Girls has had a resurgent season. What started off tepid at best (and horrifyingly grating at worst) gained momentum, and the back half of this third season had been more subdued. The girls were beginning to — possibly — mature and realize things about themselves. Hannah got a job, and almost became empathetic in her relationship struggles. Last week, each character seemed on a precipice of self-knowledge, and the question was, would it play out in “I Saw You”? The answer is … no. But, hit the jump for what did happen.
“I Saw You” mostly traded in the narcissism and navel-gazing that has defined Girls at its worst, and while the episode wasn’t terrible, it also wasn’t up to the standard of recent weeks. Hannah, bolstered by the unfortunate-seeming marriage of Patti Lupone — whose husband set aside his dreams so that he could act as her support — lashed out at her co-workers and got herself fired, burning all her bridges as she left. Hannah was good at her job, she enjoyed it, had a genuine talent for advertorial content, and also seemed to enjoy the financial freedoms it afforded her. But after Adam distances himself from her for the sake of his “craft,” her jealousy and creative impotence began ruling her life again.
In many ways the show lampoons the hip and privileged (like Soojin, Desi and others), but it also eviscerates the square, which is why Marnie bares the brunt of so much shame and humiliation for being, as Elijah puts it, “too stiff and too hopeful.” Where does Hannah fall? At the office, Hannah comes off as caustic and delusional, not a champion. This is largely because, for all the talk of her talents (mostly by her), Girls has only shown us that Hannah is still little more than a wannabe. She shames her co-workers for giving up / giving in by working in the corporate world, and sets herself up to live a life of artistic freedoms (which are, naturally, undefined). But even Adam’s theater friends think she’s a fool, not a hero. Leaving a job can be a great and freeing thing, but then there is Hannah’s reality: sitting around playing games on her iPhone, wanting to be called “a truly authentic person,” but not earning it.
Like Hannah, Marnie is good at her job as Soojin’s assistant, but she’s not great with creativity. She can’t (or more likely won’t) tell the photographer Beadie (Louise Lasser) that one of her photos isn’t working in the show. When Jessa says it, Beadie hires her on the spot (though according to the previews, that could largely be because of Jessa’s drug connections). Still, Marnie continuously tries and fails: with her career, her love life, her singing (which could be on the uptick). Jessa and Hannah are also caught in the same pattern of attempting real change and real work, and they always fail. “I Saw You” seems to suggest they are destined to repeat this pattern.
This is a damning thought. But even if the point is not to showcase some kind of bleak philosophy, it’s not necessarily a particularly entertaining way to go about showcasing anything. “I Saw You” was a pretty boring episode peppered with a few laughs (mostly thanks to Elijah, who continued to prove that in small doses he really adds so much to the show). Shoshannah was reduced, essentially, to a set dressing. Hannah was erratic, and could two people have any less chemistry than Marnie and Ray?
Once again it was the men who (sadly, for a show about girls) provided the most interesting fodder: Ray and Adam’s “manly” talk, Des’ support of Marnie but insistence on the love of his girlfriend, and Adam’s desire to keep Hannah at bay because she is a distraction. “I love it here,” he says wistfully to Ray about his apartment, not because it’s a perfect place, but because it’s a drama-free zone where Adam can be himself, yet not be isolated. The development of this friendship has been quiet, and one of the more interesting pairings on the show.
Why their relationship, and the complexities of these characters don’t translate over to the female characters is confounding, and a shame. Both Adam and Ray have broken out of their ruts — Adam is dedicated to his work, and Ray has a steady job and an apartment. Two seasons ago, Adam was a certified nutcase, and Ray was 30 years old and homeless. Their changes have made them more interesting as characters, as they continue to figure out their lives in a new landscape of their own construct. For the girls, time really is a flat circle. And next week, as things wrap up for the season, it seems unlikely that any of these issues will get resolved.
Episode Rating: B-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Hannah barging in and saying “everything is my business,” while telling Ray to put his dick away and that Marnie can never judge her again was a great example of Hannah’s incredibly invasive and irritating personality, which seems to be coming back with a vengeance.
— Marnie did sound good with Desi, but once again she’s hitching her wagon to a man’s star …
— “This is America, you don’t just barge into people’s bedrooms!” – Ray.
— Hannah’s diatribe about wanting to live life as a truly authentic person, who wants every day to be a roller-coaster, was one of her most deluded. She should all ask Jessa how that’s working out for her.
— Everything felt very forced and overt in this episode, from Hannah being called “Adam’s girlfriend” (in reference to Patti’s husband saying he’s addressed as “Mr. Lapone”) to her jealousy of Marnie’s success (and Shoshannah trolling her about it) as well as Marnie and Clementine’s obvious tension over Desi. Subtle this was not.
— “Everything is my business” – Hannah.