Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Endorphins don't work on me.

So much prowess was on display in this episode. With all the care and intricate detail that was laid in order for these characters to come alive as they have, I'm so glad the characters are shrugging off their newness with the audience and, even as they reinforce all ready classic behaviors (the kind of thing only achievable in under ten episodes by some fierce writing), flourish beyond them.

Girls, Episode Eight, "Weirdos Need Girlfriends, Too"

I love Hannah getting loved.

Though woefully sans-Shoshanna, this episode was a feat of writing that demonstrated such a comprehensive understanding of the characters as people that in its spareness, it was fucking arresting. Technically, all that happened was that Hannah and Adam were a couple, doing intimate couply things, albeit with a Hannah and Adam bent, and Adam blew up about a play he was involved in. This is while Marnie wallows and Jessa serendipitously appears to pull her out of her post-Charlie trance with a night out, the kind with drinking and a bewilderingly sobering affect. Both little dances take the relationships - one established and one nascent - into lands delightfully unknown.

Not only has Hannah and Adam's relationship been developing since episode one, the shock and real skill of its development as such has gotten tidal: he didn't seem like an every-episode kind of character, and his kind did not seem one in which someone - anyone - would consider very deeply or use for a positive end, because he is a momentous person in such polarizing ways that the critical distance Dunham's maintained in his rendering is an achievement like I've never seen and, I believe very strongly, a singular one. Meanwhile, her other relationships - though they're brought to life in ways so subtle and psychic that their characterizations become as intricate as a Wes Anderson set - are put through pretty typical trials, and so far have existed only to expositionally establish who Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are to her. Even the role Hannah plays in the demise of Marnie's relationship isn't exactly a facet of the development of their friendship: it reinforces things that, even four episodes in, were all ready obvious about the way they treat each other. In the first episode, when Jessa arrives, she submits her take on Marnie's controlling behavior and it is acknowledged that Marnie and Jessa know each other and one is on to the other's bollocks. This is the first time since they've been candid with each other about it.

After Hannah and Adam take off - in a hail of filthy sex-talk and a shining moment of Adam endearing himself to Marnie (which beautifully reinforces her casual annoyance with Hannah, so easily transferred from the spite she needled Adam with at the end of the last episode from high atop her cab) - Marnie is left alone in the apartment to cry and look at Facebook updates about Charlie's trip to Rome with his new girlfriend. As per my hopes and dreams regarding the end of last week's episode, Hannah and Adam are official, and Jessa is unemployed. She comes around - outstanding monologue about chafing in tow - looking for Hannah, hoping for consolation and solidarity in the face of her newfound joblessness, but finds only miserable Marnie. Jessa takes in her despair with patience before declaring that Marnie is absolutely ravishing, "a striking and classic beauty in the vein of Brooke Shields." To which Marnie says, "I've never been so miserable in my life." To which Jessa says, "It's totally working." She goes on to acknowledge that Marnie's terminal uptightness is disconcerting and Marnie admits that being inside her own head is exhausted. I do hope she's headed for some torrential fall from the oxygen-weary peak upon which she's fastened her self-perception. In keeping with the haunting notion of unsustainability, Marnie hints at how impossible it is getting to be to maintain herself. Also, she reveals - after they've unwound each other enough to go out for drinks - that she lost her virginity in a very meticulously planned ceremony when she was fourteen. This fact shocks Jessa, who seems barely comfortable - and maybe only in the aftershock - to divulge that she was seventeen. Because it took a long time for her to grow breasts, "and sex without breasts is creepy." This reigning in the anxiety loosed by the reveal of sensitive info is very Hannah-esque and I can see why they're friends (not only for this example, for many like it). Jessa's dynamic with regard to Marnie is fascinating: the viewer has seen Jessa be vulnerable, but in small ways that are easily played off. Her manipulations, however, are theatrical and easy to catch. But when she praises Marnie for her beauty, by a very outright admission, it is not a manipulative gesture - it is what Jessa has to give, and she gives it unabashedly. By the time they're drinking, she's plainly, really talking, which, within the context of this show, often becomes brilliantly terrifying. Another round is served to them, but neither has ordered more. Compliments, the bartender reveals, of the man from Ireland at the end of the bar.

In fact, so beautifully, Chris O'Dowd plays an American here, in from a long hard day of venture capitalism and ready to engage a hyper-willing Marnie and disappointed, leery Jessa in some smarm the likes of which are nothing short of transcendent. Even the stifling of his accent is funny and lends to the air of shadiness that is played committedly for laughs and not for the bleak place it could have easily been taken. This incident reminds me of an identical night out with a friend - who I've mentioned - who reminds me inextricably of Jessa. I was in a Marnie-esque depression. I was presented with an occasion almost immediately to exercise the new recklessness and embrace of fun that she inspired in me, and only later did I realize that she'd wanted to bond, she wanted empathy, and I got up and left her to do something absurd and frankly dangerous. By virtue of his equal opportunity flirting, both girls go to his apartment, where he enables Marnie to use the bathroom free of self-consciousness by "spinning" while she uses it. He is concocting a mash-up LP and the ridiculous tunes happen across his very expensive rug, across which he gropes both girls - Marnie, totally into it, more than willing, and Jessa, abjectly repulsed and discouraging. Marnie attempts to set Jessa's mind at ease by kissing her, but Jessa rejects O'Dowd's attempt to get involved. Jessa's references to lesbians have been bandied about as foreshadowing, and while I would be more than fine with that, I think Jessa - based on what she's given the viewer, i.e. her very familiar kiss to the mother of her ex-charges - has an easier time with women, and can be more open and expressive and less pressed to show off her unsmoteability. I think there would be more tension if she was, say, secretly dying to kiss Marnie, if only for the sake of her resemblance to Brooke Shields (O'Dowd's likening Jessa to Julie Christie does earn him a "good reference"), whereas within this context, it was a little relief that she wasn't being totally abandoned and shut out by Marnie in a potentially threatening situation (for all his harmlessness, they were in his apartment, after all, and nobody knew where they were). It's also a sign, since Marnie isn't that cunning, that even if only for the moment, Jessa had Marnie under her sway. For all her eagerness to buy what O'Dowd is selling, in the end, it's Marnie's shock at being felt that propels her wine glass out of her hand and the wine across his expensive rug. He has a breakdown and explains in a monologue - that unleashes his accent - about how hard and how much he works and how he's trying to have fun, but he has sacrificed for everything he has and he can detect that they have done nothing like that, and he is insulted by their lack of respect for his hospitality. He demands to be "balls deep in something" as a result, and Jessa has to drag Marnie away. Who was the fourteen-year-old and who was the seventeen-year-old becomes perfectly apparent.

(Also, an aside: the IT Crowd - responsible for raising awareness of Chris O'Dowd's genius - is vital viewing, and it's streaming on Netflix, and may his appearance here tip off Girls fans to it, and may I be able to casually reference it in public to warmth and roomfuls of high-fives.)

Another past referenced heavily in this episode is Adam's. He shows Hannah an old video of himself as a child and takes her to see a rehearsal of a monologue - a real one, on stage, that nevertheless is paralleled by Chris O'Dowd's, with O'Dowd revealing the cockmonster beneath the veneer of the hard-working nice-guy and Adam revealing the sexually insecure and overwhelmed kid beneath the veneer of maybe-a-sex-addict. Adam's monologue is about his adolescence and first hormonally-enhanced crush. Thinking back on what explicitly he says, the words themselves stood the chance at being unremarkable, but Adam Sackler gets the benefit of being as magnetic a performer as Adam Driver.

Like such a romance, the element of sustainability can be a threat (sustainability as it lends itself to unions, you know, not always conducive to romance, particularly of the variety between Hannah and Adam) - and so it is with Adam's mental health. He makes a grand gesture at the end of this episode that I believe belies some energy a healthy person doesn't focus in that way - which is why it's grand and romantic and fun and overwhelming for Hannah, but I am riveted to see if he attempts to get a hold on that, and if he doesn't. Hannah feels a powerful kinship with Adam - as he points out in "Hard Being Easy," neither of them were made for a job in the classic sense, and right now, that's a major source of sensitivity for Hannah, who identified her being "unfit for any and all paying jobs" among her significant baggage in "All Adventurous Women Do." But Hannah's misfit status, although it has very much to do with who she is, deep down, it is also a part of her inability to wield herself and get the most out of her own skills, and she rejects attempts by others to weedle this out of her in contexts she does not feel truly represent her: her ex-office job, her stint at home. But Adam, although he keeps his wits about him with Hannah's help here, ultimately compromising with his investor and following through on his obligation to do the show, almost sabotages everything. He does so under the banner of maintaining integrity, but the sense of a greater compulsion is evident - all cataloged Adam-behavior aside (which, as of this episode, includes him pissing on Hannah - Lena Dunham's scream was among the best things she's done on the show acting-wise, and she is amazing, the scream is SO GOOD), he did make a reference to another rejected show that he shut down because of someone else's attitude in the pilot, and in this episode, he loses his mind. An oncoming car almost hits them, and he puts "I'm walking here" to shame. It is from this incident his grand gesture is born - he doesn't figure he'll happen upon the driver again, so he pastes a load of photocopied "SORRY" signs across the wall by where it happened, not only - obviously - for the driver, but for Hannah, who was witness to his fit and who he used to fuel it ("I'm walking with a fucking woman!").

This is the antepenultimate episode! And I feel I'm in the arms of a master, ready to be cradled into whatever may come. I won't make pronouncements until the end, since my surprise is constant.

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