How Hannah's mom is kind of like Han Solo

He said, she said: talking points on Girls, season 2, episode 8

He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)

Episode summary:

Marnie learns from Shoshannah and Ray that Charlie has found success after selling an App. Shoshannah is feeling socially restless after spending a summer with Ray. Adam attends an AA meeting and winds up going on a date with another attendee’s daughter. And Hannah has OCD.

She said: I’ve heard from a few people that  they didn’t like this episode, but I kind of loved it!

He said: I think they didn’t like it because it was very uncomfortable. I think you see pretty much all the characters acting out their turmoil in very ugly ways.

She said: Marnie, for instance–after being pretty unforgiving when it comes to Jessa, and in a sense, she’s right–her ugliness comes through when as soon as she finds out that Charlie has made a little money and isn’t suffering so much as a result of their break-up, she’s upset. That is such an ugly truth. God, I would feel the same way. I would not feel happiness for that person right off the bat. My first reaction would be: “Oh great, and to think of all the dinners I paid for.”

He said: Also, being jealous or covetous of somebody else’s happiness, is another ugly truth. Marnie assumed that she would have ruined six years of Charlie’s life.

She said: That’s so dark!

He said: But people think like that.

She said: Yeah, and then poor ‘Shosh’. She starts to say, ‘The fabric of life is just so…’ and then she sees Rodicka on vintage rollar blades. And that is such a twentysomething anxiety where you feel like you’re always missing out. Actually, it’s a teenage anxiety too.  The fact is, she’s missing nothing. And Ray is right, but you can’t explain that to someone. Oh, and Adam is very likeable in this one, don’t you think?

He said: He is, except there’s something sort of funny about…well, it’s representative of his personality that at 17 he would have gone into AA, which is being very extreme, over the top, very willful–and also you get the feeling that he’s just going to this AA meeting because he needs somebody to talk to about his love life and he doesn’t have anybody to do that with.

She said: Oh my god! Yes!

He said: He sort of lets it all out. And I think it’s very funny that a woman who is meeting a recovering alcoholic would try to set him up with her daughter.

She said: And it was Carol Kane to boot. Talk about good guest stars this episode! I want to see more Bob Balaban.

He said: I love Bob Balaban. He’s very funny and he does what he does incredibly well. And Judy Collins? Well, we wouldn’t have Leonard Cohen without her.

She said: I don’t know why, but she used to terrify me as a child. I think she was on Sesame Street, or The Hilarious House of Frankenstein.

He said: And Hannah’s mother–what a wonderful character that is.

She said:Yes! She has so much resentment towards Hannah, which is not something you often see portrayed on Tv, and I love it.

He said: I was thinking of the mom in this episode, where you actually do feel slightly sympathetic to Hannah for having  OCD. And I was thinking about the role that Han Solo plays in Star Wars, because he doubts The Force so you don’t have to–he sort of takes that burden off the audience. So with the mom, there’s somebody hating Hannah so we don’t have to and we can actually feel a little sympathy for her, even though it’s hard not to hate her when you just see her carrying on in the specialist’s office.

She said: Oh. My. God. That’s why Han Solo doubted The Force. So we didn’t have to!

He said: It’s important to have a doubting figure, I think.

She said: Do you think it’s a little too out of the blue in the way they introduced the OCD?

He said: I did at first but it’s funny enough that you don’t care. It’s a funny thing to be funny about. ‘That girl just hit me five times!’ ‘Ah, no, it was eight times.’ I mean, that’s very funny.  [Pause] Can we talk about Marnie’s boyfriend for a second?

She said: Charlie. Why?

He said: Because I find him to be a really interesting character in this one: he’s so resentful of Marnie, in a really awesome way. When she visits him at his new office and says she’s just there to support him, he says, ‘Oh, do you want me to support you or do you want support from me?’

She said: I don’t think his harbouring so much anger towards her is unwarranted, though. He has tried a few times to reignite the flame but she’s been pretty callous about it all. So for her to show up out of the blue to check out his success, well, it felt like a not-so-veiled attempt to, I don’t know, just to be selfish in a way. To present herself in his path again.

He said: There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone who is ‘so together’ fail. I can’t help it, it’s ugly but it’s satisfying.

She said: You know what? I found that little exchange between Ray and Marnie at the end of the episode to be disappointing. When Ray is very persistant in asking Marnie: What do you want to do? He asks over and over again. And that coming from Ray seemed slightly unbelievable. Ray doesn’t know what he wants to do and that’s one of the most difficult–and almost abrasive–questions that you can put forward to someone. I remember being asked that at a dinner with a few other people about 10 years ago now. And I nearly cried at the table. I also remember being so angry!  That is just such an enormous question. I had no clue what I wanted ‘to do’ but the asker was relentless. Strangly enough, I said I wanted to work at a magazine. But getting back to Ray, I have a very difficult time believing that Ray would have put it forward to Marnie.

He said: I didn’t mind it so much. It is a horrible question, second only to asking a person what do they do. But I think just because Ray doesn’t have it figured out doesn’t mean that he can’t have a little wisdom. And Ray obviously has a lot of stuff figured out.

She said: He has more stuff figured out in that he’s very comfortable without having stuff figured out, if that makes sense.

He said: Yeah. And I think he’s also capable of recognizing, as the audience is, that Marnie is a very driven character. And there’s only so long she can dress as a magician’s assistant. And I think it’s also interesting that Hannah, that this storyline about Adam being a psychopath who is potentially capable of doing physical harm to her, tells the specialist that Adam is either the worst or the greatest person she’s ever met and she just need some time on her own to figure that out. And you feel this coming tension because obviously Adam will have moved on by the time she comes around.

She said: That was a lovely secen with Adam and the new girl. ‘I’m f–king sweating bullets over here.’ It was quite endearing.

He said: And there’s something interesting about his intensity, his honesty–as stupid or misguided as it might seem at times. I’ve always found him to be the most sympathetic character on the show.

She said: Really? I hated him in the first season. He was vile, but by the season finale, you start to come around on him.

He said: I think he was vile for the first half but mid-way through, he was the best part. And he’s building this boat.

She said: Is that what he’s building in his livingroom?

He said: I think so. Remember that episode when Shoshannah accidentally does crack cocaine and he talks about how he’s building a boat that is going to fall apart on the Hudson River–that’s his big art project.

She said: It reminds of me of The Raft of the Medusa–that giant Gericault painting–in how patch-worked and derelict it looks in his living room.

He said: I guess another intersting thing I found about this episode was the sort of contrast between what you imagine is success versus what success actually is. Like when Marnie goes to Charlie’s office–and I think a lot of people can be very flippant about it–but you’ve made a ton of money creating an app, which is funny in itself, he’s got money being thrown at him, he’s got all these young people who are portrayed as being very insipid and fashionable and savvy–they’re running to the other office to take part in a YouTube channel video–and it’s just like, that’s success? That’s the goal?

She said: Maybe today it is.

He said: And then when Hannah is interrogating her specialist, Bob Balaban, she asks if he’s written a book. And he has, but it’s a book about a robotic dog; a kid’s book and it’s sold over 2 million copies.

She said: You’re right–it’s another contrast between how we imagine success and what success actually is. [Pause] Remember how Ray tells Marnie that it’s time she stop being a cartographer and become an explorer? Well, Bob Balaban played a cartographer in both Close Encounters of the Third Kind AND Moonrise Kingdom.

He said: Interesting, yeah.


Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.