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‘Girls’ Review: “Flo”

Girls Flo
HBO

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘Girls,’ Hannah has to take a trip out of town when her grandma (guest star June Squibb of ‘Nebraska‘) Flo falls ill — but even with her usual friends out of the picture, there’s still plenty of drama, as her mother and aunts squabble over Flo’s belongings and Hannah has to put up with her uptight cousin Rebecca. 

“People aren’t always right,” Grandma Flo tells Hannah near the end of the episode — it’s such a simple phrase, but “Flo” is a wonderfully simple episode. Grandma’s broken her femur and come down with pneumonia, and Hannah’s mom would love nothing more than for Hannah to tell a little white lie, to let her grandma know that she’s engaged to Adam so that Flo will think at least one of her grandchildren is doing something productive (in the traditional sense) before she goes. This of course sets Hannah on the defensive to her mother — why should she have to lie, and isn’t her mother more progressive than that? And yet she presents the idea to Adam like it’s no big deal, innocuously poking around over the phone to gauge his thoughts on the idea of marriage, a topic which they’ve never really explored together.

And that’s just one layer of this frenzied episode, which also pits Hannah’s mom, Loreen, against her sisters — they passive-aggressively fight over who will get which of their mother’s belongings, who deserves the coveted engagement ring, and so on, and all before the poor woman’s even dead. Death often brings out the worst in family, while we’d conventionally like to believe that it brings us together. You can see so much of Hannah in Loreen, in the way she prides herself over having her life together while her sisters don’t, reflecting where Hannah is now, with her friends are all scrambling to stay afloat. But where she and her mother differ is that Hannah isn’t gloating about her stability, and that in turn makes her seem more stable than ever.

Take putting her up against her cousin Rebecca, for example, which is really quite delightful — Rebecca, a med student, resents Hannah for telling her how her father was sent to prison for insider trading when they were kids, and how Rebecca would never see him again. Rebecca is uptight and incredibly passive-aggressive, spending the entire episode taking jabs at Hannah and holding onto old grudges, while Hannah just wishes they could be normal, friendly cousins. There’s nothing like going home and being around family to make you feel like the sane one, but Rebecca makes Hannah seem especially sane.

After Becca gets the two of them in a minor car crash, Adam rushes to the hospital just in time to witness an epic family meltdown. Rebecca and Hannah finally get their moment to bond as their mothers and their aunt tear into each other, while their grandmother is likely dying upstairs. Facing mortality is difficult — it causes us to examine our own shortcomings, it sets us on edge as we fear for the loss of the ones we love, and it makes us turn on those we have left, pushing them away instead of pulling them closer, out of fear of losing them, too. But as Rebecca and Hannah watch their mothers fight, they realize how ridiculous the entire situation is, how messed up their family is, and that maybe they do have some common ground after all.

And Adam finally comes through, promising Flo that he’s marrying Hannah, only for Loreen to joke after he’s gone that maybe Hannah should keep her options open. It’s not easy being married to an odd man she says, and perhaps she would know (although, who would complain about being married to Peter Scolari? The nerve!). As a mother she only wants what’s best for her daughter, but after a time you have to trust that your child knows what’s best for themselves. Then again, with Patti LuPone’s warnings last week and Loreen sticking her nose in this week, I have to wonder where Adam and Hannah’s relationship is heading. Hannah does a great job of sticking up for Adam, who did go out of his way to drop everything when Hannah might have been in trouble, and lied to a dying woman to make her happy when he didn’t have to. He may be odd, but he’s a good guy. Loreen’s observations about him are spot-on, but that doesn’t make him a poor romantic choice, and parents do have a tendency to overlook the faults of their children when discussing romantic prospects. It’s interesting how parents will often criticize their children, but when a love interest is involved, all of a sudden their kids become saints who deserve nothing but the best.

In the end, death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, as it often does. As soon as Hannah steps off the train back home, Rebecca calls to let her know Grandma Flo has passed. Death is never convenient. And although the nurses and doctors all said Flo was on the mend and doing great, she died anyway — she was right: people aren’t always right.

More Thoughts:

  • What do they talk about in Loreen’s women’s book club?
  • I love Adam’s joke that Loreen’s fight with her sisters was just like enchilada night at his parents’ house. I would very much like to see enchilada night at his parents’ house — also, when do we get to meet Adam’s parents??
  • Flo-job: greatest nickname?
  • Normal cousin stuff: sharing a bed in summertime, having inside jokes, being molested by the same relative. You know, the usual.

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