Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Girls Season 3, Episode 11: "I Saw You" - You will never judge me again.

I will go through, when this season is over, and count how many times the show introduced a fact or scenario it erased the following episode.

Girls, Episode Thirty-One, "I Saw You"

In keeping with the fact that no crisis has resulted in any follow-through story-wise this season, Adam and Hannah are still having sex despite Adam's assertion as of last week's episode that he needs space. Everything's been looping back, and the things that have happened to impose plot on the characters have felt profoundly inorganic. To contextualize how inorganic lots of this season feels, Adam winding up on Broadway feels like one of the less inorganic elements of season three, even though so much of that is by the grace of Adam Driver.

Something this episode, and this season overall — though feebly — emphasized is how Hannah's use of Adam isn't any more savory than Adam's use of Hannah. She's the devil he knows: it's safe being with someone whose problems, though they may be extreme, resemble the ones his sister has, that he grew up handling. Adam "asks nothing" of Hannah, so she "give[s] him everything" — his love has no risks and no consequences. He will never judge her.

What's driven them apartish, for now, is Adam's impending Broadway debut. He lives with Ray now live; shamefully, they're as great to watch as you'd imagine. I didn't think last season's "Boys" was great, but oh, I hold out hope that there's a dynamite Ray/Adam episode somewhere in this show's lifespan. I hate Adam and Ray, but no amount of hate could stop me from appreciating half an hour of Alex Karpovsky and Adam Driver acting at each other, unencumbered by b-plots. I'm afraid this sounds like I'm referring to Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna as b-plots. I don't want them to be, but as of this season, everybody besides Hannah has been a b-plot in the worst way (Ray and Adam chief among them, with Adam only moving to the narrative front, really, as of "Incidentals").

Hannah, disregarding boundaries (which is a useful setup for the end of the episode), visits Adam at Ray's apartment. Please not that, in this scene, there is a box in the corner of the frame marked "Adam's creepy shit." The apartment's been featured this season otherwise, but it bares repeating that Ray's apartment, for the first two seasons of Girls, was Adam's. It's a shame they don't capitalize more on the juxtaposition between the present and the beginning of Hannah and Adam's relationship. Remember how fun and uncomfortable and complex those scenes were, I ask myself?

Season one callbacks do otherwise populate this episode. When Adam escorts Hannah back to her place, Adam apologizes for the space he's asserted he needs by informing Hannah that when she gets a break like he's gotten, and she needs to be in work mode, she'll understand what he's going through! Viewers may remember that Hannah has gone through this. In season one, she prioritized her work — even when there wasn't much of a sign that it would get her anywhere, save the invited reading that she botched — over Adam, and he reacted to this by verbally tearing her apart (which resulted in him injuring himself, and he used his injuries to shame and manipulate Hannah for the unseen months between seasons one and two).

What I love about that little narrative wave — of Hannah telling Adam she didn't want him to move in because she wanted her work to come first — was how, without even the external markers of success, it was articulated so well that being invited to the reading and failing at the reading, in addition to (crucially) Marnie pettily elevating Hannah's college nemesis, with her successful sob story — all lit a fire in Hannah, a fire she wanted, even for all of an episode, to take care of.

Since then, the external markers of success that have come Hannah's way have served as obstacles. They haven't necessarily lit her up in that same way. It's been two seasons since then, but what the audience has glimpsed that does light up, compel, inspire et al. Hannah is...Marnie.

Marnie was all Hannah could think about when she was on deadline with her ebook, but she couldn't control Marnie. She can control Adam, but what is that worth? This season's been full of tired warning signs directed at Hannah regarding why Adam isn't great for her, but — as ever — the biggest danger he poses to Hannah is that he is just a coping mechanism that has relieved the blow of Marnie disarticulating herself from Hannah's life. It's the lack of respect for the Marnie-wound that the writers have demonstrated this season that illuminates why season three has been a travesty. Divorcing Hannah's relationship with Marnie from her creative work is — has been proven — narratively unsound. That's my greatest dissatisfaction with this show, even more than — well, I'm going to hold off on listing everything. But I have to say I'm still raw about how Jessa showed up in "She Said OK," after two episodes with her as a central figure, and had NO LINES. My irritation persists!

Speaking of Marnie: she gets a season one callback, too. Marnie is in the same position at Soo Jin's gallery as she was at her first job — literally, in the same position in the frame, at the same kind of desk. She gets a scene with LOUISE LASSER. The woman who dared to be married to Woody Allen, star of Mary Harman, Mary Hartman! Although I haven't seen the show, since critics have been discussing it, it sounds like exactly what I want to watch right now. Lasser gets an absolutely killer line that can't get enough critical emphasis about why aging is "the pits," elevating this scene, at least, is required viewing.

Lasser's cameo dented my heart. She is as well formed a minor character as anyone in season one. Shortly after her first scene, Hannah and Elijah go together to resume the Patti LuPone interview Hannah started in "Incidentals." Mr. and Mrs. Patti LuPone function feebly as warning signs. I think this could've been pulled off, but they are both cartoon characters. Nobody in season one was a cartoon character. The closest anyone came to cartoondom then was Hannah's college nemesis, and it worked.

In the glorified interstitial corner:

  • Elijah, now fully back in Hannah's life, delivers the most precise and "so good" critical evaluation of Marnie's performing style: at once too stiff and too hopeful. This was good use of a brief scene.
  • Jessa dances the withdrawal out of her hair before rolling around on the floor crying, "I'm so bored!" Shoshanna also drops by to remind the audience that she's graduating soon.
  • Desi reminds the audience that Marnie made an amazing YouTube video we haven't heard about in episodes, infuriating me all over again.
  • Ray and Adam share with each other about the space they've insisted on from Marnie and Hannah, respectively. Although Ray doesn't acknowledge that it's Marnie he's talking about, he does mention that he loves her chin, which is a detail I appreciated.

As a result of Mr. and Mrs. Patti LuPone giving Hannah the glimpse at the relationship-fate of her nightmares, she gets herself fired from the advertorial department at GQ. If it's truly gone (I can't trust this show anymore), I'll miss the Yale Younger Poet's Prize-winner and his pitches, which were also stiff and hopeful. Those characters, except their awful cardboard supervisor, had the potential to become real. Hannah trashes the department's mission and its negative impact on the staff's creative lives in a speech that has none of the visceral darkness of, say, Hannah's "Vagina Panic" rape joke. Hannah's actions may demonstrate that it is, as Laird told her, a "dark scene" in her head, but I could have really gone for Hannah exorcizing that in that moment. For something. Although she does shut down Joe, who has been nice to her, as she detected that he wanted something from her, which is a detail I liked, even though their relationship amounted to nothing more than one introductory episode and a montage.

One complaint Hannah airs is the concern that she and her advertorial colleagues are a "sweatshop factory for puns," which is what's been paying off for her. Remember that her old publisher didn't want a friendship between two college girls, he wanted a pudgy face slick with semen and sadness. Her almost new publisher wanted a funny fat girl who, unlike Mindy Kaling, "goes all the way." Will Hannah be moved to reevaluate how she channels her "myriad talents"? It hurts to hope for anything now.

In the first scene I've enjoyed Jessa in in way, way too long, she crashes Marnie's workday and offers Louise Lasser the criticism she's been craving and trying to elicit from a too-timid Marnie. Jessa's boundary transgression earns a job offer from Lasser (it is interesting to notice who benefits and loses from boundary transgressions all over this episode) and Jemima Kirke gets to be funny again.

Rapper Lil' Freckles! Too good for this show at this point. Although she's on the writing staff for season four. So maybe that won't always be true.

Marnie bares her stiff and hopeful soul for Desi and tries to transgress the boundary of their professional relationship. I want Marnie to realize that something can come from her and that she can function as something other than the achieving man's significant other. It would make me scream in the best way of Marnie initiated the project of writing a memoir next season and called it the [Anything]'s Daughter/Girlfriend, she defines herself so exclusively by her relationships (and that title cliche is hilarious and the worst, just like her). I don't care for a man teaching her this lesson, but true to form, Marnie doesn't seem intent on learning anything from him. As soon as she's faced with the reality of Desi's girlfriend, Clementine, Marnie invites herself to Ray's apartment.

During the performance, Shoshanna detects that Hannah's blown up her life and asks her if she's going to be okay. Hannah demonstrates how and to what extent she's not okay at a dinner with Adam's theatre friends, the "scene" he said in "Incidentals" that he didn't want to be a part of. Hannah glories in the fact that she was fired — which means unemployment checks for her — and, wasted in Ray's apartment, forsakes sex with Adam to demonstrate how she has no respect for Ray. I don't have any respect for Ray, either, but this gesture comes out of nowhere. Sure, Hannah believing that "everything is [her] business" is an entrenched facet of her character; it was even pointed out in explicitly in "Flo," the way Hannah insists on knowing everything. But Ray has thrown a real wrench in Hannah's life before — it would have been awesome if, to rhyme Desi's attempt to teach Marnie a lesson, Ray brought up, in the wake of Hannah's firing, how she's made all these bad decisions, including the reading she botched after she took Ray's useless advice about what is and isn't a valid subject. It's a scene like that that should drive Hannah to want to violate Ray's privacy. When she finds him having sex with Marnie, though, her reaction has — perfectly — minimally to do with Ray.  "You will never judge me again," Hannah warns Marnie.

Please don't let that rage get erased.

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