‘Girls’ Review: “Hard Being Easy”
This week’s episode of ‘Girls‘ is a cringe-inducing journey of self-discovery and exploration for both Marnie and Hannah as the two must assert themselves in very different ways.
It’s all about Hannah and Marnie this week, really, with only a minor plot for Jessa and a brief, silent cameo from Shoshanna. But that’s all we need because this week’s episode is the most emotionally gripping one yet.
Hannah’s boss (the delightful Richard Masur) is still being gropey, yet incredibly supportive of Hannah at work. Confused, Hannah confronts him and offers to have sex with him to get it out of the way. He rebuffs her advance, so she attempts a very misguided power play where she threatens to gather her co-workers and hit him with a class-action lawsuit (another indication of her naivete), or he can pay her $1,000 and she’ll quit and forget all about it. He begs her to stay and work it out with him because he only has the best intentions, but she quits anyway. It’s a truly complex situation in that the groping is clearly wrong, but somehow Lena Dunham manages to find a tricky balance between the irresponsible, impetuous nature of Hannah (i.e. quitting her job) and the blatantly immoral office behavior (i.e. the groper). In some weird way you kind of want Hannah to stay at her job and be a grown-up, even though sexual harassment is definitely not okay.
Jessa gets another moment with Mr. Lavoyt (James LeGros), but this time it’s feeling less paternal and more scandalous again. It’s unclear where this relationship is headed, but there’s something very murky at work here. Jessa clearly longs for a paternal or even parental figure in her life, as we’re clued in by last week’s admission of her rough childhood with her mother, but she’s also sexually aggressive. It may be the typical father figure/sexual attraction dynamic, but the care with which Dunham has constructed each plot thread so far indicates something a little deeper lies ahead. This time the weird little flirtation is awkwardly interrupted by Mrs. Lavoyt (Kathryn Hahn), and Jessa scurries off to meet up with an ex-boyfriend.
Jessa’s ex maintains that it’s a platonic visit and he’s in love with his current girlfriend Gillian (with a hard ‘G’), but the saucy Jessa isn’t about to let this guy prove that he’s over her, so naturally the two end up having sex at her apartment while a horrified Shoshanna looks on from behind a curtain. It’s unfortunate that this is all we get of Shoshanna this week, but Zosia Mamet’s facial expressions as she watches two people engage in an act that’s still very foreign and terrifying to her are priceless.
Marnie visits Ray (another welcome appearance from Alex Karpovsky) at the local coffee shop where he works (obviously) to get the address to Charlie’s place. It’s another indicator of Marnie’s selfish behavior in the relationship — the two have been dating for several years and she’s never been to his apartment. When she arrives, they have a frank discussion about the end of their relationship. Out of comfort and an inability to detach from that which has grown too familiar, Marnie begs Charlie to stay with her. As the scene transitions back to 2007 when the pair first met at a party where Marnie inadvertently got high on pot-laced brownies, the song “Heartbeats” by The Knife plays. The scene is perfectly executed with a spot-on song selection, further evidence of this show’s ability to capture the smallest moments with the greatest care.
As the day progresses, Marnie becomes more desperate, offering sexual favors and a willingness to sacrifice her best friend, Hannah, as a roommate, all in an effort to keep Charlie around. Even in a moment of weakness when she tries to be selfless, Marnie is still selfish. Her age is to blame, partly, but it’s also a strong portrait of how we become comfortable in relationships, and how that comfort turns to complacency, and when the chips begin to fall, we act out desperately so as not to rattle the familiar cage we’ve built. In a more heartbreaking, quiet scene that shows just how well ‘Girls’ can nail a single moment, Marnie asks Charlie why he watches porn, and why he doesn’t think of the two of them having sex instead. Charlie responds, “Because it makes me sad.”
The two of them end up having sex as Charlie finally breaks and decides to stay with Marnie, but just as he pushes her for emotional intimacy during the act, Marnie finally comes to the realization that she doesn’t want to be with him at all and asks for a break-up.
Hannah, convinced that she and Adam are something of an item now, visits her supposed boyfriend to tell him she quit her job, but what she finds is just more of the shirtless horror we’ve come to expect from him. He tells her that he thought they were over, since she spilled her guts and told him how much he was hurting her, and he only had sex with her last time because they were kissing, and he was only kissing her because she looked sad. Hannah excuses herself to the bathroom in another moment that feels achingly true to life. She sits and almost cries over the way Adam tortures her emotionally, and when she goes to bid him farewell, she finds him masturbating. He engages her in a domination game, forcing her to watch and shame him for his disgusting behavior, while Hannah uses the moment to manipulate him for cash for a cab (and pizza, and gum).
It’s disheartening to see Hannah allow herself to be treated this way by the dismissive, selfish Adam, but the guy makes a few points this week when he tells Hannah that maybe she should accept that she isn’t cut out for a normal job and he even seems to be warning her away from him.
This week was filled with several jaw-dropping moments, but also many — like Marnie’s realization with Charlie, and Hannah’s bathroom excursion at Adam’s place — that tug at the old heartstrings. As ‘Girls’ progresses, the episodes are becoming more emotional in surprisingly effective ways.
“You know, guys like that will try anything once. Even love.”
“What are those?” “Pot brownies!” “What’s on them?” “Jell-o shots!”
“I just tried to f— you, sue you, and extort you.”
“Someday I’m gonna write an essay about you and I am not gonna change your name.”