Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Girls Season 3, Episode 5: "Only Child" - I think she's an evil person who pukes on everything metaphorically.

Do not let my tone deceive you; I was pretty into what this week was doing narratively. But I'm still holding out hope, so I'm still judging harshly. Also still holding out hope for a full, real "What I Am" video, so you have an idea for the regard I have for logic these days.

Credit: Mark Schafer/HBO

Girls, Episode Twenty-Five, "Only Child"

The closest Hannah has gotten to the kind of "legitimate" New York literary world that she covets: her publisher's funeral. "I'm not leaving until I've locked eyes with Michiko Kakutani, I've told you that." There's a rhyming mistake of identities when Hannah encounters someone close to her publisher who in turn takes Hannah for another writer. Hannah likewise mistakes the funeral for an opportunity to network since, as her publisher has died, so has all his projects with Millstreet Press, including Hannah's ebook.

Jessa finally effectively lights Shoshanna's fuse, providing a glorified interstitial that also gives Shoshanna the opportunity to say "hijinks," as in, "My recent hijinks have really taken a toll on my GPA." The joy reaped from getting a glimpse at Shoshanna's fifteen-year-plan — which includes business school and avoiding becoming anything like the rest of her family, Jessa included — does not outweigh the disappointment that this turning point for Shoshanna has to be spoken of quickly instead of demonstrated. So far this season has set up some tension for her to, I hope, play off later: to Hannah, Jessa is a figure to emulate, but privately Shoshanna dreads being like her. Shoshanna has always done her own thing as a character, and I would have liked to see this tension come out in actions instead of conversations where no one is witnessing this impact on her, this need to uphold a certain image of Jessa versus suffering the realities of being associated with her. A lot of these conversations come out of scenes that serve no other purpose than to put two or three characters on screen so they are there, so the audience does not lose track of them — and this is so disappointing! And I said it last week, hoping it would not apply this week. If Hannah winds up wholly abandoned at the end of the season, I will understand the relentless crowding, but I am not up for placing any bets on how this season will resolve itself. I do not like to anticipate how a story will end, and I am still more interested in being taken someplace than calling out where it had better head. But I am bummed out feeling like there better be payoff, instead of feeling a swell of satisfaction and excitement at the end of each episode.

This feeling derives, I want to specify, pretty solely from scenes that have nothing to do with Hannah, whose character really got back to form in this episode — this episode that I found to be the best of the season so far, besides episode twenty-one. That is, the relationship between where Hannah is now versus where she started out two year ago is made explicit in as engaging a way as that first season.

Hannah manages to extricate another potential publisher from her former publisher's grieving widow, and this accomplishment empowers Hannah to try her hand at professional problem solving. She assigns herself the role of Dr. Phil and mediates Adam and Caroline, who are still at each others' throats for the third straight episode. Hannah starts out by demanding both Adam and Caroline tell her they love her, which was great. Hannah's list of inflammatory words and Adam's delivery of his one-sentence appraisal of Caroline got the biggest laugh out of me in many episodes. There are so many small things to address as this show gets increasingly fractured, but I am fully absorbed in the illustration of Hannah's character this season, especially with her monologue from "One Man's Trash" in mind.

Jessa non sequitors, "This is a space cigarette invented by Stephen Dorff" in another glorified interstitial wherein she seeks "something with a touch of innocence." And so she and her criminal record apply to work at a children's outfitter. And then the scene ends. The only thing I'm omitting is that this dialogue is spoken to Shoshanna, who only functions as the receptacle of Jessa's musings. One of the things about Girls' pilot that moved me to respond to it was the way scenes played out beyond their expected punchlines to reveal a greater depth, such as in the first scene with Hannah and her parents and the first scene with Hannah and Adam in Adam's apartment (which comes back to haunt this episode). Lately, though, the scenes don't seem like they end — they seem like they get abandoned. Could the deficient attention paid to Jessa, Shoshanna, Marnie, and Ray be a conscious decision, mimicking Hannah's increasingly deficient ability to manage her consideration for others?

Speaking of subverting narrative expectations: Adam and Caroline's therapy would, classically, yield a bunch of revelations about Adam (something Caroline even addressed last week), but although Caroline superficially is nightmare-Adam, she is also the worst of Hannah, all garbled into one. More on this below, but first: Marnie's best friend is now a kitten, and that kitten had better not vanish down a malevolent plot hole because it is so cute I can't believe Marnie left it alone to go do what she does next.

What Marnie does is break up the momentum of a few of Hannah's scenes in order to visit Ray in his new apartment, which was recently Adam's. They immediately reference Adam and Hannah calls back to, as stated, Hannah's visit to Adam in the pilot. Marnie from Ray what Hannah asks from Adam, except where Hannah wants experience — to see what someone can do to her, what she can endure — Marnie, with a "just give it to me," demands Ray lay into her with his sharpest criticism, that he tell her how to be.

Now that the audience knows that Ray's criticisms of others have everything to do with him and their relationship to him — and not much to do with anything else — the expectation that Marnie recognizes this, too, is a reasonable one. I feel like I might be missing the key to this scene, but Ray's dialogue, as he's evolved, has gotten insufferably bad (although I do like his reference to Marnie as a "sympathetic character"), and Marnie's manipulation of their mutual vulnerability strikes me as so blatant. There is nothing riveting about this scene and it winds up right where it would, right where Hannah and Adam always end up, coital on some wood furniture (lots of sex and near-sex on kitchen tables this season).

Hannah's scene with her new (potential?) publishers, though, is worth it all. This is as vital to her character development as the season one job interview. Without the naked failure of that incident, the "what's your brand" discussion is just as alarming, just as humiliating, just as powerful a depiction of what human viewers have on their hands in Hannah. This results in Hannah finding out that her new (potential?) publisher will release her book not as an ebook but as a real book.

Hannah railroads her father's gentle declaration of a cancer scare with the news of her new book deal, which he challenges with the reality of her old contract that ties the rights to her work up for three years. Hannah calls him insane, hangs up on him, and spirals downward. I love that stills of this scene floated around and critics were like "Hannah looks like she's got her shit together this season" and I love that this is a lot of plot, but a lot of plot delivered in the service of Hannah's developing character. The way the information is exchanged and received is just as important to the story as the information itself — the information may or may not be of any consequence, and this scene still helped the story along while being comparatively brief and not a glorified interstitial.

At the episode's end, Hannah's book may or may not happen. When goaded by Caroline to simply produce more of the "wonderful stories" that made up that book in order for there to be a new and unencumbered one, Hannah has an important reaction. Hannah, who puts herself through the rigors in order to get something out of her life (experience) that the can then use (commodify) to compensate herself for the exertion, is offended that all that work would be characterized as "wonderful stories." She puts herself in places and circumstances expressly to have something worth writing about, so in the end, as she says, "my whole life was in that book" — and the extent to which it had become her whole reason for living is made clear when Hannah starts to drink. Why do they have alcohol in their home? Neither she nor Adam drink, but it is there, and she starts. Those were not "wonderful stories," the book represented the only facet of herself Hannah had any fondness for, and how all she has is a vessel of all her worst qualities, Caroline, squawking at her. In this scene, Hannah trades places with the funeralgoer from the first scene, deeply offended by Caroline's inappropriate behavior as she is mourning the loss of her book.

(Also, Caroline says about Adam: "When the great see-saw of life throws your cunt in a sandbox, he's a ghost." OMG)

Hannah winds up on the couch, in the dark, surrounded by empty bottles.

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