and she really is screwed up.  It’s not surprising that someone like Hannah, who often exhibits a no-holds barred attitude about life and experiences, would suffer from some kind of slight mental disturbance.  The way in which the writers deal with it is comical as usual, and brings an almost light-heartedness to it, which helps not to throw a dark and stormy cloud over the entire episode.

The B story involves Adam asking a new girl out on a blind date and meeting her for dinner.  Much to his surprise, the woman is extremely beautiful and charming.  He even smiles for the first time all season, and the audience is left to ponder if he is now truly over Hannah.  My best guess is he most likely is not, and it will take dating this new gorgeous girl to make him realize how much he loved Hannah.

Adam at AA

There is one surprise thrown into this episode and that is that Marnie (Allison Williams) can actually sing.  I’m not sure if the character is going to pursue a new career or if it was just a way for Dunham to let the world see that Williams can not only act, but also has pretty decent pipes.  Either way, it was a pleasant and unexpected treat specially gift-wrapped by Dunham.

Marnie can sing

With only two episodes left of Season Two, I am slightly disappointed that this season is coming to a close.  However, I am eagerly anticipating that the next two episodes will be the best of the bunch, because it’s at this pivotal juncture that Dunham and her writing staff need to deliver.

“Video Games”, the seventh episode of Girls Season Two, focuses on Jessa and after a season and a half, some light is finally shed on why Jessa is the way she is.  Hannah accompanies Jessa on an overnight trip to the countryside in upstate New York, where Jessa is visiting her father.

Hannah and Jessa at Train Station

The episode starts out with the two girls being stranded at the train station and waiting hours for Jessa’s father to pick them up.  This is the first inkling the viewer gets that Jessa’s father is certainly not Parenting Magazine’s Father of the Year.  When he (Ben Mendelsohn) finally arrives, he is aloof, out of sorts and somewhat cold to his daughter.  The next scene introduces his live in-girlfriend Petula (Rosanna Arquette), an aging hippie type wearing a vintage Jefferson Starship t-shirt.  Everyone gathers around an outside picnic table for dinner, which consists of the same rabbits that Hannah petted and found cute and cuddly earlier that afternoon.  Jessa’s father announces to her that he and Petula have plans for the evening, and Jessa and Hannah are on their own.  Jessa seems quite disappointed, although she tries to hide her hurt.

Hannah and Jessa eating rabbit

In a distracting scene, Hannah and Jessa go out with two local boys and drive a sports car blindfolded through the winding country roads, while doing Whip-Its.  During this scene, Hannah is the only voice of reason and she actually gets out of the car in fear for her life.  We don’t typically see Hannah act as the level-headed one, but for a character who strives to be different and likes outside the box experiences, the entire trip to witness where Jessa has come from, makes Hannah realize she is actually the normal one.  In true Hannah fashion, she does sleep with Petula’s strange son and, I find I’m beginning to grow tired of Hannah’s carefree attitude towards her sexual encounters.  It seems that Dunham puts her character into this type of scene in almost every episode of Season Two.  Knowing that Dunham writes with purpose, I’m hoping there will be some kind of revelation about her carefree attitude towards sex somewhere near the end of this season.

The following day, Hannah and Jessa go to the local country store to stock up on edible food and once again, Jessa’s father never comes back to pick them up.  They have to walk back to the father’s house and, it’s during this walk, that Hannah realizes just how screwed up Jessa’s father is and why Jessa puts on a front of being such a carefree, liberal flowerchild type.  Unfortunately for Jessa, this is the only behavior she knows, but it’s really rather sad.  She is craving her father’s attention, but is rejected over and over again during her visit.  It’s because of this episode, that it’s now clear why Jessa rushed into marriage with Thomas John.  She has a serious need to seek male attention, whether it is the father of a child she babysits for or an uptight business man, like Thomas John.

Jessas Father

While Hannah is in the bathroom dealing with a urinary tract infection, Jessa vanishes, leaving Hannah stranded with only a note that reads, “See you around my love, X.”  The way in which Jessa appeared on Shoshanna’s doorstep in Season One, is the same whimsical way in which she departs from Season Two.  This episode concludes with Hannah phoning her parents from the train station to tell them how much she appreciates them for always being there for her.  In typical Girls fashion, the call doesn’t go smoothly; Hannah’s mother thinks Hannah is full of shit.  But whether or not Hannah’s mother believes she is genuine, Hannah knows the truth, that her upbringing, no matter how messed up or insane, doesn’t hold a candle to the way in which Jessa grew-up.

Jessa

In a look inside the episode, Dunham explains that writing this episode helps to give the viewer a chance to feel sympathy for Jessa.  Otherwise, they would have never felt anything for her.  On a whole, the episode is a success in that it properly mixes backstory with emotion to show that Dunham’s created characters, like Jessa, are not one-dimensional or mere satire.  They are deeply layered people with past wounds, and their present day actions come from a real place of conviction.