Girls takes its metaphor to a new blistering level of lonely pain



Sometimes I think Girls sacrifices complexity for annoyance. Sometimes a character is so annoying and hurtful that it’s impossible to have any empathy for them. Adam and Jessa were characters like that, but they are so damaged that their redemptive arcs have been broken as well. Ray was always deserving of empathy, despite his many mistakes because he had more self-awareness than anyone else. Shoshanna was the bright star and burned out quickly.

But Hannah was always the odd one out. This season has played with giving her empathy, like showing her helpful nature with her parents yet being bizarrely intrusive in the lives of her students. Yet she also seems to be a favorite, as we learn this episode. Instead she’s been saying mean things about the other teachers to the students, which totally sounds like Hannah.

The entire opening scene is like a weird microcosm, Hannah utilizing uncomfortable nudity to win an argument. Fran in contrast seems both reasonable and overbearing, because he is insisting on sticking with someone that drives him crazy. I can’t fault someone for that, but let’s be honest here. It’s not a healthy relationship, despite him being relatively “normal.”

His snark that “Hannah wants to do something rude, disruptive, and inappropriate, what a twist” is funny, but it’s also indicative of the fact he doesn’t really respect her. It’s a relationship teetering on toppling over, and when Hannah brings up leaving him, he assumes it’s another game. This is the mirror for the end of the episode, but I’ll get back to that.

At this point, Hannah is a pain more than anything else.

It’s the performance that shifts things. We see Jessa and Adam discussing the repercussions of being a couple at his play, making it all about Hannah once again. Another microcosm for the show. The play is 38 Windows, which is based on the murder of Kitty Genovese and how supposedly 38 people witnessed it and did nothing. That aspect of the story is more alleged than factual, but the murder certainly happened.

Think about what’s happening in the play, actors playing up the artifice and nonsense in a caricaturish view of the 1960s. Hannah is enthralled by a girl filled with anger and dancing artfully to music, a dance of anger. Adam plays a man in a furious rage-filled relationship with tinges of homophobia. But the metaphor is people seeing pain but doing nothing about it.

That comes back with Adam and Jessa minimizing the legitimate pain Hannah would feel on seeing them together. A pain she is entitled to feel. The pain comes again with Ray as Marnie teases him about breaking up with Desi. When she mentions needing to be alone, you see his face fall. But she’s actually trying to get his approval and get him to reach out to her. Yet he isn’t playing that game.

Watching without interacting. Interacting with fakeness.

It’s a spiral of weird metaphors. When the camera cuts back between Hannah, Jessa, and Adam, it’s heartbreaking. Suddenly Hannah is hurt in a way that isn’t exaggerated or fake, it’s real. No wonder she apologizes to Fran and lets him railroad her because she can’t stand the idea of being alone. A contrast to Jessa and Adam flagrantly finding each other, Ray intentionally leaving Marnie behind, and Marnie allowing herself to work with Desi purely professionally.

It’s growth, Marnie, that she was clear with Desi that she wasn’t going to get back together for the sake of their new career opportunity. Damn, Marnie, I actually am impressed. We’ll see if it lasts.

This is all another mirror to the fall of Eli, who discovers the artifice behind famous and charming Dill (Corey Stoll). Seemingly a peaceful and harmonious relationship becomes filled with lies and Eli realizes he never really saw what was happening. When he pays attentions, suddenly he sees Dill flirting with another man.

But Eli hasn’t entirely matured and he’s still vulnerable, so he falls prey to the manipulations of a drunken Dill coming to “apologize.” Compare with Hannah’s sincere pleas to have some company, and you wonder who’s worse off.

An episode where Marnie was the most mature, that’s a shock. Not that she was without blame, but still. Impressed.

Next time, Hannah and Fran are on a road trip all alone, Shosh is alone somewhere else, and Adam and Jessa can’t stop obsessing about Hannah. Probably everything will be just fine.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below!


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