‘Girls’ Review: ‘Daddy Issues’
There are certain things we learn how to do as we become more adult: we learn what to share and what not to share and when to share it, and we learn how to fake smiling and being supportive to our friends and loved ones even when it kills us. There are good boundaries and bad boundaries, just as there’s good faking it and bad faking it — navigating these nebulous borders is tricky business, and no one does it gracefully, especially not Hannah (or Tad…or Loreen…).
Tonight’s episode of Girls sort of splits itself in half. On one side, there’s Hannah coping with the revelation that her father is, as she describes, “a proud gay man.” Hannah boasts her liberal beliefs and does an okay job of pretending none of this particularly bothers her — she especially struggles with the concept of being a child as an adult. It’s difficult to reconcile our own adulthood with that of our parents because the older we get, the more we begin to see them as these flawed individuals whose identity as our parents is not what defines them. It’s almost an alien concept, and one that can be a little jarring once you begin to see it. Hannah is coming to understand this, but I don’t think it’s the sexual nature of her father’s sexual identity that bothers her as much as it is the idea that her parents aren’t acting very parental, and I do think she sort of basks in the drama of it all, the ability to proclaim that she’s been wronged somehow or that her whole life has been a lie — that’s something that Elijah clearly picks up on.
I do love how we’re spending more time with Loreen and Tad through this, but Loreen especially because — as I’ve said before — she continues to give us this additional cushion of insight into who and how Hannah is. She’s angry and resentful and hurt (and with every right to be), but she too is sort of reveling in the drama, shouting about how her whole life has been a lie and all of her advice to Hannah has been useless. If we go back a couple of episodes to Tad and Hannah at dinner in Iowa, Loreen’s reaction makes even more sense now. She was unable to commit to a writing career and settled into teaching, just as Hannah is now, and with that settling comes with a static feeling. An affair with Avi makes more sense, too, as we can assume that her sex life with Tad hit some bumps over the years, and perhaps they were in a rut. But it also makes sense because that’s the sort of impulsive, invigorating adventure that one craves when feeling idle.
Last week I hoped that we’d see Elijah and Tad interacting after Tad came out, and that’s what “Daddy Issues” gives us, the title a play on both Hannah’s own issues with her father coming out and Tad’s presumed designation as a “daddy” in the gay community. Girls doesn’t give us the predictable Boys Gone Wild version of Tad and Elijah hanging out; instead it uses the opportunity to further poke at Hannah’s sore spots.
Not only is Hannah still a child to her parents, but she still hasn’t become fully mature, unable to recognize healthy social boundaries at school, where she fights with Cleo over unreturned texts. Her “friendship” with Cleo shows Hannah’s current maturity status, although her regressive confrontation with her “mentee and confidante” is understandable given her current family drama.
On the other side of the episode, we have everyone else — there are cracks in each facade, and those dams break tonight. For Ray, it’s the conflicting emotional moment of winning a position on the community board while also finding out that Marnie is engaged to Desi. His victory speech is directed entirely in her direction, hopelessly devoting himself to a cause that will never return that devotion, and willfully forsaking his own happiness in the process by singularly focusing his affections on a dead end.
The other break comes when Ace takes Jessa over to the apartment of Mimi-Rose and Adam, dangling Jessa in front of Mimi-Rose like dangling string in front of a cat. Jessa always knew what she was to Ace, but there’s that irrational impulse to try and change someone and force them to see that you are the better option — it never works. For the first time this season, Jessa is an empathetic character, someone who needs to stay sober by shutting off her brain and continuing her refusal to acknowledge her flaws and better herself, as if sobriety alone is enough. And maybe she just knows that she’s too emotionally fragile to address anything beyond sobriety right now…or ever.
Ace was that distraction for her, giving Jessa something to pursue and keep herself busy, with the promise of landing a partner who is just as shallow as she feels she needs to be. What’s even more devastating is the realization that Mimi-Rose is, indeed, using Adam as a pawn as well, as she and Ace are engaged in some horribly twisted and manipulative emotional game. Poor Adam seems so naive and oblivious to this sort of behavior, believing he’d honestly found someone who has their s—t together.
Mimi-Rose’s true self was teased out from the beginning, something that was telegraphed through her best moments. We wanted to buy into the cult of MR: we admired her when she took the initiative to get an abortion and felt no obligation to tell Adam, who essentially has no say in the matter, and we admired her even more for telling Adam that she doesn’t need him — or anyone — but she does want him. It seemed so mature and self-established.
Adam is nothing to Mimi-Rose but another project, another accessory for the installation that is her life, another tool she can use to provoke a desired reaction, gleefully feeding on the pain and uncomfortable experiences of others and mining it for inspiration. Mimi-Rose is an artistic and emotional forger, someone who replicates the feelings and experiences of other people for attention and personal gain. In comparison, she makes Hannah seem absolutely genuine. MR sees dramatic opportunity and not only enables it, but manipulates and facilitates it for creative gain. Hannah could be accused of doing the same, to an extent.
It’s the last scene that really seals the episode up, as Ray and Hannah sit side by side and admit to faking their happiness and their okay-ness. And although the idea seems wrong and disingenuous, there is something sort of graceful and positive about the ability to fake it until you make it. Hannah has spent a lot of time repeating the same behaviors over and over and expecting different results, but has it ever struck her that pretending to be okay over and over might engender positive change and teach her better behaviors? Stranger things have happened.
- You can’t get pierogis like that in Michigan.
- Tad thinks he can stay married to Loreen because the guy from The Staircase did that, and as we all know, everything turned out just great there.
- “You told me Barack Obama is gay.” “He. Reads. Vibe.”
- I feel even more sad for Loreen, whose only good friend is sexually naive and oblivious. Janet doesn’t even know about blow jobs.
- “Colored doors are a reason to live.” Ace may have out-douched everyone on this show in his short time here.
- “I refuse to be a pawn in your game. I f—ing run game.” Jessa’s whole burn speech to Mimi-Rose is exceptional, and one of those times when her attitude feels justified.
- Marnie tells Ray about her engagement for a few reasons — and while I do think she believes that she’s doing the kind thing here, I also think it’s mostly motivated by a dark desire to torment Ray because Marnie takes pleasure in someone longing for her.
- Adam can’t see Hannah because he wants to see her so badly right now. This is a mature move, and I respect it, but the basic part of me wants him to run through the streets shirtless for her all over again.