Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Girls Season 4, Episode 6: "Close Up" - Recognizing alarms or changes in partner morale and performance.

This was a gift.

Girls, Episode Thirty-Eight, "Close Up"

"Close Up" opens on a series of couples. First, Adam and Mimi-Rose, who now sleep in Mimi-Rose's lavish and keenly designed loft. He makes her a luxurious breakfast on their deck while she sleeps in. They are everything Hannah and Elijah are not back in Hannah's apartment. Hannah and Elijah are not intimate, and Hannah cannot enjoy any kind of breakfast because Elijah has eaten all of her cereal, plunging her into a meltdown.

Desi and Marnie copulate to the sound of their own music. Shoshanna, meanwhile, has the chance to become somebody's coworker — the way Desi and Marnie, as far as their band goes, are coworkers — but she rejects it. In an interview for a marketing position at an instant soup company, Shoshanna uses how much she does not want the job to give vent to her frustrations with job interview pretensions and with the unimpressive product. Although the interviewer, Scotty, rejects her for the position — he says her objection to the name, Madame Tinsley's, gets her off to a bad start, but clearly this guy who is looking for marketing help has never seen "Mad Men," because anyone who neglects to try and change their name wants to see them fail — he does ask Shoshanna on a date, an invitation she accepts.

The extent to which Shoshanna is completely over everything in this scene was a high point for the character. Shoshanna was shortchanged for fun scenes almost entirely last season. I think she is channeling Jessa pretty hard here, too. She definitely learned the term "bedussy" (I take issue with the spelling of that portmanteau) from Jessa.

Both Desi+Marnie and Adam+Mimi-Rose find out one member of the relationship is not on the same page as the other with regards to what their relationship is. Between Marnie and Desi, the misunderstanding is all about their music, because they are both people who love to project, and that is their stage on which to do so. Marnie sees them as "She & Him, but with actual romance." Desi sees them as "modern American folk with an indie edge." He also believes the song Marnie wrote, "Close Up," that she wants them to perform at a showcase, is misrepresentative of their oeuvre. The subtext is all there, and the joke that is Desi's ideals about his music as they collide with his overbearing douchebaggedness is so powerful. Even Marnie has a hard time humoring him.

Meanwhile, Adam and Mimi-Rose hang around post-breakfast and Adam proposes they go for a run. Everything from the way he reads his lines to the way he snarls his desire to see her "bounce" is sensational. Adam Driver has not had so many fun things to do in a scene since the second season, at least. He was definitely all gravity last year. And the feral way he describes how he wants to watch her suggests that he is not trying to stifle and warp himself the way he did with Natalia. All of it works to make the blow as hard as it possibly can be when Mimi-Rose says no, she cannot go for a run because she is recovering from an abortion that she had the day before.

This calls back to "Vagina Panic" in season one, where Adam passively shamed Hannah for supposing that abortions were no big deal. Here, Adam is confronted by Mimi-Rose, totally unruffled by her decision. She wants to be honest with Adam about her decision, but it was her decision, she stresses. She went with her friend, Sue-Ellen Garth, and she has no qualms and does not need to crawl into Adam's arms.

First of all, their subsequent conversation is a garden of expositional delights. Mimi-Rose's middle name is Eleanor. Adam's parents were married within a week of meeting one another. Also, as the owner of an inconvenient name, I love the way Mimi-Rose is defensive about her name. Adam is so shaken by the way she went along and did not include him in the decision to abort the ball of cells he helped provoke inside of her that he calls her evil and proceeds to pack his things.

Both Adam and Hannah are approached by the rawest, most accurate descriptions of their respective challenges as characters in this episode. Adam gets the opportunity to truly confront his need to be needed when Mimi-Rose stops him from moving. Their conversation addresses perfectly and specifically precisely what they are experiencing, which is an astonishing departure from the conversations Adam has always had with Hannah, which served only to dance around how they thought no one could love them, but because there is something wrong with the other person, they have a bit of leverage over them, so they are as much as a risk as they are willing to take.

But between Adam and Mimi-Rose, we get this:
"You don't ask me how you look or whatever. You just look in the mirror and go. You're like those jellyfish who only need to fuck once to have generations of kids. Sometimes I just can't tell what I'm even here for at all." 
"See, that's what I love about you. You know the weirdest stuff. Your brain does not process information in a normal way at all. Truly, Adam, I care about you so much." 
"I care about my butcher. I need my butcher. I can't butcher meats. I need my butcher more than you need me." 
"No, I don't need you. But I love coming home and knowing you're behind the door. And I love watching you bend down and pick something up cause you use your body in a really strange way. And wanting you like this, that's better than needing you because it's pure."
Even where Mimi-Rose is remarking on Adam's idiosyncrasies, it is with markedly more warmth and affection than when Hannah would make reference to Adam's elephantine ears.

Meanwhile, Hannah has the opportunity for a revelation that could be as relevant to her as Adam's is to him. But Hannah does not have someone with Mimi-Rose's clarity of mind to usher her there. In fact, the person Hannah is talking to — her therapist, played by Bob Balaban — seems mysteriously preoccupied by Mimi-Rose. He assures Hannah she has merely rendered an all-too-accurate image of her, but Bob Balaban clearly knows who Mimi-Rose is, setting Hannah up for probably the same kind of fateful life-bond with Mimi-Rose that Lena Dunham developed IRL with Audrey Gelman, the daughter of her childhood therapist.

Bob Balaban asks Hannah how she thinks of writing as a career option. No one ever poses questions like this to Hannah — he isn't asking her how she thinks she's going to pull it off, he asks her what she thinks about it and why she wants to do it. She thinks aloud about how her favorite writers helped her shape her world view. Bob Balaban seizes upon that and really interrogates Hannah's impulse to help. Going to Iowa, Hannah says, made her mother happy, and the decision became all about that. Bob Balaban calls her "beautiful" and "stable" for having arrived at the understanding that she is a "helper." This scene is such a minefield!

Hannah's every folly and disaster has come at trying to "help" those close to her — her parents, Marnie, Adam — by doing what they want, wanting for herself what she wants for them. Hannah does not interrogate herself about what she wants or why because she does not trust it. What a sad and terrible thing that she does not know — or is not ready to face — why she wants to write. And based on their previous interactions, this is a totally uncharacteristic level of interaction and feedback from Bob Balaban. I think his willingness to track Hannah's motivation to the "helper" conclusion and declare her "stable" is an effort on his part to end Hannah's therapy so she will not find out he knows who Mimi-Rose is. Trying to guess what comes next isn't my foremost priority as a viewer of Girls, but this is some terrible thing Bob Balaban is doing to Hannah here. He is reinforcing that everything Hannah has done to serve others is done according to the correct instinct. She has no incentive to listen to herself.

Which makes the next scene, when she convenes with Elijah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa, make sense, even though she is on raw terms with everyone. Hannah does not trust herself. She gives credence to their suggestions and their takes on her situation even though they are projections of their own need to be the center of Hannah's universe at best.

At their diner date, Shoshanna decides she could always be just like her mother and defer her dreams by being the woman behind Scotty the Soup Mogul. Shades of her season one relationship with Charlie creep into Marnie's talk of Desi. When Hannah says she wants to get a job helping people, they unanimously assail her with examples of her legendary selfishness. Their chorus of jobs Hannah might consider that would not disgust them yields for Hannah one useful nugget: because she cannot do, she can teach.

While all this is going on, Ray makes the sojourn to Community Board Eight, where he confronts Marc Maron, who could be future him. The discord at the meeting moves Ray to ready himself to make the run for a seat, which is inoffensive, but it's all plot for now.

At the same time, Hannah readies herself to get back in the job market, leading to one of my favorite moments in all of Girls: the reveal of Hannah's resume. It's one of the best jokes to which Girls has ever been home, and I'm dedicated a post to it alone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Girls Season 4, Episode 5: "Sit-In" - Some great, artistic love story.

After challenging the idea that women cannot create art, they can only transcribe, for two years, the cumulative affect of so many critics confusing Lena Dunham and Hannah Horvath provoked some sour, reactionary moments in season three. The nigh inextricable identification of the writer with the character serves one of the best facets of Girls, which is its existence as a masterfully told story about an artist who does not have the confidence to see her story as worth telling.

Before the holidays, one of my coworkers edited the manuscript of my critical book about Girls, and she asked me what made me write it, assuming it was the characters and not Dunham. The fact that someone my age wrote something that exciting to me is no small part of my affection for the show, but I really care about Hannah.

All Hannah wants is external validation that she has made the right decision, the possibility of which is a difficult thing to watch an artist want so openly. The times I have felt myself wanting that from some person or institution is when I have felt the worst. It would, of course, be a wonderful thing if the people I admired thought my work is great, but if I let that guide me, I might not make the work I want, that I feel is important to make. At the same time, that approval has been so important to me because feeling seen, especially by someone I respect and admire, is so valuable — so valuable I feel scared to want it. I can't trust other people. I can only trust myself. I love Hannah for wanting to fully trust only other people, for wanting to be told she is good, for demanding that her value be recognized. And her total distrust of herself is cathartic as well. Why do I have to be all alone in this process? How am I supposed to be objective? What am I producing?

I love Hannah. It does not do the character justice to amend that with "even though she's not perfect." That implies a) anyone is, b) my affection for the character has anything to do with morals. I also love the narrator of Dennis Cooper's the Marbled Swarm. I love that I get that character, that I get to feel through Hannah what is difficult to face by myself.

I have never loved or needed this show more.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Girls, Episode Thirty-Seven, "Sit-In"

The camera, on Hannah, shakes. The episode picks up immediately where "Cubbies" left off, with Hannah what had been her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She lived there with Marnie, then with Elijah, then alone, then with Adam. After coming back one year and eight months early from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Hannah's found the apartment occupied by Adam and Mimi-Rose Howard. All her furniture and affects have been placed in a storage, which Adam emphasizes that he's paid for — along with how he did not do anything wrong and has not "[broken] any rules" by cohabiting with Mimi-Rose besides, Hannah points out, the rule of human decency. "Thank you, Mr. Rockefeller," Hannah tells him when he gives her the address for her storage unit, "another grand, romantic gesture from the last of the red hot lovers." Lena Dunham's portrayal of Hannah in her mixture of disgust, sincerity, and surprise with what she is saying and how she feels about what she is saying and crushes it. That expectation is so dangerous, that Adam be a red hot lover, but Hannah had it anyway.

With her suitcases in her hand, Adam clarifies how "this" — Mimi-Rose and their relationship — had nothing to do with Hannah. Hannah, having been totally erased from the apartment and from Adam's consideration, agrees. Overcome with how humiliated and miserable she is, Hannah thrusts herself into "her" room, where she locks herself in and takes to bed.

The apartment is spare and filled with Adam's reclaimed wood furniture. It does not recall Adam's old apartment and suggests that, as identifiably Adam as the decor is, he is not interested in recapturing that time in his life when Hannah would materialize in his old place. Unlike Hannah, Adam has not accumulated anything as much as he has burned trails up behind him. Marnie met Desi through him and the two of them were friends, but as Adam tries to chase down Marnie, he takes the time during the message he leaves Desi to remind Desi of who he is. As Mimi-Rose was revealed over the course of "Sit-In," I thought about what an amazing proposition Natalia seemed in season two and the role that recovery played in that relationship. Maybe that urine-soaked life that Natalia saw was not Hannah's after all.

Mimi-Rose is dismissed (save one vital, spectral appearance) from the rest of the episode after she opens the door to who she assumes is Marnie but who is, in fact, Shoshanna. There is no more perfect mistake Mimi-Rose could have made. Not only does Shoshanna give vent for the viewer sympathizing with Hannah —"I don't know who you are and I don't care to know" — but Shoshanna is so engaged with the project of Shoshanna and has so little respect for Marnie, the moment propels her all the more firmly into Hannah's corner.

Shoshanna wants to assume the role of the confidant, but in her mortifying suspicion that Hannah has already confided in everyone else and her too-efficient prioritization of emotional-cosmetic fixes precludes any shot she has at being of real use to Hannah. After realizing in Shoshanna's presence that Adam has knocked down the wall between the bedroom and his workspace — something they planned on that she then did not get to participate in — and how Mimi-Rose is an accomplished artist, Hannah is overloaded. All it takes is a suggestion from Shoshanna that she needs a bath before anything more can be done for her and Hannah kicks at her boob and shuts down.

Then Jessa arrives, pissed that Shoshanna is already there, pissed at Adam's revelation that he called Marnie before he considered contacting either of them, pissed at Marnie for being the first person Adam called (Jessa drops the line "tell [Marnie] her services are no longer needed," is that supposed to be an insult implying that she is a prostitute or has, in Hannah's absence, Jessa become involved in Marnie in their own weird toxic friendship the likes of which "Weirdos Need Girlfriends, Too" only hinted), and above all pissed at Hannah.

At Flavorwire, Alison Herman observed that, when it comes to people like Jessa, people like Hannah should "never expect out of [them] what [they don't] have it in them to give." Herman references Hannah's road trip to eject Jessa from rehab in "Truth or Dare," something she says Jessa would never do for Hannah. But Jessa thought they were even after her stint in rehab: she came to New York to be with Hannah during her crisis pregnancy. Even though she had a miscarriage, Jessa still went through the entire thing with little support from Hannah, who was blindsided by her parent's withdrawal of financial assistance, her evolving relationship with Adam, and her eroding relationship with Marnie. When Jessa realized Hannah was incapable of detecting how she failed her, she fled, and as of the end of season three, Jessa was kind of on her way to a good situation — waylaid as it was, ultimately, by the matter of (abortive) assisted suicide.

Anyway, Hannah decamping for Iowa came off as a supreme betrayal to Jessa, who is still in New York for Hannah and Hannah alone. "Why aren't you in Idaho?" she asks Hannah, limpid on the bed. Hannah says she feels insane. She does not detect or ignores the irritation in Jessa's voice. Jessa sits in Adam's woodworking studio and intimates that she was aware of Mimi-Rose and, as far as she knew, made Hannah aware of her. She, in fact, set "MRH" and Adam up to what she sees as the fruitful end of Adam being more forthcoming in AA meetings. Hannah, appalled, asks Jessa to please specify what kind of revelations were worth her, Jessa, getting her, Hannah's, boyfriend a new girlfriend. "Hannah," Jessa says, condescending to her like Jessa has never condescended to anyone before, "you know I can't tell you that. It's anonymous. Don't be a child." Hannah smacks the side of Jessa's body. Jessa smacks Hannah in the face. Before she blows out of the apartment, Jessa informs Adam that Hannah has digressed to a pre-verbal level and that that is Marnie territory.

For Jessa, whose own childhood has been hinted at as being so traumatic, to accuse Hannah of being a child is the ultimate intimation of "you have brought this on yourself, you have no control over what I can do to you."

Hannah, who cannot get a hold of Marnie any more than Adam can, winds up stuck alone in the bedroom, resigned to pissing in a bucket instead of venturing out into the apartment where she could have to see or interact with Adam and Mimi-Rose. I would do the same thing and Hannah's commitment to being locked in the bedroom was very validating to experience. If my significant other violated my space in that way, though, that alone would be more than enough for me to feel sound in the whole thing being over. Touch my stuff and that is it.

When she does venture into the apartment, it has been taken over by the unsettling pillow talk of Caroline and Laird. Laird "creams" a very pregnant Caroline's feet. Candles are lit everywhere. Hannah is so unnerved that it has come to this that she lies and says she is fine to discourage any more gestures of reassurance from either of them. Any glimpse of Gaby Hoffman is a privilege, but I love how she states nakedly that Adam cannot make it with a girl who is functional and fine. He needs to care for something twisted and wounded, like Hannah. Caroline is not wrong in the least, and that is what Hannah needs to keep in perspective: this is her chance, because Adam might take the opportunity to try and go back to her. He was lured away from Natalia because she was so functional. She could sharply identify the ways that Adam was not, and in Hannah's harsh OCD episode, he saw the good he could do her and ran back to that.

Several nightmares later, Hannah wakes up to jazz playing and bacon sizzling. The dreaminess of the moment Hannah wakes up, her assessment of where she is and what is going on, not for any one note in particular, but the whole situation reminded me of "One Man's Trash." Caroline told Hannah last night that Adam is likely fated to Hannah or someone like her, but one time, Hannah got a glimpse of what could be — she could be wanted by somebody else, and she could want security instead of life, and when else would that death-dealing fantasy be as appealing as now?

But she is not in Dr. Joshua's brownstone. She is still in her apartment that Adam has gutted, but Ray is over and cooking her breakfast. He gives her a hug and apologizes for it all — for Adam's betrayal, but also presumably for his own failure to be there for her in a compassionate, friend-ish way. Ray was Charlie's friend, and he channeled his hatred of Charlie's girlfriend Marnie onto Hannah, then channeled his hatred of Charlie's ex-girlfriend Marnie onto Hannah, then channeled his hatred of himself in the aftermath of his failed relationship with Shoshanna onto an affair with Marnie that Hannah witnessed. He is humbled.

This new level of understanding that Ray has reached about himself is especially vivid when juxtaposed with "One Man's Trash." Ray is currently trying to channel his hatred into a constructive place, into something he can maybe control: the traffic congestion on his street. "One Man's Trash" is a bottle episode that takes place entirely between Hannah and an affluent doctor in his brownstone, but it starts at Café Grumpy, where Ray was supervising Hannah at the time. The doctor asks Ray who from Grumpy's is depositing their trash in his dumpsters, and Ray viciously harasses and insults him until he leaves. He blows up at the doctor's suggestion they could "talk, neighbor to neighbor." This idea that one can talk to others, neighbor to neighbor, is now obsessing Ray. I love that he and Hannah share this tie to the fevery idyll that episode represents.

With a hand burned from a mishap with the bacon, Hannah has the fortitude to return to the video she and Shoshanna found of a keynote address given by Mimi-Rose on the subject of love. Hannah makes some progress on it before Marnie arrives, but Marnie's presence so unsettles Hannah that she darts for the bathroom and says she needs to take a shower and cannot talk to her.

Marnie's adaptation of Desi's vocabulary — particularly her use of "woodshedding" — is so perfect. Marnie is such an alarming shell, and it was a canny choice to remind the audience of that even when she has something to truly offer Hannah in this scene. She busts in on Hannah's fake shower and admits that she had been avoiding Hannah because she had to formulate how to tell her that she needs to let Adam go.

Hannah informs Marnie that letting people go does not come easily to her. Hannah is so beclouded by the situation in which she has found herself, she clearly forgets who she is talking to here or else a calling-out would have surly come: Marnie hung on to Charlie with such force he had to disappear into thin air for her to spiral out of control and at least attach her world of abandonment issues onto a new guy. What frame of reference does Marnie have for letting go? She has Hannah. She and Hannah broke up in a forthright manner, Marnie moved out, and she gave Hannah the space to feel mad at her and she gave herself the space to miss Hannah. Marnie has not learned anything from her time with Charlie, everything about her conduct with Desi spells that out, but she has learned from her time with Hannah. And of course she sees Adam as being an analog to her, because she thinks she should occupy, inside Hannah, that boyfriend-sized space of regard. Marnie still believes no one loves Hannah as much as she does.

Hannah and Marnie's first proper scene together took place in that bathtub. And there Marnie reminds Hannah that the "great, artistic love story" she dreamt of being a part of is probably them. "You and me?" Hannah asks, and then mutters, resigned, "I'll take it." At their most distant, Marnie saw on Hannah's computer that, when she could not write anything else, the thing most clear to her was how "a friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance." Also, when Hannah tries to get Marnie on the phone earlier, she refers to the apartment as their apartment — hers and Marnie's, still.

After that, Hannah is ready. She gathers her things. Adam returns and, seeing she is wounded, swoops in to dress it properly. The scene between them is beautiful and necessary, and confirms again that Adam cannot give Hannah what she wants. He calls her "kid," which called Hannah back to him in season two, but she tells him he cannot call her that anymore. He tells her he will vacate the apartment and give it back to her, but as for that night, she has no place to stay. Desi is living with Marnie now. She hit both Jessa and Shoshanna. Ray needs too much. Caroline and Laird are both just downstairs and crazy. Hannah locates her storage unit. She clears off her couch, crushed in the middle, and lies there.

And in her head, she has Mimi-Rose's keynote address:
How many of you remember your first love? Hands. Yes, me, too. When I was nine, I fell in love for the first time. The minute I saw Peter, I knew he would be mine. With his flaxen hair and overalls, he was like a Norman Rockwell painting. And one day, on a ride to an ice cream parlor, he finally asked me to hold hands. I was in heaven. But that night, as I tried to read a book, an activity that had heretofore been my favorite, I found myself distracted. Where's Peter? What is he thinking about? My private time, my time to focus and learn and grow, was being sliced in half by my new relationship. So, yes, when I was nine, I broke up with someone for hindering my creativity. And nothing's changed. Maybe I'm crazy, but who knows? Think of all your ups and downs, all your hopes and fears. How many of them have been yours and how many have been constructs of romantic discord?
If Mimi-Rose's words have the power to penetrate Hannah's self-doubt, they could move her the way Marnie and her parents have moved her — not towards prioritizing career or romance, but towards prioritizing her art. Can Hannah trust that to have come from the person who represents how alienated she has become from her whole life as she knew it before Iowa, which was a move she tried to make for herself that blew up horrifically? The last time she isolated herself to write, even though it was not what she wanted to write, she opened herself back up to Adam. What can this voice accomplish in Hannah's head?

Also, does that not sound — how Mimi-Rose learned a lesson — like a twin performance to accompany Adam's "that'll teach you" monologue?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Girls Season 4, Episode 4: "Cubbies" - Workshopping each other's emotions.

I keep a day planner less to plan my day than to reflect on how I spend my time and hold myself accountable when my life does not look like it should. I have considerable control over the shape of my day, so why did it take me all week to write this? I have to give myself a pass for being in the midst of an obsession with Jascha Heifetz's master classes and reading fiction for Black Balloon/Catapult and working on my favorite project I have ever worked on at my day job. Pass given. As much as I cannot wait for the next episode (!), this episode augmented the pleasure of this week profoundly. Speaking of augmented pleasure:

Girls, Episode Thirty-Six, "Cubbies"

If every episode herewith in season four contained a wounding job interview with Shoshanna, that would please me. This bureaucratic encounter maintains the aura of mystery in which Shoshanna's expertise radiates its weird energy. Hannah, Marnie, and Jessa's wheelhouses have been articulated and incorporated into their stories, but Shoshanna's thing is that she is a student, and that is still her thing. When the interviewer tells her she is not getting the job, Shoshanna wants to know why — until she is insulted for having asked the questions, the answers designed specifically to insult her.

People who are strictly passive learners fascinate me. It is valid, but to feel unable to rely on one's observations intimidates me wildly.

Shoshanna's chief drawbacks, according to the interviewer, are that she is reductive and off-putting. In the interest of honesty, Shoshanna shares the fact that her interviewer's jewelry is inadequate. The whole scene establishes parallels between Shoshanna and Hannah, particularly in their failure to be savvy about what kind of truths to dispense and when. It is not merely social tone-deafness, though, on either part. Hannah's "brutal honesty" is reactionary: people keep telling her about herself, so she tells them about themselves. Shoshanna, meanwhile, draws strength from the truths to which she adheres — things she sees in romantic comedies and on Sex and the City — and she believes that if others were clued into these truths, such as the inadequacy of the jewelry, they too would draw strength from being better at being girls.

From that to another scene about evaluation: Jessa listens to Marnie and Desi's demo. Jessa does not want to evaluate the song and has nothing to really say about it. She does not like it, but more than that, she does not care about it. As soon as Shoshanna joins them, Marnie remarks that she looks amazing. Marnie is always down to do some evaluating, so she does not understand why anyone would pass up the chance to evaluate her.

Shoshanna then verbalizes the thesis of Girls: "What makes these people qualified to judge me?" That Shoshanna is the one who gets this epiphany is so correct: she is the one who, however idiosyncratically, is the best equipped to listen to and believe in herself. That foundation may not be made of titanium or anything, and it is based on her ability to reflect the values of SATC, but Shoshanna feels that she has it in her to reflect that ideal of success and is in the best place to adjust her expectations for what that success really looks like. She changed Ray's life and had the clarity of mind to realize that was more trouble than it was worth. I've been worried about Shoshanna — her appearances last season amounted to nothing.

Appropriately, Shoshanna evaluates Marnie's song by listening to a fraction of it and deciding it has hit potential and, therefore, however much she likes it is ultimately irrelevant because she will hear it everywhere. Marnie's reaction to that had me gesticulating wildly: she wishes Hannah were there because she is an artist and she would be able to really tell Marnie how the song sounds! This is what I was waiting for. After shaming Hannah into the ground over her attempt to even try to prioritize art over her career and boyfriend, then alienating herself from her the more she understood that Hannah did the right thing, now that Marnie is halfheartedly using art as a conceit to regain the shades of career and boyfriend she lost, she wants Hannah to tell her that she is doing it right. This is the same kind of payoff that came on Mad Men with Joan, who, after years of shaming Peggy for her inability to dress like a golden age movie star, found herself trying to look like a professional young woman with only Peggy's example to follow.

Hannah is completely stalled out in Iowa. I love that she tells Elijah that everything she writes feels trivial because that is Ray's voice from season one haunting her all the way here. Hannah has the desire to write but no faith in her voice or observations because the people around her belittle and reduce everything she goes through. The only font of inspiration she can end up tapping is her frustration with her classmates, so she crafts them marvels of passive aggression that she inserts into their cubbies.

Her classmates are alienated and alarmed by the way Hannah blames them and their critiques for her inability to do work. But when one student says her letter read like a LiveJournal, Hannah balls up some paper and throws it in his face. That was another moment that thrilled me and felt rewarding to see. Being the bigger person in the face of weak insults is exhausting. Hannah has never stood up for herself like that. Afterwards, Hannah's professor asks her to hang back, and Hannah is vocally excited by the prospect of getting kicked out. She could not, by this point, even trust herself to quit.

Just in time, her dad visits and shares with Hannah the story of how her mom wrote a book, or attempted to, but then she quit and it made her happier. It sounds so spectacularly unreliable and a sad conclusion to paint in the feebly good light in which he paints it. When Hannah infers from that story that she should quit, her dad gets excessively upset for her and with her. But Hannah feels that his feelings are encroaching on hers. It seems harsh, but every interaction Hannah's ever had with her parents demonstrate that the Horvaths do not do boundaries well. They are particularly prone to not just allowing Hannah to feel something without trying to figure it out, like they cannot just observe it. When he drops Hannah off, he tells her they should run away together. I love that the request puts Hannah off, but she does not question it. If something happened to her dad, I don't think Hannah has the equipment to handle it, and there has been signs from all the way back in season one that he is having health problems.

Also melting down somewhat is Ray, shaken from his apartment to scream at cars on the street. There is a reason for it, but that is very secondary to how ready Ray was to melt down. It makes narrative sense, even though the pacing of Ray's story has been erratic — he is still letting Marnie go back to the well of his physical affection because of her low self-esteem, something he would have loved in season one, but since Shoshanna made him realize he wants love and to have pride in himself founded on something besides making others feel less than, like he did when he told Hannah her experiences made for trivial subject matter, he does not have the ability to deal with his self-loathing and frustration in a new way. So he screams at strangers, just like he did when he was an insult barista (Richard Brody's term).

Shoshanna pretends to spontaneously encounter him doing this, despite the fact that Ray's neighborhood is a place to which she would have to deliberately travel, and he tries to be accommodating to her, muting his nut-rage, and taking her along for his errand run, which Shoshanna inevitably co-ops. He allows her because he trusts her, and he even trusts her to pick out a shirt that Shoshanna probably only picks out because she wants Ray to have the benefit of the doubt that it is the shirt he wants. She had no qualms about critiquing her interviewer's jewelry or Marnie's song, but she withholds judgment of Ray's shirt because she thinks, I think, that she can learn something from Ray. Not that he has something to teach her, but that knowing him could be important to her, and he feels the same way. And after so many awful, tedious conversations over the course of last season, Ray and Shoshanna go back to being as compelling as they were in "She Did."

Only two moments are dedicated to Marnie's real mission of late — her music being a red herring: in the first, Desi is distracted by the way Marnie is no longer lovestruck and willing to acknowledge their musical collaboration is an excuse for them to have sex. In the second, Desi tries to bash Marnie's door in as he sobs and confesses it is over between he and his girlfriend, Clementine. Marnie is completely into his vulnerability and brokenness and so excited to be there for him until his story starts to sound like she dumped him. He denies it, but Marnie's look of dismay remains while he says he loves only her. He goes down on her, and that look morphs into the most genuine expression of happiness and triumph Marnie has definitively ever worn in the life of Girls.

Meanwhile, Hannah leaves Iowa, probably for good, and heads back to Brooklyn, probably with an encounter like the one Marnie is having with Desi in mind. And when she knocks on the door of her apartment, a woman named Mimi Rose (Gillian Jacobs!) answers the door. She assumes Hannah is Hannah, but Hannah has never heard of her. Hannah's couch is gone, her table is gone, but Adam is there with Mimi Rose.

If Hannah, now, had to decide for herself where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do, understanding that know signs will point her there and that she cannot trust the ones that do, that would mean everything to me.