‘Girls’ Review: “Leave Me Alone”
‘Girls‘ escalates into “very special episode” territory this week as Hannah and Marnie have the fight that’s been building for some time now, and Jessa gets a special visit from someone who just might be the savior she didn’t know she needed.
Hannah and Marnie attend a book release party for Tally Schifrin, one of Hannah’s former schoolmates who has written a book inspired by her boyfriend’s suicide. Hannah is jealous — jealous that Tally’s boyfriend died, giving her the perfect fodder for a book, and jealous that — as Tally proclaims — the words just “poured out” of her. A former professor of Hannah’s (Michael Imperioli, sporting some sophisticated gray hair) tells her that Tally’s writing isn’t so great, but he believes in Hannah, and invites her to a reading to get the support and validation she needs.
And before we get to the real meat in the back end of the episode, it’s important to note that we’ve never seen Hannah write. It could be an editorial decision to avoid cliche imagery, or it could be that Hannah isn’t actually getting much writing done. If that’s the career she’s pursuing in the long term, shouldn’t she be more dedicated, rather than just publicly posturing herself as a writer?
I’m going to go with a personal example here to explain why I find this particular aspect so relatable: I think Hannah is intimidated. I think she’s intimidated by her peers, intimidated by the work she needs to get done, and intimidated by the act of completion. And on top of all of that, there’s the sense that Hannah is flat-out overwhelmed — by her new relationship with Adam, by the success of her peers and friends (perceived and actual), and the basic responsibilities and stresses of adulthood, some of which she’s brought on herself with her continued irresponsibility.
And Hannah has all of this rattling around in her head, but her basic desire is to write and be successful. There have been times in my life (even now) when I go weeks without writing anything personal. I write every day for my job, but I do want to write a screenplay, and I do have an idea for a book, but sometimes I feel like my ideas might not be good enough to expend so much energy and time on, or I get overwhelmed thinking about my day to day responsibilities and I think I just don’t have the time to embark on such a long journey with my personal writing. Hannah is experiencing some of the same — intimidation and fear are powerful weapons, and when it comes to matters of the self, we are better suited than others to use those weapons.
In this week’s episode Hannah does write something on the subway en route to the reading, and it’s not very good, but she let Ray convince her that the story she wanted to share — one about a boy she liked in college whom she discovered to be a hoarder — wasn’t good enough, and she needed to write about things that people find heavy, like death. So Hannah writes a short story about an online boyfriend who killed himself, and it’s so glaringly false, but the point here is that Hannah has once again taken someone else’s advice. She means well and she does it because she’s lost — and don’t we all ask for advice from friends when we’re all a little lost? Typically, you go to someone with a better head on their shoulders, but Hannah goes to her friends, whose successes are mostly perceived. Ray is only better off than Hannah because he has steady employment. He isn’t considering Hannah’s particular situation or her writing style, or even who she is as a person. Asking for advice is often just giving someone the chance to posture themselves as an authority on your life with their own wants and needs in mind, when you are the best authority on your own life.
Later in the episode, Marnie finally snaps. She’s tired of paying for the apartment on her own, but the real problems are those that have been simmering just short of a boil since the first episode. The fight is the sort of thing we’ve all had with friends, where we pick at the weakest and most raw spots in each other, hoping that by injuring or hobbling them we can open them up to seeing how they are wrong and we are right. Hannah and Marnie are just as right as they are wrong in this sequence. They accuse each other of being selfish, and they both are — it’s their age, their current romantic situations, and their objectives. Marnie, as Hannah says, places too much value on a relationship and defines herself by having one. Hannah is too self-involved. Marnie is shallow. Hannah needs to get off her ass and do something.
But then something shifts, and Hannah throws a petty accusation of jealousy at the now boyfriend-less Marnie. It’s a low blow and desperate play from Hannah, but it also hints that perhaps Hannah finds some satisfaction in being in a relationship while Marnie is single for once. And maybe she’s projecting a little of her own past jealousy onto Marnie to feel vindicated. The scene ends with the two of them declaring that they don’t want to live with each other anymore as they retreat to their rooms and shut their respective doors. It’s hard to say if this is a legitimate friendship break-up, and I wonder if we’ll see any real resolution next week.
Meanwhile, Jessa gets a special visit from Mrs. Lavoyt (Kathryn Hahn), who expresses that she knows about Mr. Lavoyt’s attempt to sleep with Jessa, but she’s moving from a place of resentment to one of understanding. She wants Jessa to be the nanny for their family again — sans Mr. Lavoyt — but Jessa isn’t sure she can. And then something beautiful happens. Mrs. Lavoyt deconstructs Jessa’s being in a few elegant sentences. Her flighty tendencies, her sabotage (of herself and others), and her dismissive attitude toward the situations she creates for herself are all just distractions to keep Jessa from maturing and finding her path in life. Whatever that path is, Mrs. Lavoyt says, probably isn’t what she envisioned for herself as a teen, but that doesn’t make it any less imperative. Jessa needs to grow, and just as I’d assumed with this plot, Mrs. Lavoyt is a crucial maternal element. Let’s hope Mrs. Lavoyt doesn’t disappear anytime soon.
Much of the rest of this week’s episode is throwaway stuff — a few brief moments from Adam where he refuses to go to the reading to support Hannah even though she sat through his awful play rehearsal highlight the constant push-pull/up-down rhythm of their relationship. It’s just enough to keep us satisfied on that front until next week. Side note: did he seriously take a jar of mayonnaise to the bedroom and ask to be left alone for 10 minutes?
And poor, dear Shoshanna continues to draw the short straw. We get a brief scene where she talks about signing up for the most expensive online dating site she could find and is off to her first date at the cafe inside the Old Navy flagship store, which would have been such a great scene. Hopefully this is set-up for some future payoff. Shoshanna feels like a “have your cake and eat it too” type of character, where she can be just as important as the other girls when necessary, but she can also be easily tossed in the background (or excised completely). She fluctuates between feeling like a core cast member and a supporting character, but she just steals the show every time she’s on screen. Also worth noting: the only thing separating crack-smoking Shoshanna and sober Shoshanna is twitching and accidental groin-abuse.
“Your boyfriend should kill himself. You deserve it.”
“Like I just water-birthed my truth.”
“The paragraph in Tally’s book really made me think.”
“Hey little face.” — Adam has the cutest nicknames for Hannah.
“Forget all the BBC you watch at home with your cats.”
“YOU ARE THE WOUND!”