TV Questions: Girls, Episode One

Colin Horgan has three questions about the first episode of the second season

by Colin Horgan

Colin Horgan will be watching Season 2 of Girls and asking questions about it here each Monday. 

Elsewhere on the site, Jessica Allen will be writing about it, too. Click here for her take. 

Here’s Horgan with three questions about the first episode of the second season:

Question 1: Is anyone having any real fun?

Halfway through the party at Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Elijah’s (Andrew Rannells), an adult barges into Girls and re-asserts some context. George, Elijah’s sugar daddy, begs him drunkenly from across the room with a pair of karaoke microphones like a tired Pauly Shore imitator. After being rebuffed, he gives the hipsters a stern talking-to and history lesson. “You guys are all so f—king boring,” George tells the room before reminiscing about his own youth—one apparently full of nights doing cocaine off young, ectomorphic, gay men. “You guys are all too f—king cool to do one song? F–k you,” he sneers at a “fake lumberjack,” before summing it up: “This is a first-rate party full of losers!”

George is right, in part. But it’s a tired cry. He’s not the first fading Gen-X character to assess the situation thusly. His frustration echoes Ben Stiller’s aging, anal retentive and uptight 2010 performance as Roger Greenberg, who, upon intruding on his young niece’s party, does a bunch of cocaine and proceeds to be terrified of what he sees. “I’m glad I grew up when I did, because your parents were too perfect at parenting,” Greenberg tells the partiers. “There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying. You’re all A.D.D. and carpal tunnel. You wouldn’t know agoraphobia if it bit you in the ass, and it makes you mean,” he says. “I’m freaked out by you kids. I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview.”

While Greenberg half-mistakenly marvelled at how Generation Y was “so sincere and interested in things,” George’s intervention hints at what’s really going on. A show of sincerity is likely a construct, emerging from an inherited acceptance of Gen-X’s cynicism, topped off with a carefully considered, half-manufactured image of interest – for a more well-rounded look of connectedness, worldliness and success. George, whether he knows it or not, is railing against an amazingly consistent and constant self-branding exercise happening with the middling 20-somethings in this crew, and their real-life peers all over the place. Yes, they are too cool. That’s exactly the point. It’s no surprise that Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) – refreshingly honest and endearingly incapable of a hipster shrug (and younger by a few years) – is the only one of our Girls who publicly takes up the karaoke challenge. She, of course, stands very much alone as she sings. But George and Shosh lack the sense of “irony” needed to do something fun without actually having too much fun doing it. And of course that attitude is, in part, what Girls explores in spades. Which is why George, as a voice shouting from the fading memory of the last millennium’s youth and its incessant Doug Coupland-y search for something real between all the materialism, is about as welcome as a pair of relaxed fit jeans.

Elijah’s plan to get rid of George quickly involves Hannah, who is being forced to leave the party briefly anyway to tend to Adam (Adam Driver), who is still recovering from being hit by a truck outside Jessa’s (Jemima Kirke) wedding at the end of the first season. Hannah’s guilt nursing is frequent enough that she describes it to Marnie (Allison Williams) as a third job. So much is it like clockwork, Elijah predicted Hannah’s departure before the party even began, shooting down her musing that she’d be free to sidle up to anyone she pleased, (mostly) footloose and (mostly) fancy free. “Until Adam shows up and asks you to wash his nut sack,” Elijah reminds her, presciently.

Question 2: Are you allowed to be mean to people you love?

Yes, Hannah is Adam’s nurse, but from what we saw before Regina Spektor’s scratchy scream took us into the static title card at the start of the episode, Hannah has a new man—Sandy (Donald Glover), a young black Republican with a clean apartment and some Ayn Rand on the shelf. Adam is unaware of this new normal and Hannah tries to point out the situation as she is starting to see it. “You’re not being that nice to me, so I don’t really understand why you’d even want to have me around,” she hints. “Well, when you love someone, you don’t have to be nice all the time,” he replies.

Back at the party, Adam’s theory appears to hold at least some truth.

Shoshanna, freshly “deflowered but not devalued” showed up at Hannah and Elijah’s, buzzing like Daisy Buchanan on speed, motor-mouthing her confidence that she was going to take the whole evening by storm, without a care whether Ray is there or not. When Ray does show and tries to talk to her, Shosh gives him the cold shoulder. “Oh, hello. Goodbye,” she snaps, before just turning her back. She’s full of it, obviously, and by the time he’s cornered her alone in the bedroom and told her about her charm and strength, the wall comes down. “I’m really tired of being insulted even when it comes before a compliment,” she lies. Then they make out.

Meanwhile, sad sack Marnie-ex Charlie (Christopher Abbott) gets a verbal undressing from his new pixie-sized girlfriend, Audrey, both for waiting outside the washroom while she peed, and for the fact that there just isn’t enough weed around for her to have a good time. “Women, right?” he sighs to Marnie as he slinks away behind Audrey. No, Charlie. In this case, it’s Woman, singular.

Question 3: Can you be friends with your parents?

Charlie is the part of the reason – along with being “downsized” out of a job at the gallery – why Marnie is looking so thin (or, as her mother, played by Rita Wilson, puts it: “30 years old.”) Marnie’s life is in a state of omnishambles, compared to last season, when she was the straight-talking, uptight roommate with a low tolerance for BS. Now, (thankfully?) she’s looking for a new identity, and it’s interesting to learn what she thinks this involves. Marnie summarizes the cause of her rough skid by listing her unemployment and – revealingly – the fact she doesn’t have a boyfriend.

That, and she misses Hannah’s friendship – something she seems to be trying to replace by building a relationship with her mom. It’s not working out. Why? If Marnie is realistic, it’s probably not the gory details of her mom’s relationship with a cater waiter (“Sometimes all you need is just a pair of rough hands on your body.” — Marnie’s mom.) that undermine their relationship. The friendship is doomed by the simple fact that, like any number of her 1980s childhod peers, what Marnie needs from her mother is guidance, advice and – if she’s lucky – wisdom and encouragement. Not a sex talk buddy. But her mother has other ideas, and we watch for a beat as Marnie sits uncomfortably across the table, just another trickle-down victim of a late-century trend in parental effectiveness training and burgeoning narcissism. So powerful is the familiar narrative of the golden, unique over-achieving child to her mother, Marnie can’t even say the word “fired” without drawing a gasp. Too perfect at parenting, Greenberg chided. Too perfect by half, maybe.

And so, after a failed attempt at sex with Elijah (whose speculation that he could be bisexual seems to have been proved inaccurate), Marnie crawls back to the steadiest thing she knows, Charlie, and sleeps next to him in search of something real, and to just not be alone in the world for a bit. Maybe George was on to something.




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