Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Literally the one thing I told you was not to ash in my mermaid.

Feelings alert.

Girls, Episode Eighteen, "It's Back"

The episode starts with Adam alone in bed. He calls Hannah, who is walking down the street looking beleaguered. The call from him ignites an attack of anxiety that manifests in a return of something the audience has never seen before: her OCD. There is precedent: Marnie knew Hannah had some compulsion associated with the number eight. But this is out of nowhere, and that's important.

For all its exposition-ridden-ness, the next scene of Marnie, Shoshanna, and Ray demonstrates that Jessa's whereabouts are a major concern for Shoshanna and Marnie's attitude towards Jessa - which is itself a useful benchmark of Marnie's clarity of mind - is back to the full-tilt petulance of the pilot. I was fooled by Marnie earlier this season! I thought she had lowered herself into such a rotten atmosphere that she'd achieved some zen perspective on herself and her behavior, but I think Booth Jonathan demolished any progress of that nature if it was ever there, if it wasn't Marnie just recharging her nightmare batteries.

Those batteries get another Frankenstein-jolt when Shoshanna blithely brings up Charlie's recent success as an app developer. This is out of nowhere, just like Hannah's OCD, and that's important, too. I'll be there in a moment. First, I want to thank this moment between Shoshanna and Ray - as Marnie flees to pursue her own undoing - for justifying my hatred of Ray that has receded for Shoshanna's sake but never disappeared. Shoshanna freaks out about people disappearing from her life and disappearing from the lives of others and Ray diminishes it by remind her not to air-quote, referencing that that's been a topic of discussion before. "Pantomime is a crutch," he decides for her. Step off, Ray. Step off. Endearing as their relationship is, I am happy and proud of Shoshanna by the end of this episode. I hope she can own her decision.

The reviewers at the Puffington Host were correct in their disappointment with Marnie for not getting in her party dress before she goes to stalk Charlie. However, I love that she just wanders into his office, gawking and admiring like she doesn't quite believe it's real, that it's inconsequential, just like she was able to detour through Booth's fabulous life. I get this feeling - that I will now project onto Marnie - when I'm at the office where I intern. I compromise my negative-security for a little bit of access to the place where I want to be. To which I add: this internship has been the best experience of my life. That flight of hyperbole is totally accurate. Today, one staff member came to me in the break room and asked if my life was anything like what she read about in the New York Times when they wrote about interns. It felt weirdly glamorous.

Marnie, though, is completely crazy. She cannot obscure her unhinged-ness. She flashes her scowl-smile at an employee when she tries to talk to Charlie. He triumphantly informs her that the app he developed, that he's made a lot of money for, that enabled him to hire employees, was inspired by her: Forbid is free to download and blocks the numbers of people you shouldn't call - your ex, your old boss - and to un-Forbid a number, you have to pay ten dollars. "People really respond to technology that protects them from themselves," Charlie says, creeping me out. 

I am so happy to see Adam at AA. He takes over the meeting as it dissolves into an argument over refreshments. His take on his relationship with Hannah has only been addressed to her or to people who know her, and here he talks to strangers. I enjoy how tonally precise his history of it is: at first he noticed her persistence but thought nothing very significant of her. Gradually, her presence became something he depended on. A thing he emphasizes is what he perceives as her lack of understanding of virtually everything and how he liked teaching her everything (Evan Kindley's on it with the Sheila Heti reference). Although I do believe it is a different variety of "everything" than Ray feels is his job to impart to Shoshanna, it represents another rift between characters in respect to the content of their intelligence. An example I use a lot to discuss this is Daria and Quinn on Daria. Daria is painted as the more intelligent of the two because she excels in school and can rhetorically take on complicated, abstract ideas. But the quality of intelligence Quinn demonstrates in how she deals with people is completely inaccessible to Daria. Unfortunately, if they were real, Quinn would have the superior job in today's market. Hannah doesn't need to know the street where Central Park begins just like Adam doesn't need to wear a shirt. It only represents what the person saying they have to lacks.

Adam does not understand why Hannah "changed her mind" about him - he has given no greater thought to why that might be because, I believe, he does not attribute reason to Hannah. Since she just kept hanging around him until he decided he wanted her there, he feels victim to her whim when the initial crisis between them was his dismissal of her reading, of her career. That he should call while she's toiling over her book makes the attack of her OCD totally appropriate. Last time Adam and writing collided, it sucked, but this project is imbued with so much doom, under the cloud of Jessa vanishing and Marnie being too completely insane to have around, and now her brain is trying to compensate.

On Carole Kane's appearance: I LOVE HER. When I was taking a remedial math class at a community college a long time ago, there was a very beautiful girl in the class who looked just like Carole Kane. I couldn't remember Carole Kane's name, though, so I referred to this girl in my mind as Allison Portchnik. One day out of nowhere she started talking to me an introduced herself as Allison. I just looked this girl up on the internet to reaffirm their clone-like qualities, and I was right, they look exactly alike. It felt like a good omen. But will this meeting be a good omen for Adam? Dun-dun-dun.

For Carole Kane sets Adam up with her daughter, and their date opens with the girl, Natalia, gasping, "I love my mom!" for the sight of Adam. The measured amounts of endearing and bonkers in their date asserts Dunham's total comprehensive rom-com genius. "You're very easy to talk to. I thought this was gonna suck ass."

Hannah's parents make good on last week's episode's appearance where they informed Hannah they were coming to see her. Her dad describes the "Hannah cushion" as the extra time it takes her to arrive anywhere and harkens back to Jessa's dad's girlfriend telling Hannah, "You're the cushion." It's not a super elegant echo of the phrase, but a lot of little echoes have gone off all over this season and created an atmosphere of conspiratorial psychic connectedness.

One of my favorite aspects of the show, even though it hasn't been plumbed as much as others, is the way Hannah interacts with her parents. Every scene with them puts the all ready momentous achievement that was the first scene of the series in an increasingly complex and interesting context. As symptomatic as spending one's parents' money is when embarking on a tough career today in a place with an astronomical cost of living, I think that cultural relevance is a red herring. I speak from some hard-won objectivity about this. Hannah does not represent all young people, all young women, all aspiring creative professionals, all writers, all broke New Yorkers, all broke residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, or anything, but her visibility as someone having that experience/those experiences blinds one to the fact that, as all those others in similar situations, there's more than that. Why it isn't an excellent thing to unpack is that the common plight has unifying external factors that should not be diminished. I do not want to diminish them. But there is one's childhood to consider. In spite of economic conditions, the complications borne of it prevail.

Hannah may or may not have been abused, and I only say "may or may not" because that's how she presents the fact. What is certain is that her mother accused her of lying, and abuse notwithstanding, that's the kind of communication transpiring between she and her mother. Hannah is smart and resilient and she has tried, over the years, to engineer her parents' care of her and manage it to accommodate what she needs because what comes naturally to them care-wise does not work. She knows they try. She acknowledges it. This is all ready one of the most sophisticated parent-child relationships I've ever seen fictionalized and they've barely been on the show. I think, should the economy ever evolve, that with time this nuance might become more pronounced for viewers who do not see Hannah's parents having paid for her to hang out and intern in New York for two years as being purely a thing of the times. Money is so many things, and it can be a way to quantify care.

Hannah's dad describes her as feeling "county." I love it.

There's a lot in this scene I want to talk about, how much this conversation is about control, but first I want to talk about things that come out of nowhere. By the time people get to their twenties, the crises about consistency and self erupt all over the place because of the mass amnesia that settles over people who believe that growth is over - hormones have compelled them to divulge and examine themselves so exactingly, they've probably settled on a mode of being known, and they don't know that that's not it. I say, broadcasting live from age twenty-five (as one who's afraid to be like I am now when there are as many years ahead as there are behind me and more - I didn't want to be the way I was at ten at fifteen and so on and that's not unrealistic but you know people, Wayfaring Googler, who think change is evil - they're all insane).

A few times in the past five years, I've told my friends some things they never knew about me. I told them it didn't mean we weren't as close as they thought or that I felt like I couldn't tell them. I lost half my friends for telling them what I did because they thought I was making up a problem that I decided I needed to be, I can only assume, more driven to angst-ridden art? Or art-ridden angst. Which, as you know, Wayfaring Googler - I bet you're very smart - problems get in the way of accomplishing things. This whole episode kept me off work I wish I'd started then. Abrupt change, revelations, besides being people, are useful reminders that people are the authority on themselves. Hannah has OCD because - well, here the audience can see clearly that she has it, but - she says she has it. At least by the episode's end, she says.

But she doesn't want it. Because it makes things hard. It's hard to have a mental illness - it does necessitate innovation because you can't do things the usual way, but that's exhausting. That doesn't mean it doesn't get done and come off as very interesting to people who get to do things the usual way.

Hannah and her parents' back-and-forth about whose pain it is calls back to the pilot when they spiral into a loop over Hannah's drug-fizzle ("Coffee's for grownups." "You're going to drink a strong cup of coffee!" "I'm twenty-four-years-old! Stop telling me what to do."). Here she deflects their encroaching concern by pointing out that she's the one going through it; the pain is hers. Her mother tells her it was painful to watch her grow up, concerned if she'll life a "normal life" or not, and how she and her father were put upon by determining what caused her OCD. They say it can't be them, and Hannah, who was trying to own her pain a second ago, says "It's genetic, which is the ultimate your fault." She likes to manage their pain, and that doesn't surprise me. Spending their money is managing their care. Her parents have boundary issues. That's what attracted Hannah to Marnie. As Hannah says, "So."

Judy Collins even tries to control her.

Shoshanna goes to a friend's party, Ray-free, and alights the doorman's desire. I'm sorry Radhika probably won't be a recurring character. Although she seems to be merely tolerating Shoshanna, she is refilling her drinks. I'd like to see Shoshanna with a real friend, a quality of which might be the ability to temper the verbal onslaught of Hurricane Shosh. "When is Shosh time?" she asks herself/Radhika. Marnie's neediness is making Shoshanna realize what it'll take for her to be a mother someday, which I love so much. When she realizes Radhika does not have time for her own Marnie-out, Shoshanna leaves, but is stopped by the doorman. He pursues her cannily. I love the flimsy pretense he gives for sparking any conversation and that he calls her beautiful! It's true! But what I love even more is what I sincerely hope Shoshanna gets from this experience, which is that she makes decisions about herself. This is not the least problematic assertion of control ever, but men trying to teach you things: I cannot abide. I was happy for this moment, even though it did not look sexy.

Ray, meanwhile, lies on Shoshanna's bed and reads in a pose most unmasculine. Unfortunately, his book is too slim to be Little Women, which, I hope, his godmother thought would be relevant to him because of his attitude toward women. Unfortunately, it looks like Ray really missed his chance at that book and maybe that insight. Or has he? Marnie comes in and complains about Charlie. How she can believe it when she says she has her shit together - I am aghast. Ray and Marnie rate so low for me that scenes between them work so well. And here, what Ray has to teach Marnie is important. Although her dream is not as out of nowhere as Charlie's success or Hannah's OCD, the fact that she wants to sing has not been as emphasized as her aspiration to be a curator, which may have been the Marnie version of the practical thing to do. And what Ray really imparts to Marnie is a different way of thinking, a different sort of intelligence. But oh, Ray at least has one to impart. Marnie has only what she's always believed. Belief is not intelligence. I do not like Marnie. I love that Marnie is in this show.

The episode ends with Hannah's parents taking her to a therapist. The conversation between she and her parents has so many layers, then Hannah sees Dr. Bob Balaban. She catalogs the specifics of her OCD: what gets counted, how it affects her concentration, that it was "really bad" in high school. When she tells Bob Balaban that she has a book deal, he justifies her anxiety. He really hears her. He reveals that he has written a series of books about a little boy and his bionic dog who save the world from disaster. They sold well. He's the best adult on the show to date, and his controlled compassion is juxtaposed by her dad on the subway, quietly watching her, prompting Hannah to remark how she hates that look of concern. In season one, she told Marnie she hates everyone who loves her and told her butt-fondling boss she was glad he wasn't her dad or her boyfriend. I hope Dr. Bob Balaban gave her hope that there's another kind of person besides them that she could have.

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