This week on Girls … Hannah is called out by everyone for her lack of grief over her editor’s death. Marnie continues to regress. And Jessa gets a glimpse of what might have been.
After three episodes which have shared the focus out over the other characters, this week’s story is all about Hannah. But first let’s take a quick look at the episode’s two B-plots.
The spoilt princess
On the surface, Marnie appears to be sorting her life out. She’s exercising, eating well and listening to self-help books. However, below the façade her life’s in flux as she continues to regress into a universe in which she believe she not only deserves better but is entitled to it. Her rant at Ray which causes her to quit her job at Grumpy’s might be seen as empowering had it not been accompanied by a petulant outburst in which it is clear that she considers herself superior and destined for better things: “No one wants to work here … Fancy people want to work with me.”
Marnie has always been the most superficial of the girls, with few likeable traits. But every episode this season has served only to paint her in an increasingly unlikeable light.
The path not taken
Jessa discovers that Susan, a friend and former addict she thought was dead, is actually alive – her family fabricated her death because they considered Jessa an ‘enabler’ to her addiction. She goes to visit her, and discovers she is now living in an uptown brownstone with a husband and a young child. It’s the perfect picture of domesticity and an indication of what might have been in her brief marriage to Thomas-John.
Rather than viewing it as an opportunity missed, though, Jessa seems to regard it as a path she was right not to take. Her cutting comment to Susan – “none of this is going to work out for you” – and her enigmatic smile as she walks away are as much a self-affirmation of her own lifestyle choices as a prediction for Susan’s future.
Feeling? What feeling?
We had a meeting and then he had to reschedule the meeting because he was dead, and that’s why he didn’t come.
Which brings us to Hannah and her response to the shocking news that her editor, David Pressler-Goings, is dead, having been found floating in the Hudson and prompting a typically pun-worthy Gawker headline: ‘Goings, Goings, Gone’. But instead of mourning – or at least pretending to mourn – the death of her friend and mentor, Hannah defaults to her natural self-centredness, fretting about what is to become of her e-book.
Everyone calls her out on her lack of emotional response as she measures the importance of David’s death in terms of online obituaries and the resulting deluge of trite comments on social media as she airily talks about “we in the literary community” without a hint of irony. Jessa calls her “callous and disconnected”. Adam trashes the importance she places in Gawker and wonders why she can’t grieve quietly. (In a case of life imitating art imitating life, a quick scan of the race to post witty and/or heartfelt reactions to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman yesterday underlines Adam’s general disgust.) Ray observes that he feels more about the death than Hannah does, despite his only contact being last week’s scuffle in which David left him with a bloody nose.
Finally, Caroline – a girl so detached from conventional modes of behaviour that she merrily turns cartwheels in a graveyard – spins a fictitious yarn about a cousin Margaret who died of multiple sclerosis aged 12. Even though she believes the tale, Hannah does not so much as furrow a brow while listening, while her neighbour Laird is reduced to racking sobs behind her. Only when she later recycles Margaret’s story for Adam does she begin to show a flicker of emotion.
It’s not that David’s death has left Hannah feeling numb. It’s not even that she immediately worries about herself, in particular the future for the book in which she places all her self-worth. Hannah simply feels nothing unless she can relate it to herself and the telling of stories. She has become so involved with her inner voice that it seems she is no longer affected by the mundanity of real life, whether it be a long road trip or the death of someone close to her. She truly is dead inside.
There’s a certain refreshing honesty about Hannah’s reaction to events here, even though it makes her even less likeable as a person. Being unable to automatically tap into grief (or any strong emotion) is far from uncommon and hardly a sin. Hannah’s crime here is that she won’t fake the reaction that society expects of her, on one of the few occasions where deception is considered superior to honesty.
It’s telling that she articulates her biggest concern as “I just don’t want to be considered a monster for caring what happens to my work”, rather than what people will think of her for not mourning David’s death. Like many writers before her, Hannah only truly comes alive in the world she creates and has become somewhat detached from real people and events, even her closest friends.
With its four leads becoming poorer examples of human beings by the episode, Girls is becoming increasingly difficult and uncomfortable to watch. But that doesn’t make it any less true. A superior episode from an increasingly dark and depressing series.
Girls continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 10pm.