‘Girls’ Talk: “Dead Inside”
Welcome to another edition of 'Girls' Talk, in which we're joined by critics each week to discuss the latest episode of the HBO series. On "Dead Inside," Adam worries that a sudden tragedy isn't affecting Hannah the way it should, and his sister has an interesting approach to try and get Hannah to open up. Meanwhile, Jessa makes a shocking discovery about an old friend, and Marnie continues to try and get her life in order post-Charlie.
ScreenCrush editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Kate Erbland and Meredith Borders to discuss the latest episode, "Dead Inside" (full review). Kate is a contributor for Film.com, Film School Rejects and New York Daily News, and is a film critic for ScreenCrush. You can tweet her @katerbland. Meredith is the managing editor for Badass Digest, Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest, and you can tweet her @xymarla. You can tweet Britt @missbritthayes.
Britt: This week brings the sudden death of David Pressler Goings, which is kind of a bummer because I love John Cameron Mitchell so much. And it's a bummer for everyone it seems, except for Hannah, who's only concerned with how it will affect her e-book. There's this great scene where Hannah is waiting to meet with David, and no one will tell her what is happening. Meanwhile, they're all worrying over his death, while she's just worried about their meeting, and I think that really sets the tone for her story this week. I have my own theories about why she's not as outwardly upset about it, but what do you guys think is her deal?
Kate: I also loved that scene, with Hannah sitting in the "reception area," just waiting, with everyone else swirling around her. Initially, I thought everyone was just bustling about to meet a deadline and I even thought, "oh, how weird for Hannah to see people doing real work" and then NO BAM DAVID IS DEAD.
Hannah has always been over concerned with her work over just about anything and everyone else, and I think that's what is happening here again, but I also wonder if her medication is also fueling her complete lack of empathy. I think I'd be more willing to forgive her for her behavior if this wasn't already par for the course, but this is Hannah's deal, meds or no meds. The only thing that matters is her work, even if it's not very good (so far), and she doesn't seem to really be that actually dedicated to it in literal practice (when did we last see her sitting down to write?), and that's detrimental to her both as a person and as an artist. She can't feel anymore, at least outside her own tiny sphere, and that's not good for her in any realm of her life.
Meredith: I also think Hannah might be, to a point, protecting herself, because she felt stable and somewhat impervious since her last OCD episode, and I think if she allows a crack in that hard surface -- she's afraid she'll fall apart completely.
Britt: I think you both have good points. My thinking is that part of this is her meds sort of dulling her emotional faculties, which isn't an excuse, really, but meds have a tendency to do that. The other part of it is, of course, Hannah's natural selfishness, and her position as a writer -- note how she tells Adam that she would be really sad if he died, but she's already thought of the beautiful eulogy she'd write for him. As writers, it's often easier to put those feelings into words, and we have a tendency to hoard feelings and store them up for just such an occasion. Feelings aren't just part of life for us; they're creative opportunities. So I think it's sort of a combination of the meds and her sensibilities as a writer: now that she's not feeling as much and as freely, she's taking all the feelings she does have and keeping them locked up tight, cataloging them for future use in a story.
Which leads me to the story of Margaret, and one of the most cringe-inducing moments this show has ever produced. What the hell???
Kate: Here's another bit of a wacky first impression I had with this episode -- I thought that Adam was going to call her out on the story. If you watch his face while she's relating the story to him, repackaging it for her own use, he seems both amused and disgusted, and even a little confused. I swear I thought he had heard this story from Caroline before and was going to freak out on Hannah. Even now, watching the episode again, Adam doesn't have the right kind of reaction to hearing it -- he must know. Right?
Britt: I watched it twice, too, and his fidgety, taken aback reaction seems to indicate that he knows something is up with this story. He never once comforts her.
Meredith: That's where I thought the scene was going -- either that he already knew, or that the story rang inherently false to him coming from Hannah. But I didn't cringe at either telling of the story. I think from Caroline, it makes perfect sense for that character to invent this elaborate story just to see if Hannah is capable of feeling anything when she hears a piece of tragedy from Adam's early life. And I think from Hannah, she wants to know if her reaction, or her lack of reaction, was really so singular, so different from how Adam would respond hearing the same story about her. She wants to gauge how callous she is against Adam's response to the same situation.
Britt: This is why we have these talks! I had not even considered the possibility that Hannah could be repurposing the Margaret story to see how Adam would react to such a heartbreaking story, just to see if her own reaction really was so terrible. Meredith, you are such a little genius. Honestly, when I first watched that scene, I had no idea how to react. I thought Hannah had gone off the deep end. My jaw dropped open and I placed my phone on my head, and I was just shouting "WHAT?" at my TV over and over.
Kate: I think that Meredith has nailed the hell out of this.
Britt: So what do we think about Jessa this week? I hesitate to call someone like Jessa an addict because it seems almost reductive in the language of 'Girls,' but when you get down to it, it's her personality type. Addicts like to take people down with them, and she took her friend Susan so far down with her that Susan had to fake her own death to get away from Jessa's enabling crap. That's pretty major.
Kate: Wait! I thought her name was Season!
Britt: That's what I thought, too, but IMDb has it listed as Susan!
Kate: LAME. She's totally a Season! In any case, the Susan/Season stuff was deeply troubling -- well, at least to anyone who is not Jessa. Here is someone who pretended to be dead to get away from Jessa. But it was the details that got me -- that other friends were in on it, that they knew she wouldn't attend a funeral, that her "cool-looking husband" who never met Jessa is aware of the situation -- and yet Jessa seems unmoved, trotting home with a creepy little smile on her face. If this isn't going to jolt her, what will?
Meredith: Ha, I was just Googling "Melonie Diaz, GIRLS" for that reason -- I also thought her name was Season. At any rate, I feel like this has to be a turning point for Jessa, the realization that a friend -- a friend Jessa actually liked, which is rare -- would fake a funeral just to free herself from Jessa's manipulation. I think Hannah hit it fairly close in the premiere when she said that Jessa is a "life addict" -- she doesn't appear to have one poison, but many, and she's capable of being pretty poisonous herself.
Britt: I actually thought her smile as she walked home was one of pride for her friend. A sort of secret pride that she couldn't bring herself to share, you know? She was happy that her friend had made it on her own, even if it meant faking her own death to get away from Jessa. I think she's sort of amused and impressed by the whole situation, but pleased with the results at the same time. I think her anger with Season or Susan (or WHATEVER) is more about an anger with herself that she can't quite admit yet because she's still not ready to be honest with herself. "Don't call me when it doesn't work out," Jessa says, knowing that this life could never work out for her.
Kate: "Can I pick up your baby?"
Meredith: I like that interpretation -- I didn't see Jessa's smile as creepy, but as progress somehow for Jessa, although I wasn't sure why I felt that way. I just felt generally positive about it. I like the idea that she's proud of her friend for having a brownstone and a cool-looking husband (instead of dying by "choking on her own vomit or something"), although in the grand tradition of 'Girls' (and I love that about this show), we won't know for sure how this has all affected Jessa for a couple more episodes at least.
Britt: And finally we come to Marnie, whose story this season is probably the weakest. This week she makes smoothies! And listens to self-help tapes! And quits Grumpy's because "very fancy people" want to work with her!
Meredith: Weaker than Shosh's, whose bandanna collection is her strongest collection, and who barely even rates a mention this week? Those two tie for least developed characters in a big way, although Marnie's music video is indisputably amazing.
Kate: Here's something funny -- did you guys notice how many views Marnie's video has? 1,621. It's not a viral hit by any means, but it's already got her at loose ends.
Meredith: I didn't notice that! Good for you, Marnie.
Kate: I had to pause and check, because I wanted to get a sense of how big this thing has gotten. The answer -- not very. But it's big to Marnie, and the fact that it's because of Charlie can't help matters.
Britt: I love that she admits, flat out, to Ray and Herman this week that she put herself out there with the video. She now takes full ownership of it, which validates my theory from the previous weeks that this anger at Charlie over the video was just something she stuck in her back pocket for when she starts running out of dumpy steam on the whole breakup. And speaking of Ray and Herman, I would watch an entire episode with just those two. Their banter kills me.
Kate: Also, have I missed Ray's soul patch? Or is that new?
Britt: He has a soul patch?! Gross, Ray. Stop it. I am very anti-creative facial hair on men. Full beard or no beard. This is why I think there's something wrong with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Meredith: I'm flexible on facial hair, but I have a very firm no-soul-patch rule. I think it suits Ray's personality, however.
Kate: It's so small that I only noticed it on a second watch.
Britt: He does work in a coffee shop and listen to the Smashing Pumpkins, so ...
Well that about wraps it up, ladies. Do either of you have any final thoughts about this week's episode?
Meredith: I have way more bandannas than Shosh.
Kate: I will never be able to abide dancing through a cemetery.
That wraps it up for this week's 'Girls' Talk! I'd like to thank Kate and Meredith for joining us, and be sure to check back with us next week when we discuss the all-new episode, "Only Child." Remember: next week's episode airs on Saturday due to the Super Bowl.