Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Girls Season 3, Episode 8: "Incidentals" - Gotta hit the trail, my Clementine's making payaya tonight.

Still approaching with caution.

Girls, Episode Twenty-Eight, "Incidentals"

There are facets of Girls I dislike more than Hannah and Adam this season, but they aren't many. When I say dislike, I don't hate-love it like Marnie or hate-hate it like Ray. The very best of Hannah and Adam are on display in this episode, but it comes amidst a season full of Hannah and Adam together being used occupy vacancies.

In a freeing, new move, the episode opens on Hannah and Adam apart, both at work. As if to engage what their scenes as a couple have so distracted from, Adam has a meet cute with Desi, a man clad all in denim, and they experience a miniature but vivid bromance — it seems like Adam has met his Marnie. Adam rides off with him on Desi's motorcycle!

They meet on a Broadway audition, the absurdity of which is redeemed only by Adam Driver's delivery of how Adam Sackler handles the news that he's nailed it.

Some of the sins to which season three has been prone are here, but made right. There are tiny scenes of Jessa at her job at the children's clothing store, glorified interstitials, but Jemima Kirke gets to act Jessa as a character and not a caricature in them, she communicates the ache of ennui so well — and eventually they lead somewhere! Only Kirke's acting kicks up suspense as the interstitials recur, since they've never led anywhere in the past. Another poignant aspect is the cumulative affect of her boredom catching fire. The sense that she's been disregarded by her friends, that no one is dropping by to see her, all serves to set up what happens later. This is a small thing, and it's the best thing that's been done with Jessa all season.

Something else that has been suspenseful — and fascinating — is seeing Hannah really be good at her job (the scene where she walks down the street, emboldened by her paycheck to splash out, was too great a cliche). Patti LuPone ditches her for an interview, and Hannah pursues her. She is rewarded with another assignment at her job. Considering Hannah's track record, I don't feel like Hannah is long for the advertorial department at GQ. Patti LuPone herself could be the death blow: Ray called Marnie "Patti LuPone" last season, and LuPone turns out to be just as toxic as Marnie.

Cut to Marnie, encountering Booth Jonathan's old assistant, Soo Jin — verbally on-point and living Marnie's dream of opening her own gallery. This scene pays off later, even though it would seem — according to synopses of future episode — that it exists to set up developments beyond this episode. For the moment, all that matters is that someone else is getting what Marnie wants. I wish she would have been a little more caustic about it, but Allison Williams didn't have too much to do here in this little scene, unlike Jemima Kirke in her's, which lead up too...

...THE REAPPEARANCE OF WITHNAIL! Richard E. Grant bursts back into Jessa's life. In his explanation of how he has sought her out since their brief time in rehab, he says he threw little stones at her window until a girl looked out and said, "Are you here to rape me?" Jemima Kirke's delivery of "oh, Shoshanna," is so bereft. I believe in that moment more than any other that Jessa is worried about the bad things in her life harming the good things.

The meeting of Richard E. Grant and Shoshanna is, though, the greatest thing in Girls' history.

As she joins Hannah for a congratulations-Broadway party for Adam, I ultimately don't hate Shoshanna's willingness to returns to the titulars' fold: as her sass about Adam's achievement demonstrates, I think she's here to bring it from now on. She won't hold back anymore. I hope. That would be a believable evolution of their friendship.

And speaking of believable evolutions! Ray's "breakup" with Marnie makes perfect narrative sense — perfect in a way that has been scarce lately — but it is still not maximum Ray. I was watching season one this week: Ray is the guy who was inspired by a picture of Marnie's family to lament his inability to fuck any member of his family. He told her boyfriend at the time that she was so uptight that somebody should fuck her to teach her a lesson. He called Charlie a shared tool upon discovering Marnie's vibrator. All this is fucking loathsome, but this is a presence in the lives of many women, this loathsome voice, and the way Ray's been neutered strikes me as really manipulative. Ray opines a girlfriend who won't act like she's sunken to his level, but this is exactly what he deserves. When he tells her to go, Marnie says, "Was this your plan? Humiliate the girl that you couldn't fuck in high school?" This seems like Marnie deflecting the blame that lays on her since she clearly sees their intimacy as a form of slumming. But Marnie explained to Charlie in "It's a Shame About Ray" that she wanted someone to tell her exactly what she should do. Ray will always tell her what she should do, but those instructions come purely from his problems with women. He does want to humiliate the girl he couldn't fuck in high school. He also understands that this drive won't serve him get close to someone. It's this complexity that's gone out of Ray, and his continued neutering is one of the most enduringly disappointing thing about this season.

This scene does, however, compel Marnie in the direction of Hannah's party for Adam, where she arrives clearly off, possibly drunk, and leading Hannah to assume that she's done something to anger Marnie. She follows Marnie to the bathroom where Marnie, going to pieces over Ray, tells Hannah, "I can't tell you." This is one of their best scenes together — their best, I think, since "you are the wound" — and this is the Marnie who, one episode ago, wanted more than anything to have catharsis with Hannah. But here she realizes she can't share something with her, her own sense of who she is has broken down so much.

Elijah is so jealous of Adam! That can only go amazing places.

And just like Adam hates Marnie, it is only so, so beautifully right that Hannah hates Desi — or, finds him "irksome." I have more empathy for Hannah's reaction to Desi breaking into a gentle folk song than anything Hannah's done in a long time. Hannah's concerns about Adam coalesce beautifully into the final scene with him in the Gramercy Hotel bathtub. I love that he makes Hannah feel better by demonstrating how good he is at his job. Hannah's never had much of an issue supporting Adam, though, even though this is the most game-changing of his endeavors. It's Hannah's ambition that threatens what they have, because Adam does not have a great track record in acknowledging what Hannah's work means for her.

Richard E. Grant frolics hand in hand with Jessa on her way to her rock bottom. I love that Jessa blazes through Adam's party on her way there, how at that point, the company of her friends cannot reverse it. When the viewers leave her, Jessa is still pushing Richard E. Grant's hands off her. The progression — "progression" — might not be neat or linear, but the cumulative spiral this show is working on bore some good results here. Good, but the season's not over.

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