Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paradise wife.

This season, only two episodes in - sweeping pronouncements two episodes in are not my thing, which is why television-recapping itself is not my thing - that is, I cannot consider every new development to be the definitive development, I am overwhelmingly aware of how I'm seeing only links on a chain - there has been talk among those I respect at Dear Television of a heavy shift towards bleakness. In the last season, Hannah got a wake-up call from her internship at a publishing house. This fantasy of living in New York and working in publishing in which she'd been immersed for two years collapsed, and she plunged into the arms of her friends. Because relying on people like Marnie for emotional support is not sustainable, and because she made some headway with Adam and with work at Cafe Grumpy, Hannah was just getting her footing when Marnie reached her breaking point and she shied away from Adam's intensity. Hannah is all-in, and right now her reserves of venom for those who claim to be there for her, even if they aren't cartoon-villainy obvious, are absolutely front and center.

Girls, Episode Twelve, "I Get Ideas"

Elijah's and Marnie's tryst is a terrible secret they must keep from Hannah at all costs, but Elijah does tell George, who seems to sever their relationship. Since George financially supports Elijah, Elijah is poised to retaliate socially just like Hannah has. I have no doubt he will do so with aplomb.

Adam sends Hannah what is later revealed to be an album of songs recorded on video during which he looks - presumably for the length of the album - directly into the camera, devastated. "Standing outside, not making a sound, creeping around, you destroyed my heart. Thanks." Elijah watches the videos with her and in an attempt to be reassuring prompts Hannah to accuse him of believing that Adam did not love her enough to murder her for destroying his heart. So far, Elijah and Hannah's relationship has demonstrated an artificiality that represents the hope that there is a person there to still meet and that they both could turn out to mean other things to each other, which is a very human thing to do. It just happens that these humans are very toxic, and here Hannah is projecting Marnie onto Elijah. I wonder if the sleeping bag she's wearing as an outfit is an attempt to bait a critique of her appearance out of him.

Lena Dunham's mother makes a cameo appearance as an art world persona interviewing Marnie. Two things: 1) I enjoy Laurie Simmons like crazy - her cadence, her observations, everything about her reminds me of my best friend's mother, and 2) I have been in this job interview, and watching this was visceral. Simmons' character knows she's from New Jersey - I wonder if this is on Marnie's resume. I wonder if she has her home address listed in lieu of her own real apartment. These are the details that I prioritize. I am very interested in the job interview as a form or genre. Since I don't believe Simmons' character will recur, I'm sorry the audience won't get to observe whether her stunt - putting her assistant on the spot in front of Marnie for over-steeping her tea - was purely one of establishing dominance or honestly a characteristic of her personality, apart from pretense. But since this is probably the last we'll see of her, I will call it and say she's a crazy person and I'm glad Marnie - even Marnie - won't be in her hands. She acknowledges Marnie's qualifications, how bright she is, her swank Ann Taylor suit, but she "does not see [her] in the art world."

Marnie has words about this that coast over Shoshanna and Ray, who are the picture of postcoital enrapturement. If Shoshanna's pronouncement to Ray that she wishes he could have gone to camp with her was met with anything but the transcendent smile that Ray wears here, I would have reacted with unquantifiable negativity. The subject of their conversation is bathing pigs. Small though it is, this scene, like the others between Ray and Shoshanna, depict a quality of relationship no one else on the show has. Although this is the first moment of them as a genuine couple, they are not talking strictly about one another - they're not projecting or treating each other like other people - they're talking about doing something together. So this decision to bathe pigs is made, of course, as Marnie walks in to extinguish the rapture. She is crushed by the insidious extinction of her dream job. Ray's observation about the number of curators in the world and Shoshanna's counter-observation about the number of pop stars in the world made my heart soar. Shoshanna, I surmise, has caught onto Marnie's Marnie-ing ways just as Audrey now is wise to Charlie's terminal clinginess. This scene recalls the pilot dinner party where Ray sounded off about student loan debt and how Hannah should work at McDonald's. He is not so punishing here, tempered by love, but does take a moment to celebrate the asset that is Marnie's bachelor's degree. I have to confess a personal weakness about those who study art history - that is, I have prepped a dear friend and art historian for jobs, and her overqualification for them went way beyond the degrees she held. It is this impulse that makes me want - way, way more than I ever feel for Hannah - to take Marnie and coach her at interviews and get her a job. This is delirium. It will go away. "I'm not attracted to you at all because I know you," Ray says, bringing me back to my senses. I can't believe I just wrote that.

Jessa and Thomas-John populate the screen at last - she at her easel, he shirtless in a fedora. They have matching tattoos and a view out of Sex and the City. Thomas-John negs Hannah who runs away with his neg until he leaves. He does not leave before giving Jessa a present: three wee puppies named Garbage, Fucker, and Hanukkah. I have all the faith that the sublimity of this arrangement will implode with appropriate grandeur. For now I enjoy Jessa lounging, proclaiming this to be "what it's like when the hunt is over." I think when Hannah listens to Jessa, she really wants Jessa to be right. I think when Jessa listens to herself, she really wants to be right, and feels being right begins with pronouncements. She gives credence to willing things into being - like love - and does not trust what she does not implement - like love. One time a good friend of mine went on a quality, morning-traffic spiel about how she did not trust fate and felt very compelled to give it a hand. This reminds me of Jessa, even though the character goes to such lengths to say you only have to be concerned with the compatibility of your rising signs, I don't have to worry because a fortune teller told me I'll live to be a hundred and five. These sorts of tensions are real concerns for those who've had something befall them, and they have two choices: it happened because of forces beyond my control, or I made it happen. Sometimes one is preferable to the other. Where to place the blame is always the focus.

Jessa makes an allusion to only painting (until now) what she hates, like her mother. She mentioned last season that she would lie as a child to strangers and describe a positive relationship with her mother that doesn't exist. How this manifests in her relationships now is so rich and effectively woven, and I say so in order to express my appreciation for how the characters have been rendered, what details have been revealed and how so much is proven instead of expositioned and how characters' exposition is used to demonstrate their distrust or dysfunction about themselves and their relationships. I take this moment before examining the next scene.

Earlier in the episode, Hannah and Sandy shared another gentle rom com interlude, this one crashed by Elijah and his distaste for Sandy's conservative ethical and political leanings. The audience gets all of this information from Hannah and Elijah, including Sandy's stance on gun control and gay marriage. Nothing is proven onscreen by Sandy that his beliefs compromise Hannah's ability to enjoy their relationship at the stage it's in, but when they sit in his apartment later, blithely making out, she makes a deal-breaking to-do about his politics through which she makes a b-line for the issue of race. This is painstakingly obvious in its function, this assertion that his political and ethical values are antithetical to the plight of the black man - see last season's boss-capades with Rich the lawyer.

What provokes this behavior is Sandy's failure to be impressed by Hannah's essay. A quick digression: when Hannah and Jessa were cuddling puppies, Jessa galvanized Hannah by saying Sandy not reading her essay is intolerably disrespectful. She says, "Thomas-John looks at my paintings the moment I show them to him." Dunham knows the art world, and growing up around an art that is immersive and immediate with gifts that require the time, patience, and an appreciation for cause-and-effect - I don't assume to know what Dunham thinks about, but this is something I trust has crossed her mind where Girls reviews are concerned. Critiques such as this demonstrate what a different thing it is to critically evaluate a television show - as opposed to a painting - that is a story-in-progress that. Until very recently, on an episode-by-episode basis, things were more consistent with episodes created with a mind to continuously accommodate potential first-time viewers. Fearing the show is "about" a liberal airhead is reflective of TV's past when decisions and characteristics were catalysts for hijinks at best. The trappings of Girls are all red-herrings - their cash-strapped-ness, their uncommodifiable BAs - because the cards are stacked in their favor. The tension comes from within. The titulars belonging to the race and class they belong to show that this is the insurmountable obstacle in sharpest relief - while their coping mechanisms and impulses transcend socioeconomics, they can afford to have themselves be the central conflict. See: Mad Men. But Don Draper is a man who demonstrates a range from proficiency to brilliance in certain aspects of his professional life. There are things at risk for Don that are external and sympathetic: the agency, his family. Hannah only has herself, and she is not a mature adult who has achieved something to risk yet, and she is female.

Right now, her actions reveal not much in the way of concern for whether or not she is imperiled. In behavior that is perfectly characteristic of Hannah, her inability to confess how wounded she is that Sandy did not find her essay a reason to be with her - which is what I would argue the problem is, as opposed to how he is not thrilled by the essay - compels her to divert those feelings full-steam towards the worst and most concretely devastating places possible. His politics are an easy target, but referring to his race is her deeply twisted way of acknowledging that that is the kind of base, merciless territory his refusal to love her as an artist has dragged them into. This is probably the first time, I believe, Hannah is seeing herself go to a place like this over feelings about her art. All ready she's found herself with no money in a merciless city as she prioritizes being a writer. Now she sees what else she'll do where that's concerned, and I'm not shocked by what force is exposed in her when her artistic ability is challenged. Adam is greatly diminished in her mind for his behavior in episode nine. I anticipate that as Hannah gets breaks, the reactions of others will provoke even bigger responses from her.

Lines of her squabble with Sandy have been singled out for their meta-relationship to Girls and its critics. Acquiescing to critics' wish lists would be deadening and produce nothing in the way of what the medium requires. Like Sandy, I remain steadfast: I continue the feel the way that I did when I wrote the Girls Gestalt Review of Season One about how the accusations of racism were handled. I feel that where Girls innovates, especially as a comedy, makes it worthy of that scrutiny. I believe the substance of this implosion was Hannah's woundedness over the essay and that Sandy's politics and how they relate to his race constitutes a red herring. But at the same time, they are not red herrings: Hannah does not have the equipment to manage them. She punctuates the outburst by asking Sandy, whose race, ethics, politics, and emotional intelligence she has just insulted, if he wants to continue their sexual relationship. He says no, and she says good, because blue balls is just another concept she gives no credence to, just like the rest of his beliefs. The scene is effectively appalling. As of the next scene, she includes Sandy's stand on women's rights as a factor in their breakup. Imagine if the person in Sandy's position was female and the person in Hannah's position was male.

Lots is being said about how dour this season has begun, how particularly grim or sad it all is, how unfriendly. Regarding the protagonist, Hannah is suffering full-on double rainbow all the way across the sky a case of the kind of thing for which, were she real and a friend, I'd refer her to a professional. Not because of the magnitude of the trauma but her reactions that measure the extent of the wound. I'm not into evaluating what one thing sucks more than another and do not qualify trauma. Like Adam told her, "Don't minimize." But unlike Marnie's breakup with Charlie, it isn't the injury Adam incurred yelling at her and his subsequent behavior. I think that probably comes as a kind of relief to Hannah because she can justify the way taking care of Adam consumes her life, when what she has on her mind does not seem like it justifies the extent of her bad feelings. It's the end of her relationship with Marnie that has twisted all the other relationships to fill a void that was not wholly good. Marnie is a toxic, abusive friend. Hannah's playing that out across her other relationships, and this is evident when Marnie tries to step back into Hannah's life.

Marnie drops by in her uniform - she is now a hostess at a club - of the country variety, I gather, not the "you'll find me in the" variety - and Hannah does not congratulate her. She shuts her down with the same kind of criticism Marnie practices on her. It's undercut by a joke made by Hannah about her appearance versus Marnie's, although not exactly of the stripe observed in the pilot. Where Hannah once bemoaned the tragedy that she was always naked and Marnie was never naked, here Hannah asserts while eating whipped cream that she, unlike Marnie, low-paying job aside, has never cashed in on her sexuality. Even though she's right there - just like Hannah said in the last episode to Marnie's accusations about distance, "I'm right here," - Marnie is gone. She's in Hannah's place now, her dreams seeming unattainable and her skill set uninspiring. Hannah still needs a Marnie, and so she will be one.

A distinction that interests me is Hannah's failure versus Marnie's. Hannah hasn't made it as a writer, but her qualifications are gloriously dubious. Marnie, on the other hand, demonstrates a confidence in her ability as a professional that I believe comes from the tangible. She did have a gallery job where she excelled. Both of them are in pursuit of difficult fields, but Marnie is posited to blame the state of Art more squarely than Hannah can chalk up the insularity of writing and publishing to her failures when it seems like she might not write so well. I love the fact that the audience does not definitively know if her writing is good or not. I hope we don't find out or have to judge. I feel that way now, anyway. I am open to change.

The ending concerns Adam's infiltration of Hannah's apartment. Adam Driver delivers a monologue that includes the phrase "my man-life" and acts with heretofore unseen playfulness complicated by his very typical disrespect for Hannah's space. When she chases him, when he refuses to leave, Hannah stumbles over something - a chair, I think, or a trashcan, and Adam slows down in order to warn her to watch out. It's an assertion of dominance, the way he can slow down and tell her to watch out, like he is coaching her on how to fight. The chase ends with him at the door and Hannah has to jump against him, pushing him, yelling "go away!" It reminds me of the scene with Marnie. Not for any sophisticated reason, but I do think that the exorcism of feeling isn't completely focused on Adam. If it was, I think the way the scene ends would have been as woeful as the season one finale. I wonder how much I'm projecting here. When I watched this I thought Hannah would be the kind of person who, given the chance, especially with someone who once perceived her as cute, who persists in doing so, would prove herself to be a harsh fighter. But she bounces against him in a very feeble, childish way, and the effect made me very upset. I've been that diminished and felt that helpless. I don't want to fight, I just want to be heard.

I am interested, also, in Adam calling her "milk maid" when this is one of the shots that have circulated in this season's promotion:

Look at the sign.

This episode has the distinction of being the first not written by Lena Dunham. It was written by executive producer Jenni Konner, who had the distinction, as a script doctor specializing in the fleshing out of female characters, of going to work on Transformers 4.

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