‘Girls’ Review: ‘Ask Me My Name’
Manipulation, resentment and deceit are the central conceits at the heart of this week’s Girls. Hannah attempts to be friends with Adam, and this overture is both genuine and disingenuous at the same time, highlighting the conflicting emotions that go into such well-meaning and painful post-break-up trials. And while Lena Dunham’s anxiety-ridden performance captures the vast array of emotions during this period, it’s Gillian Jacobs’ exceptionally complex performance as Mimi-Rose that ultimately steals the show, proving the hinge around which Adam and Hannah pivot.
Things begin well for Hannah in “Ask Me My Name,” but as we’ve learned over the course of three-plus seasons, prosperous looks are often deceiving. Hannah’s working as a substitute teacher at a magnet school, settling in quite nicely. She’s met a fellow teacher (Obvious Child’s Jake Lacey) who’s into her, and although there’s a moment of hesitation and doubt on her face, she agrees to a date. Making forward progress isn’t easy, though, especially not for Hannah—every step forward she takes carries all the weight of her previous baggage. Each decision is made based on a complex network of reasons.
So when Hannah takes Fran to Mimi-Rose’s art show, we shouldn’t be surprised, yet the act is still somewhat dismaying. Is Hannah being genuine? Is she deluding herself into thinking she and Adam can have a platonic friendship? Or is she trying to stir the pot? The answer is D, all of the above. Our actions in emotionally charged situations can’t be defined by a singular intent. Hannah’s decision to attend the art show is certainly questionable, but Adam’s dramatic confrontation is equally ill-advised.
When Mimi-Rose suggests they all cab it over to a bar afterward, insisting that Adam share a car with her “former partner” Ace while she shares a cab with Hannah, Mimi-Rose is attempting to provoke a reaction—just as she attempts to provoke through her work, and just as Hannah is trying to provoke a reaction from Adam. Mimi-Rose and Hannah are not that different; in fact, they’re more similar than the previous two episodes let on. Where last week showed us a Mimi-Rose who was suspiciously near-aspirational in the way she approaches romantic relationships and the issue of abortion, this week shows us a Mimi-Rose who possesses some of Hannah’s flaws—this makes her relationship with Adam all the more compelling because we know Adam is attracted to people in need, and perhaps, on some subconscious level, he senses Mimi-Rose’s hidden problems.
Like Hannah, Mimi-Rose is an insecure artist, though she hides her neuroses well. She just wants to create something personal and relatable, an endeavor at which Hannah feels she ultimately failed. Hannah is all disgruntled resentment, and in some ways, she should be. Adam chased off her date and insulted her publicly, but that’s kind of the reaction she wanted; she needed to know he still cared. Mimi-Rose is much more calm, but curiously intense, taking pleasure in invading the personal space of others and poking at their sore spots to make them uncomfortable.
Ace says Mimi-Rose’s whole persona is a curated act, and watching her pose for the camera at her art show or inching uncomfortably close to Hannah in the cab, or giving a stranger a poem in a laundromat, it certainly feels that way. But Mimi-Rose, like Hannah, has a hard time separating art from reality. When she offers a scenario in which Hannah could take Adam back, there’s a look on her face that’s expectant and devious, a sublime moment of acting from Jacobs that clues us in to Mimi-Rose’s intentions.
She wants Hannah to react the way Hannah does. She wants to poke and prod at that open, Adam-shaped sore until Hannah shares her wound. And eventually, she does. The pair bond over their insecurities and their artistry, and Mimi-Rose provokes an honest reaction—it’s the kind of honesty we rarely see from Hannah, who’s so skilled at being different shades of herself to different people, obscuring what she needs to depending on the situation.
Under different circumstances, Hannah and Mimi-Rose might have immediately been friends without all the fuss. In fact, Mimi-Rose might have inspired Hannah to push herself harder with her writing. This sounds like a lot of praise directed at Mimi-Rose, but there’s a certain level of deception at play, whether well-intentioned or not. Maybe Ace is right and her relationship with Adam is little more than a Chess move (Adam’s later conversation with Jessa indicates the possibility), and maybe her personality is a deliberately constructed sham.
“Ask Me My Name” captures those moments where our emotions conflict, allowing us to be genuine and false all in the same breath. Good intentions don’t always come from a place that’s neat and tidy, and those intentions may not always read as good to others. Even deceit, as evidenced by this week’s episode, can be well-meaning.
- That’s Maude Apatow, daughter of Judd Apatow, as a student in Hannah’s class.
- This week also brings a guest appearance from Zachary Quinto as Ace, and I hope we see him and his toothbrush again.
- “I mean, if you want him to think you killed your kids and have been living in the Florida panhandle…” Elijah always nails it. Andrew Rannells only has one scene this week, but his banter with Lena Dunham is amazing.
- I didn’t talk too much about Adam, but the final scene in the bar is so interesting. After Hannah tells him that she really likes Mimi-Rose and “gets” it and just wants him to be happy, she leaves, and Adam looks over his shoulder at her as she walks away. We don’t see his face, but the look feels like one of longing. It’s fascinating how we grow from a break-up, and how that growth can make a former partner regret the separation. But we wouldn’t have bettered ourselves in specific regards without that break-up and heartbreak. It’s such a strange Catch-22 scenario.
- Marnie’s hair…? Also, Desi is such a White Knight feminist. Get out of here.
- Jessa hasn’t been a huge focus yet this season, but she’s kind of being the worst.