Girls – One, Two, Three, Four…

hannah

Hannah and her parents.

This season of Girls has been polarizing, and it has been more daring and creatively experimental than the first season. I often see comments about how Girls isn’t Sex and the City, and while I don’t think this show has *ever* wanted to be SATC, it has never been further from it. At this point, if you want a show about four gal-pals drinking cocktails and going on dates in New York, maybe turn on the CW. I’m sure they must have something.

Girls is so much more. The show has never been afraid to show its characters flaws, but the past several episodes have pushed that to the extreme. I completely understand why some people find it hard to watch, but I find it really interesting to watch.

This week, Jessa was MIA – the actress, Jemima Kirke, was pregnant during filming and her disappearance last week makes sense for the character (as Marnie said, it’s “classic Jessa”) but was also an out for the actress. This week focused on Shoshanna, Marnie and Hannah, all acting horribly in different ways.

*Adam was also featured in this week’s episode and provided some comedic relief, both at his AA meeting and his blind date.

The most horrible was Marnie, who still can’t believe that Charlie a) has stopped pining for her and b) is more successful than her. She’s dressed like a stripper hosting a circus and has no direction in life, and he sold an app and now has an important, grownup job. She told Ray that she really wants to sing, which is a development I have mixed feelings about. Is Marnie going to be a struggling musician now? It feels so different from the character we met, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen more. I can picture her awkwardly seeing at an open mic night and then quitting.

Shoshanna made a mistake, but I would argue that she wasn’t being horrible. She cheated on Ray – and yes, that’s not great. But she’s a 20 year-old inexperienced girl dating a 33 year-old grump of a man. He’s not even that nice to her. He’s a curmudgeon, he’s rather condescending, he’s defensive, and he’s bringing her down. I like Ray and Shosh together, but it was never a relationship that could work out. She’s too young. She was young, drunk and upset and made out with a doorman in a closet. Poor girl.

The most fascinating story this week though, was Hannah’s. Hannah’s life has not been going well. Her breakup with Ray and his crazy behavior has her on edge, her friendship with Marnie is strained, Jessa is gone and she’s writing a book. That’s a lot to handle. We’ve always known that Hannah has some emotional issues, and possibly some more serious anxiety issues as well. Now, we learned that she was previously diagnosed with OCD. The episode opened with Hannah showing weird ticks about the number eight, and as she visited with her parents we learned that this was familiar behavior to them.

It was interesting to see Hannah deny that her OCD was becoming a problem again, but it was even more interesting to watch her parents. Her dad was concerned, but her mother’s reaction fell more along the lines of frustrated. I think that’s a reaction that a lot of people can have when dealing with a loved one’s mental illness. It’s tiring. You want someone to stop being depressed or stop counting to eight, the same way you might want an alcoholic to just stop drinking. It’s hard to understand mental illness, and it can be hard for some people to understand why someone can’t just force themselves to snap out of it. Hannah’s parents treat her like a child, and that was never more awkward than this week when they insisted she see a pediatrician instead of a regular psychiatrist. It shone a new light on her phone call with them last week, after she witnessed Jessa’s brutal relationship with her father. Jessa’s dad never gave a crap about her and it messed her up. But I think the way Hannah’s parents chose to deal with this issue revealed a lot about them.

Episodes of Girls this season have been so isolated, I do wonder if we’ll revisit the OCD at all next week. Hannah has a prescription now (but she’d said the drugs she took in high school made her too groggy) and we don’t always know how much time has passed with each episode. It’s possible that we might just have to assume that, for now, her anxiety and OCD is somewhat under control. But it adds an interesting layer to the character.

I read online that much of this episode comes from Lena Dunham’s own childhood. She has anxiety and OCD, and was obsessed with the number eight as a child. The things Hannah says in the episode are things Lena dealt with. Lena and Hannah are not the same, but I think the fact that she often draws on her own experiences for the characters she writes is what makes the show great. I thought this was another really fascinating, innovative episode.

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About Jill

Pop culture junkie and TV aficionado. I write sharp and snarky TV recaps at www.couchtimewithjill.com
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13 Responses to Girls – One, Two, Three, Four…

  1. lifeofmytime says:

    Great review – I feel the same way about the episode and this season.

    I felt like Marnie needed something new to focus on, but like you, I was surprised that it turned out to be singing. I’m apprehensive, but curious at the same time.

    I really have to say – at the beginning of the series I found Adam so revolting. And now I enjoy his character SO much. I think he is the most compelling character on the show. Which is saying something, because this show is filled with some of the most compelling characters on television at the moment.

    • Jill says:

      It’s weird, while I liked Adam’s storyline a lot this week, I found I didn’t really have much to say on it. Maybe because it was so good – that was sort of it. It was great, enough said.

  2. Dana says:

    Well, this has been one of the best episodes in a while, although I think I say that more because Adam was in the episode than any other reason. His scenes were great and not just for comic relief. Yeah, singing for Marnie doesn’t feel quite right, but her feeling completely resentful of Charlie’s success does. And a great little cameo for Carol Kane.

    As for Hannah, well, her mother is just irritating and not at all helpful. I think one thing the show has displayed rather well is that whether you have parents who are doting and give you everything like Hannah’s or parents who give you nothing like Jessa’s you end up fucked up. Although part of me has a hard time believing that Hannah would be “this” screwed up from these parents.

    I think the thing that is getting hard for me to watch is that none of these characters have any sense of gratitude or much empathy. I wonder if that is an age thing or a generational thing? I can remember in my 20’s being resentful of other’s achievements at times, but not to this degree. They’re not nice people. None of them. Except maybe Adam.

    • Jill says:

      I disagree a little, in that I don’t think Hannah’s issues are really caused by her parents the way Jessa’s might be. OCD isn’t caused by the way you’re raised, it’s genetic. (Which, as Hannah put it, is the ultimate “your fault”.) I felt like the way her mom was dealing with it revealed a lot about their relationship, and therefore Hannah, but a lot of why Hannah is the way she is is chemical. It’s an anxiety disorder.

      I feel like the key to watching Girls is to not see it as a show that represents a generation. It’s these specific people, and it’s kind of unfair to expect them to represent everyone. At any other point in her life, Marnie might not be as jealous of Charlie’s achievements. But she’s at the lowest place in her life so far while someone else is at his peak, and that’s bound to bring out the worst in anyone.

      • Dana says:

        I realize that OCD isn’t caused by the way you are raised (duh). But I feel like now Hannah’s fucked upness is all erased because she has OCD and that doesn’t feel fair to the story. She may have a mental illness but she’s still screwed up. The show is not about a woman with mental illness but people in their 20’s, it feels out of left field to shift the narrative and write everything off as OCD.

        I don’t look at a show like Girls as the voice of a generation, but I do think it is saying something beyond the lives of these specific characters and just because you may not agree with the points I am raising doesn’t mean I am being unfair to the show.

      • Jill says:

        Right, but can’t the show be about people in their 20s and also feature a character who suffers from a mental illness? I don’t feel that the OCD has written off Hannah’s other problems, I see it as an aspect of her character that we’re only just seeing, and I guess as something that is meant to indicate the current level of stress in her life. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t mean to belittle your opinions, you’re totally entitled to them. I love discussions like this! I think the point I was trying to make, and I probably wasn’t clear enough, is that sometimes it seems like there’s more pressure on Girls to represent a generation or a set of people more than there is for other shows.

  3. I totally agree – I can see why people find this show uncomfortable to watch – I sometimes find it uncomfortable to watch, but mostly I find it compelling. It makes me think and although I hate a lot of the aspects of the characters, I also find them extremely relate-able. I have either been there or I am there right now or I know someone who has/is there. They all kind of “stumble” through life trying to find a direction and I get that. Yes, the characters are extremely selfish but people are selfish – especially in their early 20’s. They are still closer to being teenagers than adults and yet they are expected to do and say very adult things and have ‘their shit together’. I definitely cringe at the things they do and say sometimes, but that is definitely tempered with sympathy I guess because I’ve been there.

    I never liked Adam until this episode – he was actually charming!! The phone call to ask Natalia out? So. Funny. Who hasn’t had one of those calls? Calling a date for the first time is soooo awkward! Another character I’m really interested in is Marnie – I mean the girl was so uptight and together and she is basically falling apart. She is floundering and for some reason I enjoy watching that – I guess I can relate? I feel bad for her? I don’t know, maybe I just find it to be “interesting tv” – I can’t say for sure but I enjoy watching. And you can’t really blame her for being super jealous about Charlie’s success – nothing is worse than an ex or friend doing amazingly well while your life is in the crapper. I was surprised by the singing thing too but I almost feel like she arbitrarily chose it because it was the first thing that came to her mind and she really has no idea what she wants/doesn’t want – she’s grasping at straws. Ray was pressuring her to say something and maybe one time someone told her she had a nice voice and got the idea in her head that she’d like to sing and has just carried it around with her and just pulled it out of her head at that moment because she needs something to cling to. But maybe it IS her dream! Sometimes our biggest dreams are the most secret! Who knows, but I am intrigued to see where they go with it.

    Sorry to blab on but so much to say! This continues to be one of my favourite shows.

    • Jill says:

      I agree, I can relate to how Marnie is a little as well. Not the specifics with the boyfriend and stuff, but I know what it feels like to think you’re behind all your peers. That everyone is moving on without you. And it’s not a great spot to be in.

  4. kristaspurr says:

    I’m all alone on the other side of the fence here. This week’s episode was the most recent in what has been a string of “very special episodes” about white people’s problems.

    Girls has shown its bones about the narrowness of its world view. Not that it matters, since it’s entertainment, not documentary. Everything was just a little too tedious this week for my liking. I don’t know enough about OCD to know if anything about Hannah’s storyline was portrayed accurately, but still, it’s a pretty major health concern to just keep hidden, only to emerge at a time when it’s convenient for the narrative.

    As for the other two, meh. Shoshanna is just being 21 (or whatever age she’s supposed to be) and Marnie is continuing her downward spiral in the most uninteresting way possible. Let’s just skip ahead a few more weeks and get her to actual sex work. Then she’ll be interesting again.

    • lifeofmytime says:

      Hannah’s OCD around the number 8 has actually been referenced at least once before. Marnie brought it up during the major fight they had at the end of Season 1. But even if they hadn’t, I would’ve been okay with it. That’s reality in a lot of cases. I personally have been completely blindsided by a friend’s mental illness, one that had emerged just as suddenly as Hannah’s for the first time since childhood. So it rang true to me; however, I can understand why many feel it was a little too convenient.

    • Jill says:

      A lot of the specifics of Hannah’s OCD come directly from Lena Dunham’s own experience, so I’d say they’re accurate. They’re also pretty in line with what I’ve heard from people I know.

      Hannah having to masturbate eight times every night when she was younger to prevent the world from falling apart was something Marnie said during their big fight last season, and I read online that we have seen her count stuff before, so I think the OCD was alluded to more than it seems. I also think that if it’s something Hannah hasn’t had to deal with since high school, it’s perfectly acceptable to have never outright mentioned it on the show before. For me, I liked the development because I think it added depth to what we’d seen so far of Hannah’s anxiety issues and kept that from becoming a quirky personality trait. Sometimes it can feel like anxiety has become a pop culture meme, rather than an actual mental illness that should be taken seriously. But that’s just my thoughts, I can see where you’re coming from too and respect that you didn’t like the episode. :)

      • kristaspurr says:

        You both make great points about mental illness. I knew about the previous reference from other online chatter, but I’m not confident this character development will stick. The way the show’s been heading, next week it’ll be some other thing that is forcing Hannah to get in her own way. Or another location. Or another new person. This week’s episode was the third time in a row I’ve been taken out of the show and left to gaze upon Lena Dunham’s greatness or daring or vision. Whether intentional or not, it’s distracting from good storytelling.

  5. Dana says:

    Jill

    I love these kinds of discussions as well and I apologize if I came off snarky in that last comment. Perhaps you are right that there is too much pressure on Girls, but I think when you are talking pay cable series, the bar is already set pretty high to deliver smart television. I am not sure we are seeing that. I get that this is a series that doesn’t have a tight narrative (like Mad Men or Breaking Bad), but it is a little too all over the place right now for me. I think it can be fine to present mental illness and in some way it is realistic at a time when Hannah would be under so much pressure to deliver her book, that these issues might come out. I really think it just depends on what Girls does with this information. I will be really pissed off if every bad decision Hannah has made is due to OCD rather than the fact that she is in her 20s and is self obsessed and obnoxious and just makes horrible decisions.

    The show really presented itself at least in its first season as a social statement on being young in America, this is what put the show on the map and it just doesn’t feel very authentic to this particular viewer now that the show would not be any sort of statement about society but just a glimpse into the lives of these characters. I don’t know a series on cable nowadays which does not offer some societal statement to its viewers. Perhaps it is we viewers and the zillions of tv reviewers and bloggers which cause this, but still to me, it is the fun of watching a series.

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