Photo: Mark Schafer.
Last week had me wondering whether or not Lena Dunham was willingly making her characters unlikeable to address the smart-girl trope on television — the one that requires all unpleasant (or snarky) females to actually be relatable. Either she is completely out-of-touch and has no idea how infuriating her characters are, I wrote, or she is doing some sort of Seinfeld send-up, except with a cast of four young women (TV's most sympathetic character), forcing us to confront our discomfort with seeing ladies in a space most usually occupied by Larry David.
If it was the latter, why isn't the show funnier? Sure, there are some groan- or snicker-inducing moments, but there isn't the sort of manic glee one gets when watching, say, It's Always Sunny or another show that glorifies cluelessness. Until, well, this episode.
"Is that Zadie Smith?"
We last saw Hannah lying to Adam about her own experiences with death, and it looks like, in the time that has elapsed since "processing" the news of her editor's demise and now, she has learned very little. In fact, it is really heartening to see that the writing understands that, where Hannah is in her career, the opportunity to be amongst some of NYC's publishing elite is great for her prospects. Too bad that opportunity happens to be at, um, a funeral.
Fortunately, the whole thing is more hammy than maudlin, with Dunham discovering David was married(!) — straight-married, no less. And, that Hannah finds out from his wife that all of David's projects are dropped. And, that she takes this time to ask the grieving woman if she has any contacts, say, at other literary agencies. Which is, like, mic-droppingly horrible. Agonizing. However, she got the number, and I laughed, so everyone wins!
Photo: Craig Blankenhorn.
"Adam. Will you join us at the listening table?"
One thing that Hannah has no problem tackling is the overt aggression between Adam and his sister Caroline. Hannah-as-therapist reminds me of every person (and maybe myself?) I have ever met at liberal-arts college, and that particular way of speaking that people affect when they have gone through years of therapy at their parents behest. (i.e. "I really feel..." with the inflection going up at the end, where "feel" is more "fheeeel.") To be honest, this is when Girls shines. Arguments and fast-paced discussions remind us about the absurdity of modern parlance. Why did Hannah say interesting six times? Because everyone in this scene had to be equally annoying, and bless 'em for it.
Well, it appears that Hannah's tip from Jennifer Westfeldt pays off, and she lands herself another meeting with a different publisher. And, not only has she quickly generated new interest, but it looks like her new team doesn't want an e-book, but a book book. The unhinged glee that her two new publishers brandish as Hannah fumbles her way through her author pitch goes beyond manic. And, here is an important point: It is easy for Hannah to keep her ish together when things are going her way. But, one or two phone calls, one or two Gawker posts, and suddenly she is spinning. These two publishing pros are not supposed to put us — who just want the damn book to come out — at ease. In many ways, their intensity and unsettling nature, which bubbles just beneath the surface, mirrors Hannah's own tenuous grasp on sanity.
Photo: Mark Schafer.
Speaking of tenuous grasps on sanity, in a totally real and not at all unbelievable move, Marnie shows up to ask Ray what he thinks is wrong with her. Acting like every blogger, every writer who has leveraged commentary at the show, Ray explains exactly how horrific and self-centered Marnie is. "And, I’m old enough to know that all this bulls**t comes from a deep, dank, dark toxic well of insecurity — probably created by your absent father. And, that allows you to be a sympathetic character.” (Whoo! Take that, fourth wall!) In a totally believable and not at all forced development, Marnie and Ray sleep together, which has exactly zero emotional effect on the audience. (Are we rooting for them now? I don't know. A resounding "meh" echoes through Ray's large, non-Williamsburg apartment.)
(Also, if anything happens to that poor little kitten, I am rioting.)
"How do you feel anyone's pain? All you do is talk and talk and talk!"
After finding out that Millstreet still owns the rights to her book and beginning to resent the fact that she is indeed sharing her space (and Adam's attention) with Caroline, she boots Caroline out. (See? The mania that began to surface in the publishing office finally bubbles to the top.) Adam's claim that Caroline is indeed "driving a wedge between people so everyone ends up just as unhappy as she is" is creepily self-prophetic. Some only child she is.
Here's the point: Once you assume you are supposed to dislike every character on Girls, it becomes a much more enjoyable, pointed show. In fact, removing any of Lena Dunham's personal or real-life experiences from the character of Hannah makes it astoundingly better. Hannah is horrible. Lena is not. Let's revel in that.
Little known fact: Gaby Hoffmann was a doula in real life. Easter egg!