When it first started, Girls was automatically compared to Sex and the City, mainly because it was about four female friends in New York. And really that’s where the similarities, for the most part, end. All season, our characters have been messy and aimless, desperate for things that they seemingly cannot attain. And that process has been rife with ugly, rotten situations, and depressing, humiliating sex that has no place in the alternate reality of Sarah Jessica Parker's show. But last night's show—the season finale—veered into rom-com territory.
This idea of cleansing oneself has permeated this season—and the theme continues in this episode. Our characters here aren’t particularly good at cleaning up and starting afresh, but what they are good at is self-sabotage. In this episode, "On All Four," several characters successfully take themselves out at the knees.
Last week, a woman at Adam's Alcohollics Anonymous crowd set him up with her daughter, Natalia. Surprise, surprise, the two actually hit it off. Suddenly, they're going to see romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock, taking lunch breaks together and even attending friend’s engagement parties. Natalia seems good for Adam, mostly because she’s completely up-front about what she wants. When the two first have sex, it at first seems awkwardly negotiated. But Natalia tells Adam what she won’t do, what doesn’t work for her, and is clear about her boundaries. Adam isn’t really used to. He says, “I like how clear you are with me.” To which Natalia responds, “What other way is there?”
Girls, I love you. But this week's episode just didn't work.
This could be because it’s hard to keep momentum after a string of excellent episodes, but this week's uneven episode "It's Back" was built on out-of-nowhere plot points.
The episode opens with Hannah receiving a phone call from ex-boyfriend Adam which she seems nervous about.After stopping at a store to buy chips to cope with the call, she carefully counts out a specific number of chips before counting the number of times she chews them.
Hannah’s parents are visiting—her mother is attending a conference where she's excited to meet so many other women who “feel like I do about Ann Patchett.” While waiting on Hannah to meet them at their hotel for a Judy Collins performance, they give her a “Hannah cushion of 15-40 minutes.” Hannah shows up but looks pretty disheveled.
Over drinks, Hannah’s parents can tell what’s going on. Her father asks if her head is filling up with too much and she’s getting count-y again. Her mother expresses the worry she felt that Hannah’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) would hinder her from having a real life. This was my “what?” moment. Not that it’s unrealistic that Hannah could have OCD, but that in the scope of the show, it's never even come up before at all.
This Sunday is the season finale of HBO show Enlightened, starring Laura Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a woman who has a nervous breakdown after her self-destructive tendencies cause her life to implode. Like the show's creators, I'm afraid this may be the last-ever episode of Enlightened. I'm not sure I can describe how fantastic Enlightened is and convince you to tune in for the final show, but I’ll try my best.
Enlightened is a darkly comedic look at California new age pseudo-spirituality, corporate culture, and misguided activism. It’s also a serious look at addiction in a multitude of ways—from substance abuse to Amy’s own reliance on her newfound spirituality to temper her rage and justify her terrible behaviors.
Throughout this season, the characters of Girls have been trying on different lives and personas. They try to be different people and better people, eventually defaulting back to the familiar and the easy.
In night's episode, "Video Games", a minor character says she believes life is one big simulation—a video game. That sounds ridiculous, but it's an apt description for what Jessa experiences in this episode as she tries to reconnect with her absent father and play the role of daughter. lives and personas. They try to be different people and better people, eventually defaulting back to the familiar and the easy.
The episode starts with Jessa and Hannah to go see Jessa’s father, who Jessa hasn't seen in years and is living in the country with his girlfriend Petula and her son, Frank. Throughout the whole episode, Hannah is in rough shape: She has a UTI and describes it in the most accurate language. “My urine feels so daggery.”
Last week’s weirdly controversial Girls episode "One Man's Trash", was defined by melancholy. This week's episode, “Boys”, articulates that melancholy in a precise way with a metaphor about—what else?—Staten Island. Ray describes Staten Island as a place where people who want to live in Manhattan but can't are relegated to watch the city in a “quiet rage” on its fringes.Ray’s not talking about Staten Island—he’s talking about himself, Adam, Hannah, Marnie and all the other young characters on the show.
Even with book deals, fancy art parties, a seemingly perfect relationships,Girls' characters want more from their lives. The main characters all present a veneer of being okay with where they are, while actually longing to change their lives.
In this episode, Hannah finally she seems motivated. She's sent out some essays and has met with the editor (played by John Cameron Mitchell fromHedwig and the Angry Inch!) of Pumped magazine. He’s read her essays and describes them as “sweet, naïve and infuriating” but asks Hannah to write an e-book for him. The only catch is that he needs it in a month.
We live in an era where anyone can increasingly curate their own personas, even us “normals” as 30 Rock'sJenna Maroney would say. Any nobody with the internet can create and filter the public perception of their personality, but of course this self-conscious curation is most obvious with pop stars—Lizzy Grant turned into Lana Del Rey, Christian pop singer Katy Perry became whipped-cream-loving pop superstar Katy Perry.
No one is better at this than Beyoncé. With Life Is But a Dream—the documentary directed, written and produced by Beyoncé herself that aired on HBO this weekend—Beyoncé appeared to give fans an intimate peek into her life while actually delivering, of course, a carefully constructed portrait.
The film is a mishmash of home videos, selfie Photobooth confessional videos (always sans makeup and looking flawless) and more typical documentary style video. It’s not completely linear—it’s more like you are watching a collage, a scrapbook of moments in Beyoncé’s life.
Love it or hate it, Girls fits into a specific, maligned literary genre, noted television critic Emily Nussbaum in this week's New Yorker. Nussbaum compares Girls to previous works about young women, most notably Mary McCarthy’s 1963 novel The Group. Like Lena Dunham's show, critics at the time called The Group drivel about self-important, privileged young women. But that hasn’t stopped dozens of women from continuing to publish similar stories. As Nussbaum writers:
These are stories about smart, strange girls diving into experience, often through bad sex with their worst critics. They’re almost always set in New York. While other female-centered hits, with more likable heroines, are ignored or patronized, these racy fables agitate audiences, in part because they violate the dictate that women, both fictional and real, not make anyone uncomfortable.
This week’s Girls episode, “One Man’s Trash,” reads like a short story from McCarthy, Sylvia Plath, or, I would even say, from Raymond Carver. It’s a story that’s based on the uncomfortable nature of two lonely people who just want to experience something else for a brief moment.
In its fourth episode of the season, Girls continues to let us know that our early twenties years contain some of life's best experiences: publishing a piece of writing on a hipster blog, dating an artist of midlevel fame, going to the "best warehouse party ever!", losing your virginity, getting a surprise marriage. But amid these exciting times, Girls characters are exploring those big, troubling questions that maybe they’ll never shake. In this episode, "It's a Shame About Ray", even gruff Ray gets a little vulnerable. “What makes me worth dating?" he says to Shosanna. "What makes me worth anything?”
Much of Girls so far has dealt with romantic relationships. But in last night's episode, "Bad Friend," the drama centered on the hard work of handling friendships. Namely, best friendships. The tension that has been simmering between Hannah and Marnie since the beginning of this season finally exploded in a coke-and-bad-sex-with-a-terrible-artist-fueled showdown.