This week on Girls … Hannah is called to her dying grandmother’s bedside. Adam races to his injured girlfriend’s side. And cousin Rebecca should probably never be allowed outside.
Girls: The Previous Generation
For the second time this season we have a Hannah-centric episode focussing on how she deals with death. But, unlike Dead Inside, Hannah swaps her friends for her mother and her sisters, and eventually experiences a more visceral reaction to the death of someone close to her.
Hannah is summoned home when her grandmother Flo develops pneumonia. She has to deal with her mother Loreen and her bickering sisters Sissy and Margot, and the latter’s daughter Rebecca.
From the outset it’s clear that Hannah has a genuine soft spot for her grandmother as she recounts fond childhood memories to Adam. However, Flo’s three daughters are less enamoured, both with their mother and with each other.
Hannah’s mum Loreen rues the fact that she will now never have the conversation with her mother that leads to a breakthrough in their relationship and that she ruined her sisters’ lives. She, Sissy and Margot spend their entire time bickering, dividing up Flo’s drugs, marking up her possessions with Post-it Notes and squabbling over who should get her engagement ring. Familiarity has bred contempt.
Their behaviour is petty and unsettling for Hannah, and made worse because there are echoes of her and her own friends here. Sissy’s New Age values are reminiscent of Jessa‘s bohemian nature, Margot is as highly strung as Marnie and her daughter, doctor-in-training Rebecca, bears a striking resemblance in character to Shoshanna.
In the midst of it all, Hannah seems almost – almost – polite and sensible. The self-centredness that ruled her reaction (or lack thereof) to her editor’s death is toned right down as she tries to restore calm and rebuild bridges with the hostile Rebecca, who has held a grudge ever since Hannah told her the truth about her father’s imprisonment for insider trading.
The pair’s night out at a bar starts badly and rapidly deteriorates. Rebecca is rude enough that when she admits she doesn’t have many friends, Hannah’s response of, “I wish that surprised me more” seems less spiky and more justified that it might have done in other circumstances. And when Rebecca adds that, “writers are this ridiculous class of people who just make everything about themselves”, while entirely accurate about her cousin, just comes across as downright bitchy.
Ultimately, with Hannah showing uncharacteristic restraint, Rebecca refuses to stop texting while driving and crashes into a parked car. Adam, despite being in the middle of his first week of rehearsals, drops everything, borrows Desi’s bike and races to the hospital to discover that she’s merely bumped and bruised.
Three little words
Despite his exasperated response – “Don’t only text me ‘car crash’, okay?” – this episode sees Adam at his sweetest, stating at the outset that he misses Hannah even when she’s gone for just a night, shrugging off the sisters’ spiteful argument with a casual “it’s like enchilada night at my parent’s house” and playing along with the engagement white lie to Flo, drawing the following words of wisdom from her:
Some day you will look at him hating him with every fibre of your being, wishing that he would die the most violent death possible. It will pass.
And yet, with just three words he also forces the viewer to re-evaluate his relationship with Hannah. Prior to the car crash, Loreen begs Hannah to tell Flo she and Adam are getting married to make her happy. An awkward phone conversation ensues in which Hannah and Adam dance around each other fishing for a reaction, with Adam eventually stating, “I’m very committed to you at this time.” Neither of them are ready to get married, but it’s Adam who raises the possibility that they might not be together forever.
Again, we see the potential end-point of their relationship hoving into view. As does Loreen, who advises Hannah against trying to socialise Adam. She’s right too. No matter how hard Hannah tries to change him, he is who he is, and with his acting career taking off he may be changing too fast for her to keep up with.
The sting in the tail
Just when everyone has assumed that Flo is heading for death, she recovers and is soon eating cheese sandwiches. The near miss forces the sisters to agree to Sissy’s suggestion that they stay closer – an ending which felt a little too pat after everything that had gone before. But any such niggles are forgotten when Hannah arrives back in New York, only to receive a call from Rebecca telling her Flo has died and she needs to come straight back.
Hannah stands frozen in the middle of the street as the world bustles around her. Unlike her reaction to David’s death, where Hannah the writer suffered from a lack of emotional reaction, here it is Hannah the person who is affected, and her reaction is that of someone who has been punched in the gut.
Flo continues a strong run of recent episodes, pulling Hannah out of the cocoon of her city life and stripping away her relationship with her friends to focus on her, her family and Adam. After all the negativity that has surrounded Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna recently, I found I didn’t miss them at all. A sharply observed character piece, beautifully written.
Girls continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 10pm.