Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It was a glass cigarette.

Making this both fast and thorough was hard because I'm in an anime K-hole, but I'm glad I did it. This was my favorite episode yet.


Girls, Episode Seven, "Welcome to Bushwick, a.k.a. the Crackcident"

Hannah Horvath: delighting me constantly. I have held off on some firm principles regarding the discussion of Lena Dunham's body, but I want to enthuse with everything I have: I love to watch her do things. The way she wields herself is brilliant. This was the first episode I ever watched on a television as it was airing and not on some kind of VOD. There's a little "and now, an HBO original" blabbity at the beginning and, within it, a little clip of Dunham doing a totally princessish ballet move to the total melting joy of somebody off camera. She's got a look on her face that kills with cuteness. This appeal stands out so sharply in Tiny Furniture that it is 2/3rds of what herded me to watch Girls. And in this episode, Hannah dances again. She danced in episode 3, but here she dances with Adam, in public, with more abandon, with negative inhibition. It was freeing to watch. I've been depressed. Watching her dance practically undid it.

The dancing takes place at a party in Bushwick, where Hannah goes in a wonderful sweater set and happens to spy, while clinging dilettantishly to Marnie - both of them only dabbling in parties of that scale - Adam, bedecked by dykes "all over him like he owns a Home Depot." Jessa is the one who makes this observation as Hannah gawks, but none of them know who he is. She declares, "that's Adam," and Jessa says, "he does sort of look like the original man," and even my boyfriend was won.

My boyfriend has, without much comment - save an unabashed love of Shoshanna - watched every episode with zeal, and before we watched this one together, I went off on a tidy Marnie rant. He counterattacked with some fascinating vitriol about Jessa. Jessa most resembles friends that I have had and loved, even if they weren't brilliant friends - she is just the kind of person someone like me can get into a noncommittal, sub-toxic friendship with and enjoy without taking everything she espouses to heart. My boyfriend characterizes her as one who goes abroad for a semester and returns with deeper wisdom, tours through peoples lives imparting bullshit under the guise of knowing better, and ultimately has no concern whatsoever for people, which via some experience has led him to read those like Jessa as borderline sociopaths.

Jessa gets a text - that she fails to call a "word alert" - at the beginning of the episode from an unknown number asking her what she's up to. Instead of asking who is on the other end, she instead declares she's at the best party ever, "come," and who should appear later but Jeff, the father of the children she babysits, looking absolutely terrified and clutching a bottle of white wine. He appears in the midst of Jessa talking down Shoshanna, but before I plow on:  I can't get over the quiet radiance of the choices made in the writing of their relationship. I think Jessa is making every effort to be genuine and demonstrates how unskilled she is in wielding herself as much as Hannah is, albeit in an inverted way: when Jessa doesn't want to seduce or play upon the expectation of seduction, she doesn't know what she's doing, and that comes out with both parents she works for. Her every interaction with them calls to mind the first one, which I didn't know how to read at the time - the mother gives Jessa instructions and squabbles with her older daughter, Lola, and all Jessa can manage out is a belated "don't worry" after the mother has shut the door. In the episode before last, when she readied herself for her date and the mother walked in on her talking to Jeff alone in the bathroom, Jessa departed by acknowledging her with a euro hello-kiss and dismissing him. That could be manipulative, but I didn't want to believe it, and even though her epiphany is suspect, sure - she is in her early twenties - when Jessa is finally propositioned by Jeff, she is disappointed and discouraged with herself and - more importantly, and more forcefully - with him. This takes place in a grimy clinic after Jessa incited two crusty punks who were offended after Jessa misidentified their subculture AND smashed the loaded wine bottle mere feet from them. They hauled off and beat Jeff who deserved it, but even for the breaking point it brought their precarious friendship to, I'm also glad it brought them to the clinic.

In every episode, in ways very much in the foreground, there's been death, disease, cancer, AIDS, the reality of living on medication, and the lack of grace with which it's handled. Here, Hannah sees Adam at the party, and he spots her. He calls her name, her real name, not "Kid," and all his friends know her name. One of them - Tako - seeks her out as she slinks away - and accidentally outs Adam by asking Hannah if he knows him from AA (when she declines a drink by saying "last time I got drunk I ate all this brie and threw up on my cell phone"). "That's like the main defining thing about him isn't it? That and his love of books." The case has been made for what kind of books and I would like to forsake that hipster nonsense and submit my bid for all Savoy titles. Hannah is whisked away on Adam's bike for a scavenging adventure that ends in her bruised on the ground, an occasion to talk about his unwillingness to disclose such sensitive information. "You never ask," he spits, which is not an appropriate answer - between his elusiveness and shitty listening, it is not surprising that Hannah feels alone in a monologue about self-justification when she's in his apartment. Hannah detects that he isn't on solid ground with his argument and they have a good spar that is crashed by Marnie, riding up in a cab, harping like a school teacher (diagetic comparison, Adam's).

Marnie's night led her immediately to Charlie, playing in a corner with his band that has improved by leaps unseen since the concert in episode four. It also looks like Ray has moved from body percussionist to conductor. He says to her, "It's nice to see your face," and she says, "I thought it might be," perfectly, beautifully, and the fact of her being the worst flushes into total being like the sun's dawning makes the day. "It's good to see you finding satisfaction outside of her relationship" speaks bounds about how she doesn't really believe that's possible. She is shut down by Charlie's energetic new female companion with the glowing query "are you one of those real housewives?" prompting Marnie to spend the duration of the party crying like an idiot.

"She wished for a second self of tears so she would have someone to hold." - Brad Neely, Wizard People

In her hunt for someone to help usher her into some catharsis that includes validating her perception of herself as an "ideal," she spots Elijah, Hannah's gay ex. He listens to what Marnie has to say before dumping some eloquent, torrential spite and coupling it with a bitch slap for which I stood up and cheered. In his own way, he and his "authentic self" are a great foil for Hannah and Marnie, and I hope they keep him around to both upend their willing blindness and to capitalize on the opportunity to examine navigating sexuality from that angle.

Speaking of navigating sexuality: SHOSH. Shoshanna smokes crack, her spirit guide Jessa disappears with Jeff, and no sooner does Ray the relentlessly gross accept that he should keep an eye on her does Shoshanna BOLT. They spend the episode running around, he in a quasi-endearing effort to take care of her that I believe is really only rooted in the real danger of knowing somebody's running around alone and on crack in a strange neighborhood, and she in a blinding high bolstered by inhuman strength. As Slate points out, "Shoshanna has what it takes to become a leader of men." In the end her skirt vanishes, she cold-cocks Ray and apologizes, initiating sheepishly some intimate touching on a cold street - no skirt, all the while. At the same time, elsewhere, Marnie guilts Hannah away from Adam, with whom she's trying to have an argument with real results, and Adam extends to Hannah the question, agitated to screaming: "do you want me to be your boyfriend?" The only answer comes in the form of he, bike jammed over his lap, vised alongside Hannah and Marnie. He and Marnie are quietly livid, and between them, Hannah bursts out in such a smile.

"I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity." - Pulp Fiction

I am amazed and aglow with what this series is becoming, that it is granting so many of my wishes and surprising me with things I didn't know I want desperately, particularly to see Adam Driver do anything and everything. I still dread the idea of encountering any more people like him IRL, but I think the emotional terrain of his and Hannah's relationship is unseen and so vital. There is such a richness to every interaction between them and everybody and I'm excited for next episode to include a Marnie/Jessa outing. NOT TO MENTION A CERTAIN MAN KNOWN AS GENTLE IRISH ROY. If Chris O'Dowd became a series regular in addition to Donald Glover, this would truly be my dreams made manifest.

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