Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You can be my white Kate Moss tonight.

Let's get lost tonight.

Girls, Episode Nineteen, "On All Fours"

I. Adam

Adam has the titular line. Also, Google "girls on all fours" at your own risk.

Adam's conversation with Natalia as it exists in the shadow of Hannah and Adam is so rich and gives such a fuller idea of who Adam is. Adam is grateful for Natalia's clarity and directions about what she wants from their new foray into physical intimacy, but I don't believe he would have been as receptive to Hannah being that way. I think that Natalia's openness enables him to be in a completely different situation, and that's what he wants. He likes that his new relationship is reacting against his old one, opening him up to new possibilities that might contain not getting hurt. If Natalia's so forthright, she can't let him get away with his Adam-antics. Not if he wants to stay in that relationship.

Their next conversation, presumably the following morning, contains more reactionary easter eggs. Adam said in last week's episode that he did not like Hannah at first, and as someone who identifies with Hannah more than the other titulars, I projected thusly that he was not attracted to her physically. As Natalia voices a concern about her weight, Adam informs her he'd rather she be fat and healthy. I love watching his character evolve and love the portrayal of that kind of relationship that he and Hannah have: it is not fun or safe or healthy, but the kind of connection they demonstrate having is the kind of thing one is compelled to prioritize beyond all that. And that really happens, and it really happens with people who are lovable in many ways who are not cartoon villains but real and really damaged people. Every time Adam is lovable - and I am captivated by Adam Driver's acting - I am horrified. The conundrum - as observed by Kyle Kallgren, host of "Brows Held High," about a Serbian Film - is how anger is provoked at something succeeding too well.

When Adam walks right into the eleventh circle of romcom hell (girl-to-girl microaggressors, proper men, the mere mention of weddings), he is profoundly uncomfortable. When he tries to step out, he runs into Hannah. With a hospital bracelet and no pants on, the scene echoes Adam's season one fantasy about finding Hannah "in the street." That reference made the extent to which the encounter threw Adam off kilter even more extreme. He demonstrated in last week's episode how he does not ascribe any tangible sense to Hannah, so her teary, sentimental reaction to him calling her "kid" was - probably - for him a sign that she was arbitrarily changing her mind again, luring him to unwitting peril. He is so off his gourd at this point that when she tries to bait some praise for her book, the conversation is over on his end. Since his failure to be supportive in her creative endeavors last season was the cause of everything crashing down between them, this is a reminder of how there's no water down that well. Which is really not what Hannah needed right then after the hospital and all. I will return to the subject of Hannah, then, in a minute.

Their encounter compels Adam to order some alcohol. I take the fact that Natalia, a child of an alcoholic, allows Adam to drink as evidence of her character, more of which is glimpsed later and corroborates my suspicion that she's got some twattish tendencies. After the party, Adam takes Natalia back to that den of iniquity that is his apartment and, after a kiss, transforms into early-season-one Adam. He commands that Natalia crawl to his bed, where he picks her up and performs acts without her consent.

Hannah's self-perception does not hinge upon the situations she finds herself in. She's up for an adventure in a very different way than Jessa is, who feels she deserves to put herself through the rigors, and way more control on a consistent basis than Marnie, who can ONLY maintain control in very ideal conditions. Because of that, Hannah could abide when Adam's playfulness turned very dark. They could get in tune but not all the time, and I don't believe he was expecting to have this connection with Natalia at all. I do believe this was a test to see if she could be accepting of his "brand of weirdness" and I don't believe he expected her to pass, which is disgusting. This scene made me viscerally upset.

II. Marnie

Speaking of grim. Marnie hammers away at her relationship with Charlie. Her tactlessness - barging in on his life after Booth Jonathan explodes in her face - is read by Charlie as a sign of instability, and I like that he cautiously goes along with it. Although it could be his submissiveness towards her resurfacing, I would love to see it be that he is genuinely taking advantage of and enjoying - even if only on a subconscious level - what a mess she is. Charlie's own lack of insight into his crumbling relationship to Audrey piques Marnie's interest at the beginning of the season, and I don't believe Charlie's involvement with Marnie at present is without its ulterior motives. I think he likes that she is suffering - and I base this on the fact that he is not just horrified with her and telling her to leave, not on any blatant hint he drops - or, at least, he likes it until he sees how much her instability still has to do with him. That's what he assumes, but later on he is confronted by it.

Ray, who encouraged Marnie to follow her dreams, continues helping her - albeit reluctantly - in this episode. Last season he was in a very happy working relationship with Charlie with their band Questionable Goods. On no level does my dislike for Ray and Marnie individually add up to an interest in seeing them together, but I do believe they are suited to a rich and riveting friendship as her tactlessness breaks down some of Ray's reserves. His support of her, she may or may not realize, is one of the kindest - maybe the kindest - thing anyone else has done for her on the show and does not represent any seriously malicious intent on Ray's part.

I would like to pause and examine Marnie's story throughout this season. It isn't over, but I'm so impressed with it. At first, she seemed so shocked to her core by the loss of her job and demonstrated a real backbone by assuming her work as a hostess. I thought she had waded into a kind of zen, having lost it all and having to start over. Her soberness about this looked genuinely admirable, for once, compared to Hannah's feeble delusions: trysting with Sandy, pretending her friendship with Elijah was all smiles, that her job did not suck. But as soon as their fortunes changed - Marnie got a glimpse of life with Booth Jonathan, Hannah made some headway with her writing - the difference in their priorities and their mental health was stark. Hannah had the strength to eject Elijah and Marnie from her life and took the duel hits of the Joshua episode (whether it was literal or represented a change of course in her approach to her life and work, the results were the same) and the loss of Jessa by herself. Marnie's delusion that she is entitled to everything working out to a glittering and illustrious extent because she "has [her] shit together" has plunged her into a place of - in full view of everyone she knows - looking totally insane. This is the first episode where she admits she might not have it together, necessarily, and it's pretty bleak.

What is bleak about it is of a completely different flavor than Hannah's bleakness in this episode. While Hannah lands herself in the hospital, Marnie seems to be communicating with Charlie effectively, she lays down a track with Ray, and she isn't a manners-monster at Charlie's party. Charlie, by the way, has an office party to celebrate the success of the app that Marnie inspired. She pays him tribute with the surprise of a live performance that made me feel many things.

This is one of the few times I've felt strongly about Marnie in a mode besides revulsion. She pauses the iPod DJ to sing her very own truncated rendition of Kanye West's "Stronger."

Work it, make it, do it, makes us harder, better, faster, stronger

Now that that don't kill me
Can only make me stronger
I need you to hurry up now
'cause I can't wait much longer

Let's get lost tonight
You could be my white Kate Moss tonight
Play secretary, you're the boss tonight
And you don't give a fuck what they all say right?
Bow in the presence of greatness
'cause right now thou has forsaken us
You should be honored by my lateness
That I would even show up to this fake shit
So go ahead go nuts go ape shit
Especially in my pastel on my bape shit

I know I got to be right now
'cause I can't get much wronger
Man I've been waitin' all night now
That's how long I've been on you

It is so worth viewing.

This was a virulently awful gesture. Complete with a wave to Charlie, the owner of the business throwing this party to celebrate his success, while she sings, "Play secretary, you're the boss tonight." The original line is, "I'm the boss tonight," but by addressing Charlie in both parts, she makes a joke out of calling him the boss. Her bow is sarcastic, the lyrics are completely insane and spiteful coming out of her mouth, but that's not what is the absolute worst about it ("my white Kate Moss" - Marnie is insane).

I don't love Marnie, but don't wish ill of her. I used to know a girl who was in a very bad relationship. The guy she was with was flighty and dismissive but she would not move on, even when she would make a show of having moved on. She and I were watching a movie together with a really riveting seduction done to one of our mutually favorite songs. She responded to the scene by relating to me how much she'd love to take her revenge on him by doing that, by showing him how desirable she was. I think about that a lot because it made me feel how entrenched she was in her idea of the dynamic between she and him and how I could not do anything about it, even though bad things lay ahead (flightiness and dismissiveness were two of this guy's better qualities). Marnie can't let Charlie "turn that potential energy into kinetic energy" as Ray tells Marnie to do. Her she demonstrates how she is capable of it: she's a good singer and her performance is totally - objectively - meme-worthy. All those people in that office have no idea. I was completely on Ray's side in terms of enjoying her show. In fact, this is one of my absolute favorite moments on the show so far. But she obstructs Charlie's ability to move on and use the destruction of the security their relationship brought him by channeling that energy into a fruitful enterprise. With this gesture, Marnie symbolically takes credit for Charlie's success and posits herself as the star of the show, and the fact that that's where she sees her energies fit to be channeled is very sad.

Marnie's character has evolved most at parties. Her conduct in a crowd is what forces her to consider her actions and grow - sometimes (often times [always {forever}]) in terribly haywire directions -  as opposed to the moments she shares with other individuals, when she is ultimately purely defensive. The fact that she needs a crowd for her art, while Hannah toils away by herself, is so appropriate. When Charlie pulled her aside, her "I'm on a journey" spiel echoed her embrace of what she thought was Jessa's more carefree lifestyle last season. Marnie still pulls condescension when Jessa's name is invoked, and Marnie's envy of her is difficult to hide now: Jessa can get up and go and be on a journey. Marnie can't, and she'd like to, or she'd like Charlie to think she can.

I believe Charlie's reaction is an assertion of control. And even though Marnie likes it - she's wanted him to assert himself all along - I think it bodes ominously for the health of their relationship, which is much more interesting than if it seemed like everything would heal over. Marnie isn't going to be able to be with Charlie without Charlie seeing her as broken and taking satisfaction in her brokenness. If Marnie sees that and rejects that in favor of becoming unbroken or if she sees that and uses it as a means of avoiding the actual fulfillment of her potential sets her up for stories I can't wait to watch in season three. And I am prepared to have all of this rent asunder by next week's episode, since from week to week things have been a cyclone.

III. Shoshanna/Ray/Jessa

Ray appears in Shoshanna's peace sign Snuggy. Shoshanna's guilt about her transgression last week collides with her disappointment in Ray. There is another example of the intellectual rift between them - the word "nadir," the lowest point - which aptly corresponds the overall condition of the characters in this episode. Hannah hospitalizes herself, Marnie pulls her Kanye stunt, Charlie succumbs to Marnie, Adam drinks, and Jessa - who will not be omitted - is not able to trust Hannah to be there for her. Jessa arrived in New York in the pilot for Hannah. Marnie messing up last season after Jessa put herself out there and bonded with her made her very upset and even more reactionary than she was, but Hannah messing up fully ejected Jessa from even trying to be in New York with them. The greater understanding of who Jessa is that this season has provided the audience puts the significance of last season, especially the beginning, in perspective: Jessa tried to recover, embraced the new chances she had post-miscarriage, got a job, enjoyed forming bonds. These attempts disintegrated.

I'm glad that Shoshanna, for whom I feel so much tenderness, has not transferred her blithe adoration of Jessa onto Marnie - she is critical of Marnie. She might heap praise and call things "amazing" but not indiscriminately. Although the critical zeal is new, the audience is still getting to know Shoshanna. I just hope she doesn't lose that refreshing sincerity. I was distressed by her lack of directness with Ray, her avoidant behavior at the part, and hope it comes to a boil befitting of her next week.

IV. Hannah

Lena Dunham has such a distinctive silhouette.

She rides, OCD-ridden, up an elevator to see her publisher. Hannah was never a character I didn't care about, but her counting in this scene really moved me. Casually referring to one's neat-freak tendency as "my OCDishness" puts me in a rage.

I got the name of the publication wrong the other week, by the way, it is PUMPT Magazine, which is an excellent name. Hedwig delivers some obliterating criticism in the same slick tone he informed Hannah of her book deal. What he's read of her manuscript, which was barely any of it, is too friendship-oriented and not saturated with the bad sex he'd hoped for. I like that Hannah counters this with the fact of her tryst with Frank while she was visiting Jessa's family, while her time with Jessa was probably channeled into the few pages her publisher read. Knowing Hannah takes "notes for a book" in real time, I love the ambiguous interplay between her material and how it manifests in her writing and how that writing is only hinted at.

What makes me really upset (critical distance collapsing) is that Hannah, alone, writing in weird positions around her apartment, does not know everyone else she knows is out at a party. She only knows that Jessa is gone, maybe permanently, and she probably feels more than a little responsible. After mending a wound to her behind, Hannah irrigates her ear with a q-tip in the best acting Dunham has done on the show yet. To wit, I believe she does sad in a few different registers, and even though I didn't find her sobbing to Joshua as cathartic and easy to feel completely as the extent to which she is devastated all over this episode, crying and managing the expectations of basically a stranger who is still idealizing you is one thing - crying in that moment probably struck Hannah as absurd, which is realistic, and so she was removed from her own crying - but coming apart when you're all alone and there's no one around to care for you is another.

During Hannah's visit with a doctor, he safely dislodges the q-tip but does not balance Hannah out by inspecting her other ear, per her request. She takes the q-tip home with her on the lonely, pantsless walk home where, after her encounter with Adam, she takes the q-tip and proceeds to go at the opposite ear with the same destructive zeal.

The increased presence of Hannah's parents is one of the more suspenseful aspects of this season's end. I was disappointed last week that their appointment with Dr. Bob Balaban was not ambiguously located - I would have liked to wonder if they went back to Michigan for the occasion of the appointment as I assumed they did for a moment, when her parents brought up the success the doctor had had with a friend's son. She told her parents in the pilot she was so close "to the life that I want, the life that you want for me," and last week, in light of her OCD's resurgence, her parents brought up how they feared Hannah would never live a normal life. Will her parents exert more control over her after this mental deterioration? This was an excellent choice of penultimate episode: it made me want.

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