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‘Girls’ Talk: “Only Child”

Girls Only Child
HBO

On this week’s edition of ‘Girls‘ talk, we’re joined by another critic to discuss the latest episode, in which a potential new professional opportunity for Hannah quickly takes a sharp turn for the worse, while tensions mount in the apartment between Adam and Caroline. Meanwhile, Marnie seeks some help (and then some) from Ray, and Jessa decides to get a new job (on a whim, of course). 

ScreenCrush editor Britt Hayes is joined by Kate Erbland to discuss the latest episode of ‘Girls,’ “Only Child” (full review). Kate is a contributor for Film School Rejects and New York Daily News, and is a film critic for ScreenCrush. You can tweet her @katerbland. You can tweet Britt @missbritthayes.

Britt: One of the first things I talk about in my review is how this show nails something that’s not quite cringe-comedy, but close. It’s like, cringe-dramedy. Or like an experiment to see how mortified we can be for the characters when they refuse to have any awareness of how they’re behaving. I think you know that I am talking about Hannah asking David’s wife (HIS WIFE?) for publishing contacts at his funeral. Because of course she did.

Kate: I will admit feeling a certain amount of glee when the episode opened at David Pressler-Goings-Goings-Gone’s funeral, if only because I knew it would include some horrifying interactions from Hannah. This is a girl who literally danced through a cemetery last week. As terribly behaved as Hannah is, her reaction to finding out that her book is “dead” (poor choice of words) and then needling Mrs. Goings-Goings-Gone for publishing contacts is pretty much par for the course. Hannah has spent this entire season proving that she is unable to feel empathy for anyone and that the only thing she cares about is her dumb book. The funeral was the perfect place to drive this point home, as much as it made me want to hide under my couch.

Britt: I do feel some empathy for her, though — she equates the death of her book with the death of David, and to Hannah, that book was as important to her as David was to his wife and his real friends. I’m not saying her behavior at the funeral is appropriate, but I can definitely see Hannah’s emotional logic. If we look through her perspective, she put years of her life (figuratively and in a sense, literally, because she had to live through all of those experiences in order to make that book) into creating her book, so to her it really is like losing a dear friend or a piece of her life. To us, of course, the difference is clear: losing a book and losing a human is not the same thing, and she should be more respectful and empathetic, instead of gawking at all the famous literary folks at his wake.

Kate: “ZADIE SMITH!” I will admit, I understand Hannah’s thought process here, even if I don’t agree with the way it played out. Hannah needs manners, man. She needs a filter. But to see Jennifer Westfeldt flip out on her was satisfying as all get out. Yet, still, Hannah doesn’t seem to have learned from her behavior. And why should she? She gets a new publisher and (well, sort of) a new book deal, and chooses to celebrate that by steamrolling over her dad’s news about getting some kind of mole removed from somewhere. Classic Hannah.

Britt: I also think it’s interesting to see how her selfishness rolls over into the tensions between Adam and Caroline. I did enjoy the way she tried to Dr. Phil both of them (and Adam Driver’s acting this week was superb in that kitchen scene), and although Caroline might be kind of crazy and unstable, she has some solid points about Hannah: namely that she’s spoiled and entitled. And yes, Hannah could write another book, but she refuses, which is further proof of her sense of entitlement. I don’t think kicking Caroline to the curb is wise, but I also think that you could have a whole conversation about whether Adam is enabling Caroline, and whether Hannah has a right given that it’s her apartment, and if she’s ultimately done Adam a favor in some way — although her means were entirely inappropriate and self-involved.

Kate: I really enjoyed that entire scene — especially the “why are we telling you that we love you?” bit — and it helped illuminate that no matter how insane both Hannah and Caroline can be, they are capable of some insightful observations. They can both look outside themselves, they just don’t bother to do it that often. I think that Adam’s reaction to Hannah kicking Caroline out was just about perfect. Listen, Caroline is horrible to be around and she’s manipulative and there’s no way anyone would want her in their home, but she’s also Adam’s sister. Hannah was fully within her rights to kick her out, but Adam is equally right in being mad about it. I can only hope this stirs up a real argument.

Britt: It’s a very complicated scenario! Elsewhere this week, in addition to cringing at Hannah during the funeral, I also cringed at Marnie when she visited Ray’s apartment. I was begging the TV to not let Marnie have sex with him. My TV did not listen to me. Once Marnie asked Ray to tell her what is wrong with her, I knew it was just a matter of minutes before she was taking his pants off. It was the same with Booth Jonathan. She likes men who don’t put up with her crap and who see right through her phony exterior, but I also enjoyed Ray’s commentary on her as a “character,” and it was the first time in a while that I had considered her to be a sympathetic one. She quickly squashed it though by going right back to being a judgmental jerk as she walked out the door. That’s the thing, though: she acts like she wouldn’t want anyone to know she stooped so slow to sleep with Ray, but really, Ray’s too good for her, and he should be the one trying to hide it.

Kate: I have to hand it to Ray — he totally nailed (HA!) everything that’s wrong with Marnie. Still, however, I found that all strange — when (and why) did Marnie suddenly realize she needed someone to tell her what was “wrong” with her and then think to ask Ray? They didn’t end things on a good note last week, and Marnie is so stubborn, I would have expected her to stay away for much longer. Guess even kitten best friends are only good for so much.

And, yes, when it came down to the getting down, I did actually scream at my TV, just a long string of “no no no no no.” No. Just no. No.

Britt: Marnie, like Hannah (and most young people, really), is so redundant: they repeat their mistakes over and over, often willfully, and go through these intense cycles, trying to force life to bend to their will until it breaks them. We saw Marnie do all of this before: the break up with Charlie, the sadness and insecurity, the social media stalking — and now she’s in her big positive life changes phase where she works out and tries to get a new job and be a better person. And this time she has a kitten! Two things about this kitten: What ridiculous name will she given this kitten? And also, I am super worried about this kitten’s life in her hands.

Kate: The kitten definitely has a long-form name made up of hipster baby names and locales in France. It will be dead in a week.

Britt: Speaking of which! Jessa has decided to smoke Stephen Dorff’s space cigarettes and get a job at a baby store. Which should also last about a week. I should know better, but given how great she was at being a nanny (something I think some people may have forgotten), I think this job might actually be sort of good for her and might remind her that she does have something to contribute to others. I know it’s just a whim, and I know she’s just doing it because it’s the opposite of everything her life is right now, but I’m holding out hope for her.

Kate: Of the Dorff space cigarettes — such laughs. Perhaps my favorite straight joke of the show. Jessa does like kids! She was good at being a nanny (if a bit, well, spacey), and she even wanted to pick up “dead” friend Season’s baby last week, all in the midst of some big emotional reveals. There’s some whimsy and joy in kids that Jessa can’t get (or manufacture) elsewhere, and if that means she needs to hawk tiny overalls and little fedoras, I am all for it.

Britt: Any additional thoughts on this week’s episode? Like, I guess we didn’t really talk about Shoshanna, who has become such an accessory of a character.

Kate: She is the scrunchy of Girls characters. She is doing nothing for anyone and it’s sort of embarrassing when she pops up. I love Shosh, I really do, and I am sad she’s stuck playing second fiddle and reacting to whatever madness Jessa feels like spouting at any given moment.

Britt: It is super unfortunate.

Well that about wraps it up for this week’s edition of ‘Girls’ Talk. Thanks to the lovely Kate Erbland for joining me this week, and be sure to check back next week when we discuss the next episode, “Free Snacks.”

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