Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's just like, I watched Midnight in Paris, and I thought, I was like, I could do that.

The airing of Girls' first season coincided with alarming shifts in my own life, and engaging with the show - critically and otherwise - mostly otherwise - was a positive aspect of that. Things got markedly worse after the finale aired. I didn't believe there was any kind of causal relationship there, but I have been looking forward to the second season with more than the usual verve. I couldn't access the Golden Globes, but that did not keep me from going fifty shades of bananas over both wins for Lena Dunham and Girls. I'm glad to have this thing that is pure fun back in my life.

Girls, Episode Eleven, "It's About Time"

It is.

The opening shot echoes the pilot, when Marnie and Hannah woke up together, spooning, grumbling awake and inarticulately groping for the alarm. That kind of sub-psychic, pre-verbal exchange was very appropriate for Marnie and Hannah, but here Hannah wakes up, and she is little spoon to Elijah's big spoon. She was Marnie's big spoon before. That's no coincidence.

Her exchange with Elijah - her college boyfriend who has since come out as gay - is in complete sentences. Last season, they reunited under deceptivly civil pretences that disintegrated around her accusing him of giving her HPV and his admission that their relationship had been founded on his denial of his homosexuality. Now they're getting to know each other again. There is still a little politeness left, at least in as far as there is still a chance for one to make the other think they are a certain way - better, an improvement upon their college selves. He says, "I'm sorry I have a boner. It's not for you." I'll touch on this (pun intended?) more with regards to Adam, but after last season - with Hannah adventuring into her relationship with Adam while her friendship with Marnie was reduced to such rote "you're this way, I'm that way"-ness that their arguments transcended verbal transactions and became pure "I can't even" (it's been so dismissed, but there is a lot going on in their final fight scene, especially when Marnie talks about Hannah's "shameful secret" - it doesn't land because it doesn't make sense because they don't communicate anymore, they just press each other's buttons) - this episode forecasts the prioritization of honesty and plainness. Hannah would rather his boner not be for her, that's why she can enjoy being his little spoon - as opposed to last season, she knows where she stands.

Shoshanna ritually cleanses her apartment - which, perhaps for new roommate Marnie's influence, is still hyper-feminine but a touch more realized as a living space. It's still mostly a bedroom, but now I understand how it's an apartment and not just a bedroom, specifically a bedroom in a Delia's catalog. Lena Dunham made reference to the Delia's catalog in the season one, episode six commentary and I thought that was a sharp detail. The scene in this episode, with Shoshanna waving some kind of smoke-emitting wand around her bed, is dreamy, her movements are very dancerly, and from casual viewing distance, I could not tell if she was speaking her lines or if they were a voice-over. Shoshanna thanks the universe for the gifts she has "all ready received," including "a keen mathematical mind." This is occasion to wonder something I wonder about anyone I know who is or was a student: what does Shoshanna study? Is she an aspiring engineer? I hope.

At least part of the reason she performs her ritual is to request that the universe, in addition to illuminating the path best suited for her, might destroy Ray. It's great - I don't feel like I have to catch up. Shoshanna's prayer is perfectly in context with her approach to the journey to sexual maturity. I feel caught up. I love Shoshanna-logic.

The first sight of Marnie this season is of her being laid off. Laid off as it is distinct from being fired* - Marnie can be safely let go by her boss - who last season called her a "power house" and "Jackie O." - because Marnie will land on her feet. Since her boss had sex with the other employee, who was glimpsed and established as inept in a blink last season, she can't risk a lawsuit. This rhymes humorously with Hannah's last-season attempt to manage her boss' sexual harassment so that it might work to her advantage. Hannah's boss did not want to let go of Hannah because, despite her madness, she demonstrated the potential to be a good worker. Marnie's boss is comfortable letting her go because Marnie has demonstrated that she is a good worker.

Marnie's boss then asks her into a boutique so she can try on scuba-fabric pants that Marnie can appraise as crazy or otherwise. This is bad. Anything as bad as this could drive Marnie back into the arms of her estranged best friend, but the fact that Hannah maintained a sense of control and accountability over her employment-fiasco now looks enviable to Marnie, and Marnie does not wear envy well. She would be wise to acknowledge that Hannah is equipped to deal with this kind of setback and therefore accept that she needs Hannah's help, but Marnie is not wise. She is the kind of person who has let someone think she doesn't have to be worried about to the extent that her take on scuba-pants is asked for and expected moments after she is rendered unemployed.

* - I understand Marnie's conflation of being laid off versus being fired because she's hurt, and I don't know how it differs across states, but in my experience, those are not things to actively confuse. To wit, many reviewers of this episode took for granted that Marnie's boss was herself sugar-coating a firing, which is not quite a thing. If there were just cause to fire Marnie - if she spilled Yoohoo on a print, even a lesser print - I don't believe her boss would have spared a second in firing her.

Before that, Donald Glover ("I was like 25 when I found out that my name was Donglover! I was a grown man...I paid bills. I was surprised no bullies ever put two and two together.") has arrived! "You've wanted it and now you're getting it," he says. A canny observation! Many reviewers have stated how much of his appearance in this episode comes off as meta. Within the context of the episode and its titular reference to time, Hannah could not have been waiting for long for him, specifically, but she was aware mid-first-season of the necessity of a man who was interested in her and respected her, and for all the sensibility she espouses, I can't imagine Hannah not leaping into the physical side of things with abandon enough to feel, in that moment, here he is, I have been waiting.

Re: that sensibility. Glover's character, Sandy, pursues Hannah through Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in a rom-com inspired vision of a nerd date. "I'm so glad I ran into you at Grumpy's," he tells her. She says, "I'm so glad you accepted that thing that I claimed was a macchiato but was really three kinds of syrup and SODA WATER." He loves, he says, how weird she is, and she shuts him down for saying love. She vows that she will not be the person she was with Adam with him, adding a telling, stray detail. Although she says she won't show up at his house in the middle of the night, which was something Hannah despaired of doing with Adam, as it exposed so much weakness and willingness to be taken for granted, she also says she won't throw a party and introduce him to her friends. She told Adam she didn't want him to meet her friends, either. She has not wholly changed as a result of Adam, although she wants to enjoy thinking that that is the case exactly. Sandy points out that none of her initiatives are about who she is, though - they are about who Adam is. Hannah does not fully agree with him until later in a hopeful moment. Still, before that, there is much more!

The jovial scene with Sandy, lit with the storefront window, is juxtaposed with the dark of Adam's room, lit by a TV he is ignoring. Hannah is rapt, looking unguarded. So far, this episode levels-up her scantily-clad-ness significantly, nudity not-even-withstanding. Hannah is not dressing in the interest of anybody but herself. Even though her clothes have been mismatched and ill-fitting, her outfits have at least looked considered, very likely with the intent to avoid remarks from Marnie. Now Hannah doesn't have to worry about that. She doesn't have to worry about appealing to Adam. She isn't worried about being sized-up by others for work right at this moment. As fleetingly as that might change, all the more reason to say whatever and wear short-shorts and loafers.

Hannah is a fan of musicals. My mom watches the show because Hannah reminds her of me. Any resemblance that may be observed, henceforth, will dwell in the shadow of this. She knows I have a phobia of musicals. I'm going to pivot a disclaimer on this revelation and say that if I'm wrong about everything, it's because this quality in a person (loving musicals) is one that I lack the equipment to comprehend and maybe I'm missing or wrong about every point ever in regard to Girls.

Hannah is still hanging out with Adam because she feels responsible for the leg that he broke - femur and all, it seems - when he was hit by a car while screaming at her, an occasion sparked by Hannah's blithe dismissal of the deep well of his love and commitment. She acknowledges plainly that they are no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, a status she once coveted beyond her ability to articulate it. She did not think that she was headed toward a relationship with him and was constantly embarrassed and ashamed with the force of her desire for him, but after forcing the issue of his remoteness when they saw each other at the Buschwick party, it did not take long for Adam's desire to overwhelm Hannah. Now when she points out they are no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, he says he doesn't care about labels. "You're here all the time. You're my main hang. If you need to not have the title for a while I'm not going to freak out." When Hannah tries to say it's not about the title, Adam defends their well-documented, voracious sex life. He says he's never known someone so well and assumes she has not either. In this respect, I think he is underestimating the reserve of knowledge of humans Hannah has as a result of her years with Marnie.

An aside: in any scene where Hannah watches Marnie while she talks, I think about the remark - I can't remember where I read it - about how when Nietzsche wrote about the human condition, he overwhelmingly had Wagner in mind because their every interaction - to use the parlance of our times - was so WTF.

I would have a hard time believing that in this scene, Hannah isn't thinking about the time Marnie said Hannah's never been loved "this much" compared to the way Marnie herself was loved by her ex, Charlie. The only person who ever loved Hannah that much, Marnie is quick to amend, is her. "I came. You came hard. We all laughed. What's the issue?" Adam asks. She says he isn't nice to her. "When you love someone," he says, "you don't have to be nice all the time."

It is a quack remark, but it is Adam's most vulnerable moment yet. Not treating Hannah with respect is wrong, but he is a person for whom the ability to be emotionally honest - which may never have been the case ever in his life - is vital. He has a good reason to be angry with her, but his inability to confront that is caught up in this sentiment. She hurt him and he can tell her that, and the freedom he has to tell her she's messed up and the fact that she can take it and demonstrate some resilience, makes the issue of parting ways not so cut and dry as it might be for other people. Hannah gets back on the bed, but she does not get comfortable. She was honest with him, and it didn't get her anywhere. After so much going along in order to see what happens, speaking up might seem like magic, but it's not.

The next scene reinforces their communication breakdown. Unfortunately, it is only for the sake of a pee-gag. Maybe this is cracked, but even though it was his anger with Hannah that compelled Adam into the street where the truck hit him, I do not fully buy that Hannah is moved purely by guilt for Adam's injuries as much as she is moved by the tectonic force of how personally he took her shrug at their romance. She can't quit this adventure. When she dismisses the chance to talk after her moans about how much pain he's in and misses his refuse-pot, I think she's less guilt-ridden and more fascinated.

Back to Marnie. Marnie needs to see Matt Weiner's therapist. In the commentaries for Mad Men, Weiner makes frequent references to his therapist and cites that he stole a line of Trudy's from one of their sessions. Specifically, in reference to his mother, Weiner's therapist said, "Don't go to the well. There's no water there." So Marnie has done a thing she has clearly done an unquantifiable number of times, each time believing the results will be genuinely beneficial if not at least just maybe different, and they never are: Marnie goes to her mom for love and support.

Marnie's mom is everything I could have dreamed and more. The first thing she goes for is Marnie's appearance, specifically how her weight loss has aged her. Marnie defends herself and identifies where this impulse comes from. She also points out how her mom isn't eating the lunch she's ordered. Her mom has, since the start of the scene, demonstrated that she is aware that Marnie has lost her job. She demands Marnie look at it a different way - as a transition - instead of validating any bad feelings she might have, recognize what a blow it is, or ask her if she's thought of a solution before offering any potential ones. She is also aware of Marnie's break-up and says nothing about it, despite Marnie's openness about how it is a factor in her stress. Her mom airs a few choice hints at how her relationship with a cater-waiter is going. Marnie is in no mood. Her mom dismissively concludes that Marnie is not ready to be friends with her. I have such conviction that this is not a new thing, how she wants to be "friends" with Marnie. She has, I am certain, gifted Marnie complex on top of complex about how she is not a good friend, hence the monster she is today. But Marnie's mom says if they were really friends, Marnie wouldn't hurt her, because surely Marnie doesn't talk to her friends like this. "I talk to my friends way worse than this," Marnie says. This is ammunition. Marnie is reinforcing exactly what her mom thinks about her. Her mom has no sense of boundaries between them, leaving Marnie with no choice but to be all-or-nothing with others: either she puts up a wall or treats people like her own limbs.

The banter between Hannah and Elijah comes off as a riff on the sitcom format but works as a reference to the mediated ideal they have about being in a good friendship. Elijah's toxicity has been glimpsed cumulatively, and the viewers know Hannah well enough. In order to try being friends and make the best of their situation, they're going to try what they've learned, and they are both people who have learned a lot from media. This scene's reference to Midnight in Paris, therefore, is apt ("It's just like, I watched Midnight in Paris, and I thought, I was like, I could do that." - YES). They both observe the places they've found themselves in here. Elijah is willing to embrace being a kept guy to see how it goes. Hannah is prioritizing her independence over Sandy. But Elijah is very much into the idea of playing with his identity, more so than Hannah who takes the idea of a salon to the extrapolation of the Manson family, pre-murder.

Her unfamiliarity with the French salon - as she initially confuses it with a hair salon - has been the subject of contention. I maintain that regardless of whether or not someone could have made it through a writing-focused liberal arts education without encountering the salon, people let things like that slide all the time until it's too late. I was absent the day my class watched the hygiene film on our changing bodies. Since my parents took it for granted that I would have been alerted of coming events in school, my period was an absolute surprise. Hannah is also clearly adept at cultivating an air of comprehensive understanding with no basis in real knowledge, and that is something all English majors definitely learn.

Shoshanna's "Hello. Goodbye." to Ray, how scorned she is, so seriously and with such flare - I have never had such affection for a character. She might get overwhelmed with her emotions, she might analyze them though an encyclopedic-in-scope lens of self-help cliches, but she respects how she feels and it looks like that is only increasing.

In one great move, Charlie is back and still the same person Marnie parted ways with only to fall apart upon discovering he rebounded. His new girlfriend, Audrey, is feeling the quicksand-squeeze of Charlie's trademark "smothering love." Audrey's unhappiness over Marnie's presence is a double boon for Marnie after catching Charlie up to the very behavior that caused their relationship to crash. This is her high point. This might be her high point for a while.

Shoshanna does all sorts of things alone that make it difficult not to want to cross the room and be with her. She is shot through a row of heads karaokeing to Sean Paul. Before the cut, she clears her throat. Although I am excited to find out what Marnie has to say to Hannah, I suspect that Shoshanna's throat-clearing was an overture to some light shaming over the crowd's inability to respect her science.

Hannah, feeling like "a stupid sailor nun," disrobes with Marnie, seeking her approval of the dress she changes into, just like her boss wanted Marnie's eye on her scuba pants. Marnie is the one with the rules. Marnie asks about their closeness during this scene, which is so much like their more typical moments together - if not according to the series, necessarily, according to Hannah's pilot-lament about how Marnie always sees her naked and Hannah never sees Marnie naked. Hannah balks that there is a genuine, from-within difference in their closeness. Tangibly, she's busy,  they don't live together. I think when Marnie asks whether or not they're okay, Hannah's reaction is genuine surprise and a little bit of pleasure. Marnie takes Hannah's accessibility for granted. It's not a shining moment for Hannah, but she is in such a position of power with regards to Marnie and Adam now, she must feel pretty alive.

Elijah's George could have been more poetic about his discontent. He hates the party and bemoans the passing of Studio 54 days, but I would have been up for a full-on paint-me-a-picture of the Last Days of Disco. I love those halcyon visions of New York. An aside: my boyfriend and I recently watched Vampire's Kiss, where Nicolas Cage plays a literary agent who suffers a psychotic break and believes he's a vampire. It is like a horror movie parody of a Whit Stillman film. I can't believe it's real.

I love the way Lena Dunham will flourish a scene with a physical comedy Easter egg sometimes. The scene where she escorts George down the street only to ricochet back to her apartment is such a pleasure because she does it with such abandon.

No words for this, just respect:

Marnie's experienced a high, and now she will scrounge and debase herself for another. She bates sad Charlie, whose Audrey has stamped out of the boring party, only to reexperience Charlie's tedium. She does her classic big-gulp of white whine last seen at Jessa's wedding.

The confrontation between Shoshanna and Ray would have been worth a wait of years. Shoshanna perfectly defines how his dismissal of her is not what she wants in someone in her life. I wonder what she did mean by sending Ray the emoji sequence of a panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift. I love that Shoshanna had so much spilling over inside of her it came out in that form, in texts to him, and he didn't understand it, so it was easy for him to shrug. She shoots down his attempt to be clever. I think if Shoshanna says something is not funny, Ray might bristle, but he will take that to heart. He's seen how all by herself, she'll pick up a solo cup and air-spin for nobody's entertainment but her own. He acknowledges how irresistible and magnetic and sincere she is, how he recognizes it instantly when he's around her, but that does nothing for Shoshanna. She is resolute. And the kiss for which Ray spins her around and spills beer on all the bags is everything Shoshanna deserves in her visions of movie romance.

Hannah pops into Adam's to deposit supplies and uses Elijah's fascist sass campaign (that she made up) as an excuse to not watch Bagger Vance. Or Bagger Vance extras. If the musical was Hannah's choice, I wonder if Bagger Vance was Adam's. He has dark recesses that are as yet unexplored and I expect the worst of these might be movies. Hear me out: viewers are led to assume he is well-read. I would wager that Adam's background as a reader is extensive, but his viewing habits are all sentimental and awful and made all the more strange by his demonstrated appreciation for dealing with serious subjects dramatically.

Adam tells Hannah he'll die without her. I love that this stirring admission - albeit tempered by his craziness - that she is the best thing in his life would have been the logical, satisfactory conclusion to the fantasies that compelled Hannah to continue being with him. I love that she perceives her behavior heretofore as selfless. I think it is a case of defense mechanisms clouding one's ability to rationally deal with situations. I do not drink the kool-aid of "self-absorption." Hannah knows when all she has is a quip, but much of what she says is to keep the other person away from a rhythm that might lead their conversation to viscerally wound her. No way to function, but I find "doesn't care about anyone but herself" to be hopelessly reductive under any circumstance.

Elijah and Marnie karaoke, brutally smashed. Despite their coziness, Marnie maintains her way of dealing with Elijah as she has always - she is brittle and smarmy all at once. He considers being aroused by Marnie and their exchange is remarkable. She rebuffs him sharply, there's a lot of name-calling, and the tension escalates into them both getting Hannah-level naked. I love how feral and cold and grabby they got so abruptly, and that it ends in mutual accusations of bitchiness. When she consoles him for his fallen erection, advising him that he doesn't have to be anything he's not, he warns her not to pretend she is what she isn't, either.

Cut to the grandiose self-delusion that one Thomas-John, shell necklace and all, is wafting through while speaking some grossly absurd fake insult Spanish and shepherding new wife Jessa to a cab. The cab was actually called by somebody else, but Thomas-John explains their impertinence with the excuse that he and Jessa are Mexican, so they don't understand the rules. "No have-o." I screamed. What a tramp! Jessa tries to direct the cabbie to their residence, but she doesn't know their address. She pushes his hand off her as they kiss but does not stop laughing. She has a boner but it's not for him. I wonder how honesty will assert itself in that relationship.

This glimpse into Jessa's new life is quick, but she was in the cab in the pilot, too. Asleep, she woke up and was surprised to have reached her destination so fast and said so with some weariness. Here, she looks delighted to be back in pursuit, with no destination in mind.

Now, about time: the events depicted in this episode, far from representing potentially disparate moments in a real chronology (strictly speaking: Hannah's tryst with Sandy, Marnie's layoff, Jessa's honeymoon, Shoshanna's ritual cleanse), are happening fairly concurrently. But instead of "that time Charlie performed an entry from Hannah's diary onstage" or "that time Jessa had a surprise wedding," the four main characters are not sharing any of these experiences. In the future, when Shoshanna retrieves this time anecdotally, Marnie might not know what she's referring to until she realizes that was the week she lost her job. If there are any "standing in a line" moments this season, with Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna all observing something together, I can see them being endowed with much self-aware nostalgia, at which point one of them might realize it's a time they are nostalgic for, maybe not a person, and considering who those people are with whom they spent that time, it comes down then to this person in this new time, and do they fit? Who will seem extraneous? Does the clip from the commercial - a dinner party where Hannah has to chose between the presence of Marnie and Audrey - foreshadow anything?

While Marnie crawls into bed with Charlie under the pretense of being sad - she was rejected by Hannah, after all, which is a mighty blow for her - Hannah turns up at Sandy's, just like she said she would not. But he is happy to see her. He retrieves the copy of the Fountainhead she has asked for - a pretense I hope he saw through after the scene cut out - while she waits, disrobed, on his bed.

And now the viewer waits.

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