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‘Girls’ Talk: “Incidentals”

Girls Incidentals
HBO

Welcome back to ‘Girls‘ Talk where we here at ScreenCrush are joined by critics to discuss the latest episode. This week we’re talking about “Incidentals,” in which Hannah interviews Broadway star Patti LuPone, who plants some doubts in her mind about Adam’s newfound success, while a familiar face sends Jessa backsliding and Marnie’s relationship with Ray hits a hurdle that feels like deja vu. 

ScreenCrush editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Jacob Hall to discuss the latest episode of ‘Girls,’ titled “Incidentals” (full review). Jacob is a contributor to ScreenCrush, Movies.com, and OneOfUs.net, and you can tweet him @JacobSHall. You can tweet Britt @MissBrittHayes.

Britt: This week, Hannah interviews Patti LuPone for an advertorial piece about a bone density product, which leads to the Broadway star giving her some rather unsettling advice about Adam when Hannah finds out he’s landed a role in a major play. LuPone is amazing, and I love their scene together — she really works Lena Dunham and Sarah Heyward’s dialogue and marries it with her own attitude so well. But she plants some seeds of doubt in Hannah’s neurotic mind about Adam and we watch Hannah try to defend her boyfriend to LuPone, but who is she really trying to convince: LuPone, or herself?

Jacob: Oh, herself. For sure. Hannah is still Hannah and that entire interview is more about herself than her subject anyway. What I found so cringe-worthy (and great) about that scene was how Hannah seemed less excited to be interviewing a Broadway legend and more excited to be able to tell people that she had interviewed a Broadway legend. It tickles me that LuPone was game for a scene where she essentially gets to be a punchline in Hannah’s ever-neurotic, awkward existence. But to more directly address your question, this season has seen our heroine being as close to genuine happiness as we’ve ever seen her before and anything that even seems like a remote threat to her current status quo must be terrifying. Things have been going too well for her and Adam this season and if you apply TV logic to real life (as Hannah surely does), she knows things are going to have to take a turn for the worst soon. I’m glad the episode ultimately ends on a happy note for her, even if Jessa and Marnie’s lives are falling apart while Hannah’s thrives.

Britt: What I find really interesting this week is we have two seeds of doubt planted: Hannah has the seed about Adam, and we watch as she neurotically frets and looks for even more reason to let that seed grow. It’s such an incredibly human and relatable story, and surprisingly light in tone compared to other issues she’s had. Then there’s Jessa — Jasper reappears to plant doubts in her about her abilities to be a functioning, sober member of society, and nurture her impulsive, erratic behavior. Addicts hate to be alone; it’s an inherently co-dependent illness. Unlike Hannah, who by episode’s end has done the mature thing and addressed her issue with Adam head-on, Jessa has given in to the doubts and let them take over. The final scenes find Hannah living in healthy co-dependency with her boyfriend, while Jessa lives in dangerously unhealthy co-dependency over a tray of cocaine with Jasper. It’s a very sad mirror image.

Jacob: It makes me wish that this season had given Jessa more to do. It feels like they took her straight from rehab to falling apart without a single memorable storyline. Girls occasionally has the bad habit of forgetting about some of its more interesting characters for seasons at a time and I wish we had gotten more of her struggles before catapulting Jasper back into her life. Speaking of mirror images, this is the second time a guy has broken up with Marnie while pizza has been present. If I were her, I think I’d drop that from my diet altogether.

Britt: I was just getting to that! I had to watch the episode twice for it to hit me that Marnie has been dumped twice while pizza has been involved. I don’t know that I would give up pizza, though. I am not that strong. And while I do agree that the exploration of Jessa and her problems has fallen to the wayside a bit (or maybe as a character she’s just not ready to explore her own problems yet), I’m glad that we’ve gotten a deeper understanding of Marnie. I feel horrible for her. I think she and Ray complement each other in a very interesting way, and not every relationship is built on similar interests (like Roxy Music and Netflix choices) — their relationship is built on balancing each other out by each of them providing what the other lacks. They’re not entirely opposites, but there’s a unique balance of power there, and Ray has opened Marnie up a lot. I’m really disappointed in him for dumping her, and I am heartbroken that she can’t tell anyone about it. Of course she would stumble into Desi, who seems so perfect for her, but it would be too perfect for him to be available — the reality of life is that it often kicks your heart around over and over, and that’s what we’re seeing with poor Marnie. I feel for her, I really do. I probably empathize with her more than any other girl on the show, which is not something I ever thought I would be saying.

Jacob: The show has done a great job of bringing pretty, perfect Marnie down to earth. It’s just now clicking that the assets that made her life easy in the early seasons (and college) are now falling by the wayside while the attributes that Hannah has always struggled with are starting to pay off. Ugly ducklings turn into swans, nice guys/girls, don’t actually finish last, etc. The world expects different things from you in the second half of your 20s and Marnie is starting to realize that what used to work for her is no longer available. If nothing else, ‘Girls’ is all about what it means to make the transition from childhood to adulthood and we’ve seen that Marnie, despite her age, has yet to make that jump quite yet. I think it’s impossible to not empathize with someone who was not prepared for that kind of responsibility and simply can’t take care of themselves. That was Hannah last season, after all.

Britt: I think for Marnie, she never had to struggle for anything in her life, while someone like Hannah had to rely on her talents and her intellect to get anywhere. This is why it’s been much easier for Hannah to make the transition to being an adult and why it’s been harder on Marnie — Marnie doesn’t have much bankable talent. What does she know how to do? Be a pretty person who helps rich people in art galleries? Her chosen profession speaks volumes about her arrested development. And yet I still feel bad for her because she never knew any better! Who was going to tell the pretty, perfect Marnie when she was younger that she’d need to invest in a more sustainable future for herself? No one would dare! It really speaks to the quality of the writing on the show that I can feel so horrible for her, but beyond the basic idea of the stereotypical pretty girl falling on her ass, there’s a human being who’s been dumped and dumped again and can’t figure out what’s so wrong with her that no one wants to spend any time with her. Ugh, can’t we all relate to those bad feelings sometimes?

Jacob: Watching Marnie on this show is the only thing that makes me feel guilty over the schadenfreude I experience when I see the “popular kids” from my high school days living dead-end lives. In other words, ‘Girls’ has successfully done the impossible and made me empathize with the people who made my life miserable for four years a decade ago. Too much information on my part? Maybe. But this is ‘Girls’ and too much information is the name of the game. Let me ask you a potentially cheesy question, Britt: if Marnie turned to the screen and directly solicited your advice, what would you tell her? With her lack of actual skills, I’m dreading what her life is going to become in the near future.

Britt: It’s such a hard question! How do you tell someone to do what feels right for them when they’ve been living a life that’s so superficial that they have no idea how to just be a person? I would tell her that if she’s very passionate about music, then she needs to find a way to support her passion. My best advice for anyone is always to find what you love and find a way to support yourself so you can do what you love — find a job you can live with that will financially cradle you while you pursue your dreams in your spare time. The rest will fall into place. Not all of us had the privilege of attending great schools and landing our dream jobs right out of the gate, and some people, like Marnie have a change in direction or heart. I worked through crappy desk jobs, like I know you have and many of our friends have, to get where I am now, sitting in my pajamas on a Monday with my cat and writing about the problems of a fictional character on a television show. But this is where I want to be, and I did everything I could to get here. Marnie needs to fight harder for this if it’s what she really wants. I don’t think her friends have been as supportive of her as they could be, and they’ve been treating her pursuit of music like a fickle, passing phase — maybe that’s fair, given how long they’ve known her, but their dismissal of her potential talent is clearly nurturing her insecurities.

Jacob: As someone who is also writing about the trials of a fictional character with his cat, that’s very well said.

On a lighter note, is there anything better than when Hannah and Elijah are getting along? One of the things ‘Girls’ does so well is build a web of unique relationships, but nothing makes me happier than those two being on the same team, planning surprise parties and gossiping. In fact, this episode does what I think ‘Girls’ is especially good at: it puts the cast into a small area and lets them bounce off each other for thirty minutes. I had never thought about what kind of common ground would unite Elijah and Shoshanna, but this episode offered it. Does any show do more entertaining “hanging out” sequences than this one?

Britt: Definitely not! I am just so thrilled to have Elijah back! And as much as I despise Jasper, I love Richard E. Grant and it was hilarious to see a drug addict mistake Shosh for someone high on cocaine. Any final or random thoughts on this week’s episode?

Jacob: My fiancee fell in love with Hannah’s paycheck dress, which started her going into a mini-rant about how poorly Hannah tends to dress on the show. So, while it doesn’t bother me, Lena Dunham would make the woman in my life very happy if she started writing more scenes where Hannah replaces her wardrobe. I know, scintillating TV commentary!

Britt: I do like that Hannah got her first grown-up paycheck and got to indulge, which is always super fun! Also, I am speculating that Adam secretly watches reality television — when he says, “I’m not here to make friends” at the callback, it’s such a reality competition show line. I think he’s secretly really into ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’

I’d like to thank Jacob for joining me this week, and be sure to check back with us next week for another edition of ‘Girls’ Talk when we discuss the all-new episode, “Flo.”

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