This week on Girls … Hannah turns 25 and Marnie organises the party to her own ends. Adam’s sister threatens to throw a spanner into his and Hannah’s domestic bliss. And Ray comes to a painful realisation about his relationship with Shoshanna.
Take her or leave her
It’s Marnie’s turn in the spotlight this week, and one which paints her in a distinctly unflattering light. At first, her offer to organise Hannah’s birthday party seems generous, but it quickly becomes apparent that she’s doing it for herself. It gives her an opportunity to post Instagrams of herself being happy that she knows Charlie will see. And then she ropes in the birthday girl as a stooge in a thinly-veiled attempt to further her singing ambitions.
We’ve seen plenty of glimpses of Marnie’s selfishness before, but this is as bad as she has ever been. She continues to react out of spite to her split with Charlie – how dare he break up with her? – and she has no qualms about turning her friend’s party into her own vanity project. The episode opens with her screaming at a YouTube employee to take down an excruciating video of her performing Edie Brickell’s What I Am and ends with her dragging a more than reluctant Hannah on to stage to sing a duet of Take Me or Leave Me from Rent. (Honestly, Marnie, I’d leave you.) It’s not as ear-bleedingly awful as her all-about-me performance of Kanye West’s Stronger at Charlie’s work party last season, but Marnie seems to truly believe that the fact she can just about hold a tune qualifies her for future stardom.
The moral of this story? Parties, microphones and Marnie should never be mixed. Ever.
Ending in the middle
Just as Marnie is not yet over Charlie, Ray is most definitely not over Shoshanna either. His rant at Hannah’s editor David – who installs the gay/bisexual social networking app Grindr onto Hannah’s phone – temporarily, of course – about not ending songs in the middle is a painful admission that he wasn’t really ready for his relationship with Shoshanna to end, despite his protestations to the contrary in the opening episode.
To add insult to injury, Ray has to listen to one of Shoshanna’s conquests describing a promiscuous, weed-smoking girl he barely recognises, Adam’s sister Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) bites him, David leaves him a bloodied mess after the most pathetic bar-fight ever, and then his heartfelt admission to her that he can’t be her friend is met with utter indifference by his ex-girlfriend. Through Ray and his experiences at the party, we see just how much Shoshanna has changed – and not for the better. (Although her comment about how little her friends have achieved in three years since leaving college was hilariously spot-on.)
Overall, Ray finds himself at a crossroads. He can’t let go of a girl a decade his junior who he still has deep feelings for, while simultaneously staring into the abyss of becoming a grown-up boss having to make grown-up decisions.
Aside from the horror of being forced to sing in public – Lena Dunham’s face here is a picture of perfect horror – Hannah has a good week, at least until the episode’s final scene.
She continues to be happy with Adam, unhesitatingly inviting Caroline to take their spare room despite his warnings and objections. She has a good time at her party, not making the evening all about her even though on this occasion it really is all about her. And she loves Adam’s present of a necklace bearing one of his own teeth. When all is well in Hannah’s life, she can be a genuinely nice person. Obviously, it will never last.
The most likely catalyst for the inevitable downward spiral is Caroline, who creeps out even Adam, which is saying something.
She starts out fine and then she’ll flush all your fish down the toilet because they need to be free.
Caroline is apparently the victim of physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, but that notwithstanding she is clearly the kind of emotionally needy person who sucks the life out of any person she is close to. Adam has seen it all before but Hannah only begins to realise quite how unstable she is when she encounters her in her bathroom, half-naked and crushing a glass in her hand until it shatters. How long will it take her to drive a wedge between Hannah and Adam, bringing out the worst in both of them?
Back to its best
While others have raved about the first two episodes, I was lukewarm about them – good but not great. This, though, was Girls back to its best in an episode which pushed both Ray and Adam to the fore alongside Marnie at her most selfish and unlikable. The series retains its ability to shock but uses it sparingly (a bottom-less Caroline in the bathroom) in a half-hour which piled on one painfully realistic and awkward moment after another in rapid order.
Girls isn’t really a comedy any more – I’m not entirely sure it ever was – but when it hits that magic combination where its characters behaviour leaves viewers simultaneously appalled, embarrassed and laughing out loud is when it’s at its very best. This was so nearly perfect – all that was missing was a killer line from Jessa, who sadly uttered barely a word throughout.
Girls continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 10pm.