“Role Play” feels like the Girls episode I have been waiting for since the premiere. (Well, maybe not literally the premiere, since part of what made it so good were the emotions involved in each girl’s crisis that have been building for awhile). After a shaky start to the season, Girlshas really propelled itself towards its finale (in two weeks) with promise. “Role Play” is where everything came together, though, and incorporated every element that makes Girls good even when it can be pretty terrible. Hit the jump for why “most of it I wrote while on Ambien.”
In some ways, “Role Play” was about change and maturity, something the show has needed for a long time. All of the girls are finding themselves on a precipice. Jessa is facing the truth that she is a junkie, Shoshanna is realizing she doesn’t want to take care of her cousin anymore as she moves forward with her life and career, Marnie must go down to go up (maybe), and Hannah’s attempts to jumpstart her relationship with Adam lead him to move out. For now.
The show’s second season took a darker turn as it finished up last year, but in a way that really wasn’t compelling at all (the OCD plot seemed to confuse and repel most viewers instead of being endearing and engaging). The third season is also winding down on kind of a downer note, but it’s one that suggests hope in change for the girls. The world around them, at least, is moving on.
For Jessa, that meant seeing Dottie’s success despite having a deadbeat father like her own. Here Jessa is, hanging out with Jasper, using him like a surrogate father, instead of realizing what a toxic influence he is. When Dottie calls her out as the toxic influence, she seems a little surprised and, later, despondent. When she tells Shoshanna she looks like a junkie because she is a junkie, Shoshannah just walks inside to the apartment without her. Shoshanna seems done. She’s moving on, unwilling now to even take care of Jessa as she once was committed to doing.
Marnie’s experiences were another eye-opening and quasi-humiliating process for her. The fact that Soojin (who is written to sound a lot like Shoshannah) is being financed by her father and looking, at age two-four (“but for the cred and intrigue of the gallery, I’m going to tell people I’m 22”), for an assistant. Marnie expects to be at a higher level than this when it comes to a job, but the reality is she hasn’t worked her way to it. Later, when Marnie meets up with Desi and he comes up with lyrics about wanting a girl in his bed so badly, she naturally assumes he’s talking about her. When he admits it’s his darling Clementine, there’s a great look that shadows her face where she realizes, or maybe really internalizes for the first time, that the world does not revolve around her.
In one of the biggest changes to prior seasons, and even prior episodes in this season, it was Hannah who had the most interesting and emotional arc. After partying too hard with co-workers and realizing Adam didn’t seem to notice or care, she tries to spice things up in her relationship. How that all played out was weird, funny and strange, and part of the cringe-humor that Girls has seemed to substitute too often with irritating characterizations. It’s a fine line to walk, but to cringe on behalf of any character, you have to care something about them. Until the last few episodes, that really hasn’t been the case with Hannah. But Hannah’s attempts to please Adam are met with him pulling away, telling her what we’ve all known this season — he’s not the person he used to be. Hannah wanted to change him with love, and she did. And this is what is looks like now: “I have to go.”
It was a genuinely real and tragic moment when Adam started to leave and Hannah clung on to him before he extricated himself. It was sad. If they had just had this conversation without all of the pageantry before it, it might not have hurt so much. But Hannah’s devotion to her role playing, thinking she was doing it for him, made it all the worse when he rejected it and her.
Whereas Marnie and Jessa still have a long way to go, Hannah has actually been growing and maturing over the course of the season. When Adam says her having a job is not the same as him having a job, I don’t think he means to belittle her. I think that he’s acknowledging his full-time emotional commitment, whereas her responsibilities allow her to compartmentalize. People change and they grow away from each other. Or they don’t, and they’re sometimes still left behind.
Each story incorporated aspects that have worked for Girls in small doses in the past, but have never come together to form a really great episode before (maybe it matters that Judd Apatow shared the lead writing credit on the episode — as I’ve said in the past, on this show more than any other it really seems to make a difference). “Role Play” was dark, and it was good, finally reaching an emotional core that has eluded the series for so long. Where it goes from here matters, but for now, let’s revel in the fact that this half hour was probably one of the series’ best.
Episode Rating: A+
— Little things in this episode came together so well, like Elijah popping in just long enough to be seen eating with Hannah in her bed, both of them inexplicably wearing bandanas. Marnie’s choice of beanie and Soojin’s valley-girl-hipster persona were all great moments, too.
— I can’t decide if Marnie’s lyrics were really that bad, or just derivative (she was just quoting random lyrics and titles, right?).
— Adam is right that Hannah is nothing but drama.
— Hannah actually looked pretty good in that wig. The fact that she knew Adam would like it if she took the role play to the extreme with the drink and with him getting punched was also pretty weird and funny (and the guy on the street calling her a “fucking psycho” was also accurate).
— Would you rinse off your drunk co-worker?
— Great cameo by Felicity Jones as Jasper’s daughter, especially with the inclusion of the anxiety allergies and rash.
— What was Hannah’s fake husband’s name? Jardaniel? What? When Hannah is actually forced to create fiction on the show, she is just not that good at it. I loved the fact that her calling Adam the “school weirdo” made him uncomfortable, but it was really the fact that she changed roles in the middle of it all — the lack of narrative cohesion — that really got to him.
— “I’m 47 years old, I deserve a little more respect” – Jessa.