‘Girls’ Recap: What The Hell Just Happened To Everyone?
So. Many. Wrong turns.
This is a recap of the latest episode of Girls. Spoilers!
Does anyone else feel like they were just riding along in a brand new coffee truck and it hit a sign and tipped sideways? After the sublime high of The Marnie Episode and the classic-Girls feel of last week’s raw and funny instalment, ‘Homeward Bound’ feels jarring and maybe a little unearned.
We’ve been asked to invest in some major character leaps lately — functional Hannah, committed Elijah, sweet goofy Adam, focussed Jessa, self-actualised Marnie — or rather, to invest in the idea that these leaps are what the characters want for themselves; that they are actually capable of making the changes in their lives necessary to growth. This show has never shied away from making its characters do alienating or bizarre things while still asking the audience to come along for the ride, but Hannah’s behaviour — especially towards Ray in this episode (and Ray’s initial acceptance of it) — really pushes my patience.
Hannah’s been oscillating between the good-hearted, tough, adult version of herself that appears when she’s parenting her parents or occasionally being an effective teacher, and one that is completely childish and obsessed with pushing boundaries; particularly when it comes to sexuality and openness. She forced Fran to be okay with her and Elijah’s physical affection, she gave poor Principal Toby an unwanted Basic Instinct moment (which, I neglected to point out last week, actually went further than the original because at least Sharon Stone recrosses her legs), she had a less-than-successful fling with the yoga teacher at the retreat, and she repeatedly talks about Jessa and Adam “fucking” as opposed to “dating”.
The fact that she’s in her PJs for this entire episode heightens how much she’s acting like a spoiled kid: suddenly running away from Fran instead of having an adult conversation, pretending (hopefully) not to know what a kitted-out cafe truck costs, hitchhiking like it’s not a massive risk to her safety. Her travel buddy Hector (Scandal’s forever-creepy Guillermo Diaz, returning Dunham’s cameo favour) actually asks if Ray is her dad, and instead of saying he’s her friend or even her friend’s ex, Hannah says he’s her “old boss”. It both distances herself from Ray and positions him as an authority figure. And that makes him the second authority figure she’s made a sexual gesture at in as many weeks.
While we’re here, what are we supposed to make of the weird, transactional creepiness of the attempted blowjob? There’s certainly a lot to unpack. Why does Hannah think it’s needed or expected? Why does Ray go along with it even though he’s clearly not that into it? Why does he CLOSE HIS EYES?
The worst part is, it’s completely in character for Hannah. As Fran and many many many others have repeatedly pointed out, she is rude and inappropriate and impulsive and weirdly resistant to making mature decisions, but there’s also a really unhealthy pattern in her sexual interactions this season. It’s all gone downhill from the cute hookup she and Fran had in the car at Marnie’s wedding in the premiere. Hannah’s sexual confidence, coupled with fairly standard emotional insecurity, has been a mainstay of the series and of the character, and whether it’s some knock-on effect from her parents’ marital and sexual crises or something else is going on, the show needs to address why Hannah’s crossing more lines than ever.
Jessa, meanwhile, is still trying to convince herself that the line she and Adam have crossed is barely a line at all. She also seems to have forgotten the determination that sent her plunging headfirst into a bathtub half full of bodily fluid in her efforts to help little Sample (née Jessa-Hannah Bluebell Poem) get born. Getting spat up on is gross, and yes, her reaction is probably supposed to be more representative of her discomfort with and guilt over the Hannah situation and the weight of the very real possibility that neither Laird nor Caroline are coming back for their daughter any time soon. But it seemed like she was at a point where she didn’t need Adam to stare her down and ask “Why do you need more help than a baby?”
It’s almost chilling to watch how serious Adam gets after the goofy lightness of his honeymoon period. We saw him in this mode when Caroline first showed up, all nudity and glass shards, and as then, his rage and resentment at the family drama intruding on his happiness is quietly evident here, with all the weight of their history behind it.
Caroline’s letter is at once infuriating, with all her florid self-involvement, and incredibly sad, as she’s clearly suffering from some form of post-natal depression (a plot that Nashville and Jane The Virgin have both used recently, with similarly serious repercussions). This being Girls, who knows what’s in store. Laird may have just needed a moment or he might actually be gone. Adam could assume some or all responsibility for Sample, or maybe we’ll finally get to meet the Sacklers senior. But even just this glimpse of bleak domesticity, along with Hannah-related guilt, might have taken a lot of shine off the Jessadam forbidden apple.
Speaking of babies, the continued presence of Desi is an interesting test for both the show and Marnie’s newfound equilibrium. It seems that after their nice little freakout over the idea of Alex Patsavas, Desi went straight out and slept with
Marie de Salle Candace Moncrieff (Lisa Bonet, who does not age) — the kind of terrible, passive-aggressively chill hippie nightmare who actually likes and thus deserves him. Marnie never really liked Desi; she was just impressed with herself for drawing his attention, for apparently being fascinating enough to reel in a complicated man who could offer her the kind of life she thought she wanted until she saw what it looked like from the inside.
It’s hard to say whether anything good can come of their pursuing the musical project without her laying down the law good and proper. She didn’t want to be married to him because he was a heinous and emotionally manipulative manchild, so why would being tied to him professionally/artistically/legally be any more tolerable? You have to hope she can continue to stand up for herself, whatever the outcome. And that means she has to stop going around yelling about how chill she is, and just own the fact she wants control over how her life turns out.
If there’s a theme in all this, it’s what happens after you bail. While it remains more than okay to take yourself out of situations that aren’t working for you, you have to be aware of what and who you’re leaving behind with the overturned coffee truck or rented car house or abandoned baby. And if you make the wrong call, or don’t extricate yourself from a situation with the requisite care for others, then yes, that usually makes you a jerk.
It’s also easy to forget that once you’ve climbed out of one shitty scenario, you still do need to keep going wherever you find yourself next. It’s that awareness of the necessary next steps that often keeps us treading water even after we’ve realised we have to swim, so to speak. Hannah avoided breaking up with Fran until she couldn’t stand it any more because she didn’t want to start over, alone. Shosh is sitting in her ex’s favourite Japanese restaurant contemplating going on food stamps because she wants to stay in the in-between part instead of getting on with life. Laird didn’t look for a note from Caroline because he didn’t want to acknowledge that she might actually be gone (well, that and/or he’s just not too sharp). Even Hector avoided breaking up with his abusive girlfriend until he couldn’t stand it anymore.
But at least Hector is excited about what’s ahead. While Jessa and Adam might be about to find out whether their fledgling relationship can survive instant parenthood — and while I am not on board with this as an ongoing storyline, I’m not sure whether I’d prefer Sample to be stuck with them or with poor Laird alone — Hannah and Shosh have both a lot of space to create new lives for themselves, and a limited amount of viewer goodwill to spend on more self-pity. Here’s hoping Shosh gets stuck back into Ray’s political career, and Hannah gets stuck back into staying the heck away from Ray.