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‘Girls’ Review: “Dead Inside”

Girls Dead Inside
HBO

Tragedy strikes on tonight’s new episode of ‘Girls,’ but when Hannah isn’t as affected by it as Adam feels she should be, his sister Caroline spends the day with her to try and work it out. Meanwhile, Marnie gets herself into gear and tries to move forward (again), while Jessa makes a shocking discovery about a dead friend from her past. 

It took three episodes, but the old Hannah is back: the self-involved Hannah who can’t see past her own immediate needs and views the world through a prism of how it might affect her. When her editor abruptly dies, Hannah’s only concern is with how David’s death will affect her e-book deal, and she tries to justify her selfish behavior as numbness and shock. It’s funny to watch the way the receptionist at Millstreet dismisses Hannah, telling her to keep waiting for her meeting with David that will never come because his body’s been found face down in the Hudson river. And while it’s a good bit of situational humor, it defines Hannah’s mentality: while everyone else is freaking out and mourning the loss of this man who meant so much to them, all Hannah can think about is her meeting and her book. Life is so unfair.

And while I do believe that a good part of this is Hannah’s natural selfishness at play, the conversation she has with Caroline in the cemetery hints at something that I think is working in tandem to limit her emotional range. I’m not making excuses for her behavior, but as she talks to Caroline about the confusion of not knowing whether she’s better or worse now that she’s on medication, something clicks into place. Earlier, when Adam asked how she’d feel if he died, all she could muster was “extremely sad,” while Adam expressed that the world would be a nonsensical blur hardly worth living without her in it. But she’s contemplated what she would say at his funeral because she’s a writer after all, and in her fantasy, she imagines the attention she’d get for the beautiful words she’d share after he dies — the key word being fantasy because his death to her becomes a fantasy in which she’s appreciated and not a nightmare in which she loses someone she loves dearly. Hannah is clearly out of touch with her emotional state, and in the first few episodes she was sort of hard to get a read on, just breezing through life a little too easily.

But that’s what medication can do sometimes. While it addresses its immediate function (for Hannah, treating the symptoms of her OCD), it can also numb or dull us emotionally — it’s a double-edged sword, especially for someone like Hannah, who has a propensity for feeling and reacting to things a little too strongly at times. That hyper-sensitivity lends itself beautifully to the writing experience, but when it comes to living your life, the most basic conflicts can become unbearable, and when stresses pile on top of stresses, those of us who are particularly sensitive tend to break — hence Hannah’s OCD last season. Some medications are great for helping balance out our emotions, but the side effect is that they often leave us feeling a little too balanced.

Of course, this is just a theory, and it’s not an excuse, but her conversation with Caroline and the way she expresses her cloudy feelings about her emotional state seemed to indicate that it’s not as if she doesn’t want to feel something about David’s death — she does, she just can’t find those feelings inside of her right now. Look back to Hannah last season, and I think her reaction to someone like David dying might have been a bit different and less cringe-worthy. On that note, I did enjoy her romp through the cemetery with Laird (and his crochet hat and turtle carcass) and Caroline.

And speaking of cringe-worthy, the moment when Hannah takes Caroline’s made-up story about her cousin who died of muscular-dystrophy and uses it on Adam will go down in history as one of the most horrifying moments on ‘Girls.’ I’m not sure what her motivation is: sympathy? Justification for her behavior? Proof that she has experienced grief and loss? A diversion tactic? I had assumed at some point that Hannah might use Caroline to tell a story, but this is beyond anything I could imagine. Caroline’s intention was to create a narrative that would explain away Adam’s reaction to Hannah’s callousness while also taking Hannah’s emotional temperature — it’s incredibly clever. That Hannah reacts by asking questions like, “Was the dress tiny because the disease made her so small?” is a testament to just how emotionally removed she’s become.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Hannah tonight, but I was just so mesmerized and engaged in (and horrified by) her story that it’s hard not to discuss the depth of it at length. Luckily, there’s not a whole lot of depth going on with Marnie: she’s annoyed with Ray and Herman for watching her music video (which she’s now taking credit for — thus proving my earlier point about her clinging to Charlie in irrational ways), so she quits because there’s lots of “fancy people” who would love for her to work for them, which is pretty hilarious to think about. The last time Marnie went out to look for a fancy job she was turned away because she’s qualified for work that no one needs anymore — she wound up working as a hostess in an upscale country club, getting ass-slapped by elderly men. So good luck with that one, Marn. But she seems to be at least trying to move in the right direction, working out, listening to self-help tapes, and making smoothies.

Jessa is the only one with another substantial plot tonight, which finds her discovering that her old best friend, Season (Melonie Diaz), faked her own death to get away from her toxic friendship with Jessa. The idea that Jessa, so delusional about her own failings in life and so oblivious to the way she poisons others with her behavior, could drive someone to fake their own death just to get away from her is heartbreaking but not that surprising. Being a f— up isn’t as fun when you’re on your own, and easier when you can bleed that influence into someone else, dragging them down with you — but of course she likely never saw it that way. Now that Season is without Jessa, she’s married, has a nice home and a kid, and seems to be doing incredibly well, though Jessa believes it’ll all fall apart for her because she believes they’re still the same person. The truth is that Jessa couldn’t have the life that Season has made for herself, at least not in her current state, and her spiteful goodbye is merely a reflection of the anger she has with herself — but she’s still not being honest enough with and about herself to admit it.

Later we see her walking away and smiling in a secret moment of pride for her friend who managed to grow up and get her act together, even if it meant cutting Jessa out of it.

More Thoughts:

  • Ray’s comment about Hannah placing a “crumb of basic human compassion on the fat-free muffin of sociopathic detachment” = on the money.
  • I love that Laird cried, snot and all, at the fake Margaret story. “Just because it’s fake doesn’t meant I don’t feel it!”
  • Caroline calls Laird “odd-face” in a flirty way. Please make Laird and Caroline happen.
  • It’s so great to see more of Colin Quinn this season. His banter with Alex Karpovsky with Marnie about her Edie Brickell video is delightful. “And if it’s what you are…” “Or what.”
  • Just a quick reminder that next week’s episode will air on Saturday night because of the Super Bowl!

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