Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 8: "What Will We Do This Time About Adam?" - Why don't you try casting someone who vaguely resembles me and has my gravitas next time, okay?

I can't see myself ever finding that this title does anything for this episode, but who can say what the future is going to do to us.

Girls, Season Six, Episode 60: "What Will We Do This Time About Adam?"

Jessa gave her father, at least until what in the time the show explores was not very long ago, a lot of leeway in order to keep from alienating him with her needs. She empathized with him as much as possible, rationalized his nude magazine stash and his unreliability. She has never been able to do this with Hannah, who she needs just as much, but for a reason that is more slippery and intangible, probably, the way friendship is—but she does exactly to Adam what she does with her father, empathizing with him when he tells her he needs to go and be with Hannah and raise her baby with her. "You've got to do what you've got to do," she tells him. She wants to believe it. She probably imagines he would be repelled by her need for him if she showed it, but more crushingly it just wouldn't matter. On top of this is the fact that Adam is leaving to take care of Hannah's baby, and Jessa was perhaps never more in need than when she was pregnant, and no one was there for her in that way. She wanted Hannah to be, but she wasn't, and the evidence that that may still be hurting her plays out in this episode in a few ways. First, when she complains to Laird, she says "her baby," disdainfully, contrasting how much more valid others see Hannah's emergency than hers. Then the replication of her walk to the bar in "Vagina Panic." Back then, she was deferring her abortion, had a white Russian, and enjoyed a joyful-seeming hookup during which she discovered she had miscarried. Now, she is listless, takes a seltzer because she's in recovery, and cries when she meets a man in the bathroom. When Adam comes back to her at the end of the day, acknowledging that she needs more help than a baby, it is a horribly poignant moment that reinforces her belief that she didn't alienate him, so he came back to her.

Adam came back to her because Jessa needs him, and Hannah doesn't. Adam needs to be needed: that's what he told Mimi-Rose when she snuck an abortion behind his back. His daughter-abandoning sister demonstrates his comfort with difficult people and with being the comparatively steady, reliable person, albeit only next to someone who cannot quite appreciate that he is not a stable force by any means. He was also there when his ex Natalia warned Hannah that she was going to wind up "with a baby [she didn't] know how to care for" by staying with Adam. Adam's name for Hannah was always "kid," and he sees her as something small and vulnerable, and the last time he wanted to get back together with her was the birth of his niece. Adam has not stopped equating Hannah with a fantasy of being able to protect and nurture someone. And Hannah is still in many respects the same person he fell in love with: he finds her digging into a bin at a bodega, just similar enough to their first meeting that it makes sense he would fall for her again. They have tender sex and he yells at her about sugar, which recalls their one true but still harrowing heyday as a couple before their first breakup. But Hannah has changed. She doesn't need him anymore. Which is why the extent to which this episode dwells on them is disproportionate to what it reveals about Adam and Jessa and how, when he does come back to her in the end, having realized Hannah's not the helpless kid sending herself to the ER anymore, it is an acknowledgment that he sees how much Jessa needs him and that's what he wants—it is so true to their characters and their relationship makes complete sense for the first time. I would have gladly traded one of the scenes between Hannah and Adam for a longer scene between Adam and Jessa in the end, but the scene I would have traded would not have been when Laird comes up to Hannah's apartment to tell her how he is an experienced single parent and makes his pitch to her that they should be together.

And while I will concede that the love story between Ray and Shoshanna's former boss, Abigail, was the purest and best ever deployment of Girls's romcom instincts, a flourish they deserved to get in before the show shuttered for good, and their kiss on the carousel was perfect, Abigail still deserves better than Ray (season one Ray has never left me; if you've only watched this show as it's aired, go back and revisit season one Ray — Alex Karpovsky has played Ray's growth as a person with so much heart, it is a jagged experience to remember what he was like to begin with). And the way he is emboldened by her example, caught up in the magic of her natural ease and charisma and sunniness, is just Ray falling prey to his manic pixie dreams. It's not to say Ray has not grown — as a character, he and Hannah have evolved the most and are, as the show ends, probably the two characters who will most plausibly stay in touch with one another, if the end of he and Marnie didn't taint that whole phase of Ray's life as fully as it had the power to. But Ray is prone to building his life in the service of what the women in his life want for him, and Abigail seems like another gorgeous building to hide in. But the history that informs their scenes doesn't make them any less magnificent — Aidy Bryant really is a dream.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 7: "The Bounce" - We're just naked (white) children.

I don't need anything from Girls—I've enjoyed it, I'm going to miss it, but there is nothing that I feel these last few episodes MUST deliver on. Which is an ideal way to approach the end of a show, particularly one ending on its own terms. Since Dunham et al have, even when it has not seemed like it, understood their characters to be on a trajectory from the beginning, there has been a lot of payoff this season, and for the most part, it feels like Girls is spending its time far more wisely than a lot of self-consciously styled final seasons, with Hannah's pregnancy shoring up what wounds are still open among her friends, who has changed and who hasn't. That being said, I would have rather seen most of this episode last season. Some of it not at all!

Girls Season Six, Episode Fifty-Nine, "The Bounce"

Athena Dante deserves better, and so does the nameless pawn shop proprietor. Both characters, a young black girl and an older Greek man, respectively, serve only to guide Elijah and Marnie, respectively, by imparting the wisdom that has eluded them and kept them from what they want. On the one hand, regarding Elijah and Marnie: it is believable and feels right that these two exceptionally self-centered characters would need someone firmly apart from the sphere of people in which they are enmeshed to tell them something they did not want to hear. Both of them treat Hannah and the other people close to them like their own appendages. The words of strangers mean more because they have not yet been absorbed into the swirling black holes that are their respective ideas about themselves. But on a show that is otherwise both shrewd about what people realistically get out of teaching others lessons and where that drive usually comes from and has never nailed non-white characters, both of these stories were sour and regressive ways of getting two characters from A to B when (arguably) neither of them needed this growth and, especially in the case of Elijah, the stakes were not sufficiently high.

The only redeeming facet of spending this much time with Elijah is Andrew Rannell's performance, which is so good, but I still could have not left his and Hannah's apartment when he went to the audition. Hearing about Athena Dante after the fact, where it could have seemed like it was a story Elijah would have concocted himself—that a magical spirit guide told him "men only exist to buy us jeans" and helped him believe in himself during his big audition—would have made it so the joke was on Elijah for seeing a driven, talented young black girl as existing only in the service of his destiny. But instead, we see it, and I was not into any of it that was not Rannells singing "Let Me Be Your Star."

The impetus for Elijah going on the audition in the first place was probably Dill Harcourt, the dashing gay broadcaster who broke his heart last season in "Love Story" when he told Elijah he was not the special person he was looking for. It is still the more palpable specter haunting Elijah, since his relationship with Hannah does not have quite the depth for him to to have been moved to reinvigorate his acting ambitions just because Hannah is pregnant and about to be too busy to hang out all day and do nothing with him. Elijah did not have a story of his own until the one with Dill last season, and the renewed focus on Elijah here does mean the return of Dill, who surfaces in his life like a gesture of cosmic spite, since Elijah was probably finally in the mindset to act as if he was going on this audition for himself.

Dill winds up in Elijah and Hannah's apartment, and stays there all day while Elijah goes on his audition and Hannah waits by the phone for Paul-Louis's call, because he is embroiled in a scandal for trying to purchase a white baby for adoption. Hannah practices her child-having acumen on Dill—"I'm going to have my eye on you even when it seems like I don't."—and Dill unburdens himself of his daddy issues on Hannah. He insists Hannah not deny her baby the opportunity to have a father. She may be more vulnerable than ever, but Hannah's finally cultivated enough skepticism to make her whole exchange with Dill into a narrative net loss. I would have liked to see her bridge the story between Dill and Elijah and the one with Marnie, but she stays with Dill all day. She does not let him influence how she is feeling, she puts up some boundaries, and she takes Paul-Louis's call.

Paul-Louis does not remember Hannah until she reminds him that he thought she had a lot of pubic hair. When she says the sex they had resulted in her pregnancy, he is flummoxed and does not quite believe it when she says she does not want anything from him. He embraces it, though, and says he's not ready. He recognizes that he doesn't have any business advising her on what decision to make regarding the pregnancy, whether she stays pregnant or not. She offers to keep him in the loop, and he advises that a name he always thought was cool for a boy was "Grover," and she knows what that means. "Be good, Hannah," he says, and Hannah is overcome with regret for having given him the courtesy of knowing. Dill detects right away that Paul-Louis dismissed her, "The way I dismissed Elijah," he says, giving the first indication that that interaction haunts him, and he did not come to the apartment only because he's in trouble, just like Elijah's not at the audition only because he has any new sense of responsibility for his life. "No, it went perfectly," Hannah says of her phone call before she and Dill cry together, which quickly turns into Dill crying in Hannah's lap. Before Elijah returns, Hannah has transformed the situation and gotten Dill over to the couch, where they are sharing eight pizzas and laughing at a movie that involves a talking baby. Before Dill can make a declaration of love to Elijah, Elijah lets him know he thinks "You came here to fuck with me" and admits Dill succeeded, but he didn't let that stop him from succeeding at something he wanted to do. That is the story Elijah's telling himself and he sticks to it, even as he tells Dill to bring a pizza to him in his room and they fall asleep together. Elijah really only had one story on the show, and it was a simple love story, and this is just the right way to end it: he gets the guy and thinks he's entitled to the same journey to prioritizing his desires that the other characters are on.

Marnie's story would have been a better counterpoint if it had consequences within the episode, but it doesn't, and there is not much room for any. The only content of her scenes is "Marnie learns a lesson"—the big lesson that would have enabled Marnie to change the direction of her life—but one voicemail for Desi notwithstanding, there is no evidence Marnie even realized that was a lesson she had to learn: she tells herself lies and believes them and blithely disregards evidence to the contrary. She does not critically examine a thing in order to figure out what it is, she decides what it is and shames it until it conforms to whatever it's supposed to be. Desi spelled it out for her when he described his own behavior in the previous episode: "I'm not a musician, Bella. Never have been. Just acting like one."

The only thing this story has going for it is more Rita Wilson as Marnie's mother. When she articulates that she cannot keep giving Marnie her fun money—Marnie is getting evicted—it is a justifiable decision for a mother of an adult to make, but the way she says it, the way she has to draw a boundary between herself and Marnie, the way she insists she has to prioritize having fun instead of helping her, all evoke how Marnie became the way she is, her horrible boundaries and even her exercise habits, which are probably the same as her mother's, and she probably expects them to be able to talk about them and share something in common when her mother does them because she's still bitter about her own divorce, so all she has to hit Marnie with when when she tries emotionally manipulating her for help is: "Don't let divorce make you bitter."

That is what leads Marnie to pawn her sweet sixteen necklace. "'Wild Bill' Hickok gave that to my great-great-grandmother," Marnie tells the pawn shop owner with the trademark sanctimoniousness I will miss from her. "I come from a long line of women who choose terrible men, but that's ending now." Her first reaction when the pawn shop owner tells her that's nonsense, the necklace is less than twenty years old, is "Half my fucking wedding theme is a lie!" The only consequence of this is Marnie's parting call to Desi, in which she tells him, "You don't owe me anything and I'm really sorry that I thought you did." Even if nothing else comes of it, I admit, it would be a perfectly suitable fate for the show to wrap with Marnie under the impression that she has grown leaps and bounds and changed so much when she could not face the thing that has kept her on the same spiral throughout the show.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 6: "Full Disclosure" - You do not know a hundred babies.

After that stretch of fever delirium, I sprained my ankle. "Bad things come in threes" is not a superstition that dogs me particularly, but for safe measure, I am going to appraise my catastrophic inability to allow myself to recover from those things as the third bad thing, because I'm worse for that than either respective and completely usual misfortunes.

This may have been my favorite episode of Girls, if only because it uses everything that came before it in such a gratifying way.

Girls Season Six, Episode Fifty-Eight, "Full Disclosure"

Girls speaks its subtext with a scene that fully exposes Hannah and Marnie's relationship. When Hannah asks for Marnie's opinion on the salad dressing, Marnie weighs in on Hannah's ability to dress the salad. Then she presumes her news will upstage Hannah's news when she shares the fact that Ray broke up with her: "Ray was supposed to break the cycle" of her cycles of broken relationships, Marnie says. "And besides, he was just supposed to be grateful that I even wanted to talk to him." This brought to mind immediately the MC at Jessa's wedding to Thomas-John, the schlubby guy making dad jokes in front of whom Marnie rage-eats cake in order to seduce him after a run-in with Charlie, who she was still not over at the time. Ray served no different a purpose for Marnie than that MC. Consider how far Hannah is from where she was in the first season compared to how Marnie is virtually unchanged, minus a few of the stabilizing forces (her day job, Hannah's love) she had back then.

Hannah asserts to Marnie exactly what happened: she was a horrible cunt to him, so as sad as she wants to be, there's a good reason she and Ray are not together. Back in the first season, Hannah could only articulate to her diary about how Marnie's unhappiness with Charlie was warping their relationship. Now she can be straightforward with Marnie about it. And before she can take any blowback from it, Hannah tells Marnie she's pregnant. And Marnie immediately shames her: "You decided just to not use any birth control whatsoever?" She shames her for wanting to keep it, but Hannah stands by her decision. The whole arc of Hannah on Girls has been her working toward listening to herself, prioritizing her goals, and standing by her decisions instead of internalizing the whims of others and entertaining any recommendation or correction leveled at her because she assumed that anyone who wasn't her knew better. Now she knows better. And guess what? Marnie yields. "I'm into it," she laughs, and Hannah's response is precise: "I can't believe how supportive you're being. This is a shock. It kind of makes me want to do it less!" Hannah has learned the ultimate lesson Girls has to impart, which is that Marnie's instincts are not to be trusted.

Marnie continues to bring her own damage to bear on their conversation, of course, when Hannah scandalizes her with the fact that she doesn't want the baby's biological father, Paul-Louis, involved. Marnie can't imagine life without jockeying for male approval. Hannah lets her have it, underlining heavily one more time that she knows what Marnie is doing and what it calls for: "I knew that you were gonna try to be controlling and control the entire way that I brought my child into this world. And I probably shouldn't have even told you until I was in labor."

Hannah's dad Tad is now seeing the man with the darling dog from season five's "Good Man," who admits to Hannah when she visits them that he donated sperm to a pair of friends before and regretted being unable to be part of the child's life. Tad is on Hannah's side, though, when it comes to her choice to not tell Paul-Louis she's pregnant, and Elijah is in her corner, too. He apologizes for saying Hannah was going to be a bad mother and admits it was comforting to be with someone who had nothing more going on to boast about than he did. When Elijah calls it "our kid," Hannah is overcome with happiness in a rare way. Following this exchange, he rises to the occasion to run lines with his coworker at Henri Bendel and knocks her out with the poignancy and precision of his acting.

As much as Hannah wants and is happy to have Elijah's support, Hannah wants nothing to do with Adam or his frequent phone calls. Adam ambushes her outside her apartment and demands she watch the movie he and Jessa made about his and Hannah's relationship, reading her resistance as urgency, desperate to know if they felt the same things and if they perceived things the same way. Hannah has no doubt about her perception of events, and she stopped wondering, probably after Adam came back to her after seeing her wobble home from the hospital: he likes to make her feel better and feel taken care of, and having met his sister Caroline, Hannah knows that that's probably a safe role in which he is comfortable. Adam told his ex-girlfriend Mimi-Rose he needs to be needed and he's insecure about being wanted. In Jessa, he probably does get the ideal mix of want and need. But when Hannah tells Adam she's pregnant—and runs away from him after confirming the baby is not Fran's—that brings a lot crashing down on Adam. There was Mimi-Rose having an abortion behind his back, yes, but also Caroline's pregnancy, the birth of his niece—Jessa-Hannah Bluebell Poem "Sample" Schlesinger-Sackler—and Caroline's abandonment of her. Adam swooped in to take care of Sample after Caroline left. This situation is nigh irresistible to Adam's urge to nurture and protect.

The revelation of Hannah's pregnancy means something else to Jessa, and she visits her, somberly asking Hannah to confirm the news. Hannah confirms but tries to dismiss her, telling her she's working, but Jessa forces the issue, hurt, and Hannah hands Jessa her ass for calling her her "dear friend" when she broke up with her. Jessa can't reconcile not seeing Hannah anymore: she came all the way to New York to be with Hannah in the pilot. Her need for her has made Jessa insecure and petulant, and when Hannah left New York, Jessa lost it. Her frame of reference for what a family is is pretty crooked, but she feels at home with Hannah. She wanted Hannah to take care of her when she was pregnant. She told her father, "I'm the child." Adam observed that she needs "more help than a baby." But she can't be Hannah's baby anymore. One her way out the door, Jessa whispers: "Rest in peace."

After all this, Hannah can't get through to Paul-Louis at the waterski resort. Instead, she watches Adam's movie, Full Dis:closure. The first scene captures an idealized and warm vision of their relationship and moves Hannah to tears, recalling when he captivated her. Over the credits plays Adam's dramatization of their meeting, with Adam sporting vintage Adam hair: Hannah was eating right out of a bulk foods bin and Adam went on a tear about sugar, wrote his name on her arm, and when it hurt, he told her if it hurt, that means she'll remember it. We find out what had Hannah at first sight: when Adam first saw her, he asked if she was a writer.

Marnie dashes her relationship with Desi on the rocks of her mother's friend's birthday party, where they are supposed to perform. I love that Marnie's mother has implicated Marnie in her attempt to suck up to a woman she's "friends" with, whose attention she scrambles after. Desi does not want to play the show so badly he threatens to kill himself. When he rolls in an hour late, fucked up, Marnie's mother makes fun of her for being a prude and shames her for being disappointed in Desi and for not being able to tell that he's high. Marnie yells at her for raising her in a household where male approval is the holy grail, which seems like residual insight from her conversation with Hannah.

Desi delivers a great summary of a lesson Marnie needs to learn when she says he's a musician and he needs to do his job: "I'm not a musician, Bella. Never have been. Just acting like one. Before that, I was just acting like being an actor. Before that, I was just acting like being a big game photographer. I'm always acting like I'm something, but now I'm, like done." Marnie loves to proclaim that something is something and then just shame it until it conforms to the expectations of that thing. The best example remains her relationship with Charlie: after they rekindled their intimacy at the end of season two—on Charlie's part because he was concerned Marnie was having a psychic meltdown—she proclaimed them "old fogies" who were just going to have a quiet, boring life together, even though they had not had so much as a conversation about being in one another's lives again.

After Desi skips out on the performance and Marnie learns that the friend of her mother's for whom the party is being thrown is a successful musician—meaning that her mother is using Marnie to show off her own proximity to the music industry. Marnie shows some shrewd judgment, declining to perform, but then her mom gets into the idea of backing her up, and Marnie has no escape. Brilliantly, Marnie's mother tsks into the mic and announces a performance by "The Michaels Sisters." It goes miserably, Rita Wilson scats, and god what can be gleaned from this—does Marnie realize how little she knows about what makes a good mother and that she has nothing she can teach Hannah? Is she embarrassed by her mother's insecurity and commitment to playing make-believe, and does she sense she does the same thing? Literally any conclusion could help Marnie at this point.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episodes 4 and 5: "Painful Evacuation" and "Gummies" - Every time I look at your baby, I will see my own death.

I'm turning thirty this year and it's hard to watch this show end, so I've dawdled and prioritized getting over what was probably pneumonia. I'm hoping that pre-disasters the coming decade, but ha! I know better.

Girls, Season Six, Episode Fifty-Six, "Painful Evacuation"

Considering the first several episodes of the season saw Hannah on assignment for Slag Mag or dealing with her newly heightened profile as a writer, that is presumably the context for her interview with a woman who found her way to a writing career via sex work. She helps Hannah understand that a crowded, messy life does not distract from writing. Hannah does not have to wait to be alone with her thoughts, she's not wasting time. The writer adds a caveat, though: motherhood, she believes, is at odds with a woman's ability to be a writer. "Childlessness is the natural state of the female author," she tells Hannah, who demonstrates skepticism about what she's hearing. Hannah has never stuck up for herself and her own perspective the way she's starting to here.

Elijah showers on painkillers while Hannah writhes in pain on the toilet, laid up with a UTI, which she takes to the ER after Loreen compels her to. The quick work this episode really makes of Hannah's story is balanced by one of Dunham's best performances—Hannah is increasingly fed up with the people in her life and able to distinguish and articulate why and how they hurt each other. When Dr. Joshua turns out to be the physician taking care of her in the ER, it augments Hannah's few scenes with a sense of the passage of time, everything Hannah's been through, what she's done in the service of her desires, all the things it seems she's kept secret while addressing most anything else. Hannah keeps him from talking about their ethereal days-long tryst and pursues treatment for her UTI with her typical cocktail of self-deprecating jokes until Dr. Joshua mentions the pregnancy—her pregnancy of which he assumes she is already aware. Hannah rejects his hug and makes a joke about the dad, Paul-Louis, who she doubts she'll see again, and ejects herself from the hospital when Dr. Joshua mentions getting an abortion. She is not going to listen to anyone right now. It has not served her.

In a callback to Desi eating Marnie's ass in the season four opener, Ray fucks Marnie against her tiny kitchen space and Marnie tries to hand Ray—hilariously vulnerable, naked Ray—what he wants by pledging her desire to die in the mouth of a lion with him. "That sounds nice," Ray responds, but all he wants is to be alone in a normal date setting with her. As Marnie plots the logistics of meditating in an Uber versus meditating on the train, Ray demonstrates how checked out he is. It's glorified exposition which finds Marnie and Ray right where you figured they'd be. Ray has demonstrated and evolved a sense of restlessness, so his diminishing interest in Marnie makes sense, and her flamboyant fixation on her own performative wellness makes sense considering how she's losing Desi's attention but not respecting Ray's, so she's insisting upon her own importance in a way Ray is forced to agree with, despite the fact that it also functions to swerve acknowledgment of the way she is important to Ray.

The more fruitful scene is between Marnie and Desi, who attend couples counseling. Marnie fully and fabulously refuses to accept any responsibility or role in Desi's addiction and cannot allow him the space to even drink a glass of water without looking furious and baffled, trying to comprehend how that has anything to do with her and why she should endure it. Desi articulates exactly what Marnie does to the people in her life when he accuses her of never seeing him as a person, just as an idea. She makes Desi's drug treatment all about her with the incredible line "Do you have any idea how hard this has been for me? I have bruises all over my body from the two-hour massages that I need to deal with the stress of your addiction." Their counselor calls her a narcissist, one of the long-slung diagnoses about Girls's characters that populate this and the next episode.

After rambling about Ed Koch's secret gay train, a customer—to whom Ray listened intently enough to catch his name, Bobby, as well as the content of his ramble—collapses and dies in front of Ray. The interaction shakes Ray up and Hermie dresses him down for listening to anyone and wasting his potential with his misguided priorities. Between the perspective on Ray that Hermie gives here and Elijah's list of all Hannah's distracting impulses that he lays on her in "Gummies," I realized—never having appreciated it before—how explicitly Ray and Hannah's stories parallel each other, how they distract themselves by attempting to please people with minimal to no investment in them. Shoshanna, for instance, has animated many of Ray's decisions, and she's there for him when he rails against Hermie. She has enough wisdom to spare to spot from afar that Hermie just wants Ray to have a better life than he's had, and challenges Ray's perception that Hermie's life is enviable. That wouldn't preclude it from being something Ray would be settling for, she tells him. It's more than enough to reinvigorate Ray with purpose, but it is no skin off Shoshanna's back. She is not invested in his growth as a person. She cares about Ray, but his story is his and her story is hers. Ray's story ends in this episode when he finds Hermie at his home, dead.

Season three of Girls took a hit from having to balance stories that had become totally fractured to an extent that was new to the show at the time. Storylines between characters rarely converged within an episode. As a result, some scenes felt more like interstitials than scenes, and there was so much information they had to convey, the whole unit suffered. It is hard for a scene to stay meager with Adam Driver in it, since his intensity as Adam Sackler is so reactionary that it works when he's constrained, but Jessa's smaller scenes have never afforded Jemima Kirke the space to exude her charisma. Together, their dueling energies overcrowd scenes that flit by, and while their decisions in "Painful Evacuation" provide them a jolt of forward momentum, the puzzle of their attraction remains unresolved. And it feels like a puzzle because so little time has been spent on their characters in recent seasons. What brought them together makes sense, but what keeps them together and how they feed off each other eludes me, particularly as the next few episodes represent some leaps in time.

After Adam storms off the set, in an Adamesque flourish, of a film in which he plays a hairdresser contemplating revenge, Jessa, fresh off diagnosing herself (as a child, she says, not anymore) as a sociopath, proposes they make a film of their own. Winding up manically in just the way Adam has in the past, Jessa pitches Adam the idea that they should make the film about how his relationship with Hannah gave way to his relationship with her. "It explains everything about human nature," says Adam. "How even with the best of intentions we can't help but hurt each other." They work each other up into a froth, and it makes complete sense, but it does not reveal anything new about either of them, and this late in the game, that is disappointing.

Jessa and Adam, all wound up, ambush Hannah as she walks into her building, and she hears out their rambling pitch before quietly advising them to do whatever they want and carrying herself to her apartment. I love when Dunham plays Hannah as too upset for words, the sharp and abrupt way she'll gesture, trying so hard not to explode. In the apartment, she finds Elijah has ditched the party where he hoped to network. He comforts her with his pizza hand as she rests her head in his lap.

Girls, Season Six, Episode Fifty-Seven, "Gummies"

Pizza, then lentils. Hannah examines a lentil, which is equal in size to the cell-bundle within her that could become human life someday. "Gummies" picks up all of "Painful Evacuation"'s storylines: Hannah's new pregnancy and the roles Loreen and Elijah play in supporting her, the deterioration of Ray and Marnie's relationship, Hermie's death, and Jessa and Adam's movie—there's even a proportionate dash of Shosh in a single scene, where she pops into Ray's office to tell him, "I literally hate death." When she jokes that she's not going to die, Ray replies, "Good, because I don't think I can handle that." Girls has had for its whole run an abundance of references to death, but they feel conspicuous now as the show dies.

Marnie's refusal to make Ray and his grief a priority leads Ray to break up with her once and for all in the middle of Hermie's house. (Has it been left to Ray? He does not have a home yet.) Ray goes right to the same place he went with Shoshanna—they'll all be dead someday—and instead of making a joke to make him feel better, Marnie insults him and leaves, saying, "I'm not a bad person, by the way." She is now in the same situation she was in in season one, her own inability to respect her partner sabotaging her relationship. The episode never checks back in with Marnie, but Ray winds up the evening by listening to a life-affirming tape of Hermie's radio show in which an older woman named Sonja tells Hermie, "I found out that it's the best way to live because you get up and you say, 'Well, I'm gonna do this for myself first.'"

Adam's mumblecore movie features a version of Hannah, called Mira, filtered through what the viewer sees for the first time was the rosy tint Hannah brought to Adam's life. He remembers her as coquettish, fascinating, a free person—exactly the way Jessa sees herself and absolutely not as she sees Hannah. Hannah was Jessa's rock, and since Hannah went away to Iowa, she abdicated that position. She gives vent to her distaste for the character after Adam violently spanks Mira, a decision that demonstrates that Adam has some perspective on the violent shape his desire takes. However, it does not quite live up to the odd and uncomfortable places he felt free to take the sex he had with Hannah, a ride she was along for until she took it personally, since she thought she ought to fall in love with him and that it should look like the version of boyfriend-girlfriend she knew from watching people like Marnie and Charlie. The way Adam treats Mira is not all that different than the way Adam chased Jessa around his apartment in the season five climax, but it is different from how weird and alarming Adam felt he could get with Hannah. And Adam knows that's what makes the relationship he had with Hannah distinct: "You're weirder than even me," Adam, as himself, tells Mira.

While that depiction of an encounter between Adam and Hannah could have taken place at any time in the early days of their entanglement, the next one Jessa and Adam are shown shooting is what takes place following the end of season two (Jessa was married in season two! And Adam cried during her wedding! Time is a rubber band), when Adam came to Hannah's rescue when OCD was warping her life and she was up against a deadline for a whole book on which she'd staked her self worth after the collapse of all her relationships. Jessa watches them play the scene, which they have recreated so effectively, it is revealed, because they're shooting in Laird's apartment in the same building where Hannah lives (Laird has already met and fallen madly for the actress playing Mira, Genevieve). "I'm gonna ruin your life," Mira says. "You won't even know it. One day, you'll just you'll realize that you're stuck with a crazy person." Adam responds, "Well, I don't care if you ruin my life. At least you'll have been in my life." Jessa and Adam speak the subtext of the scene—that Adam's perceived Hannah in the only way in which Jessa is really secure being perceived: intense, free, a vessel of love and excitement. Hannah is so much her opposite, Jessa can't comprehend that someone would experience her that way, and probably the only conclusion she can draw is that Adam experiences her as boring. Given all the qualities they share, it would make sense of Adam saw Jessa as something comforting and familiar—she's not even as intense as his sister. You can't get away with playing the Sacklers at the intense game at all.

Elsewhere in the building, Hannah makes a cogent list of reasons not to have a baby, including the fact that she is bad at sports and is looking forward to making less than $24,000 that year at 27. Elijah is still trying to pull her out of her abyss and into his, where he's been up all night on Adderall looking up an old Oberlin classmate of theirs he was complaining about in "All I Ever Wanted." He laughs about Hermie's death. He dismisses any ceremony to observe that Loreen coming to visit is an event. He just wants Hannah to join him in the void like when they did coke together in season two. He is still on that same level. Loreen is medicating, too, and she shows up with pot gummies, ready to start tearing into them as soon as Hannah quietly and anxiously tells Loreen she's pregnant and that her major inclination is that "this is my baby" and she is trying to rationalize keeping it. At the laundromat with Hannah, Loreen continues to eat the gummies and talk herself into a spiral of gloom about how little she knew when she got married to Tad and had Hannah. When Hannah observes that she herself, the baby, Loreen, and Tad and his partner will all be one family that can all be together in the baby's life, Loreen responds, "I would sooner shoot myself in the head." When Hannah advises that Loreen might yet meet someone, Loreen fucking ditches her. Hannah has demonstrated a lot of grief over what seems like her parents' inability to acknowledge her desires or perspectives on her state, and here she goes, refusing to hear what Loreen is telling her because she has to balance it against her responsibility to shape her. Hannah has had to take on a parental role for both Tad and Loreen in the past season, but they are also the only examples she has to follow.

When Hannah goes back to the apartment, she finds all the clothes Loreen was carrying out of the laundromat scattered on her stoop. Hannah recruits Elijah—despondent on the bed, listening to his college a cappella group's album—to help her find Loreen, who is high and depressed in New York. The only clue they have is the one call she answers, in which she mutters something about crispy egg rolls. They accumulate some dumplings and ice cream cones on their search and finally find Loreen eight-odd plates deep in a Chinese restaurant. Hannah is upset that her mom just vanished, and when Loreen ignores her to toast passive aggressively to her baby, it takes a moment for Elijah to realize that there really is going to be a baby. He is furious, and Hannah attends to him by warning Loreen that she's fucked up her day. In the cramped kitchen, Hannah and Elijah subject the Chinese restaurant employees to their drama. He shames Hannah for how this is one of her stupid impulsive escapades. He doesn't want to be involved in the raising of a baby, doesn't want to room with a mom, doesn't want to do anything and that was the appeal of his arrangement with Hannah from day one: they were mutually paralyzed by inertia and fear. Hannah lets Elijah know she needs and wants his help because the baby has no father. "You don't think I have plans?" Elijah responds, appalled that she would think that he would volunteer for the role. He rebuffs her attempt to make a joke and tells her he believes she will be a terrible mother. He leaves.

Just like Loreen and Tad did for Hannah in the pilot, Hannah "helps" Loreen through a drug freak-out. Before she vomits, Loreen gives Hannah her "a voice of a generation" line, and it is great: "I just want you to know, every time I look at your baby, I will see my own death."

In a coda that ties "Gummies" back into "Painful Evacuation," in which characters grappled over which voices were the ones worth listening to, Hannah stops on the stoop outside her apartment to sit for a moment with the actress Genevieve, who she realizes is playing her in Adam's movie. Hannah and Genevieve, in costume, are dressed slightly alike, coiling their bodies in the same way on the stairs, and Genevieve reveals she's a mother of three. She's excited to hear Hannah is pregnant. Finally, Hannah's realizing that she's getting the best advice from herself.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 3: "American Bitch" - Is that why the Internet is so cool?

Fever delirium retreating at last. One night this week, all night, no matter how many times I woke up panicking, I dreamt I was a thing being baked on an episode of The Great British Baking Show and I was coming apart as they frantically tried to get me from the pan to the tray. I'm just about recovered from the illness but not really from that.

Girls, Season Six, Episode Fifty-Five, "American Bitch"

I'm not fascinated by the male author character in this episode so much that it is difficult for me to even discern why this episode-long encounter with him is important for Hannah. It is important for her, I can see that objectively, it's just his comprehensive odiousness.

He's the nadir of the role Ray has mostly played on Girls. I didn't like Ray at all to begin with, and I can't shake a lot of that initial dislike, even though I do admire very much the way the writers have demonstrated Ray's growth. Ray went from a rampaging douchebag whose mission was to be in everyone's face, teaching women lessons about how to behave (it occurred to me since the other week that Jessa, having told Shoshanna that Marnie is cheating on Ray with Desi, Ray is in shape to recognize Marnie is the same person who recoiled and toyed with his former best friend Charlie). He fell in love with Shoshanna, who's a decade or so younger than him, she taught him all sorts of things about self-betterment and, rightly, got frustrated with him and left him when he couldn't be what she needed in a partner, and he has taken her lessons to heart while becoming a person he likes better, and her admiration for him as grown as well. As of last season, he had come around to the fact that he doesn't know anything and can't teach anyone anything, he can only support them in finding what's right for them, a revelation that makes Hannah freak out savagely because she has always taken his teachings to heart. Hannah did not, until very recently ever at all, listen to herself. She lived and died by the directions others gave her regarding most things (except clothes). Ray has been a means to demonstrate how much Hannah takes to heart someone telling her her instincts are wrong. Consider the first season when Hannah did a reading of one of her essays. As nervous as she was, she allowed herself to be talked completely out of the essay she'd decided to read when Ray told her, albeit way, way less gently, "You should be using your funny to tackle subjects that matter."

Girls has done an incredible job demonstrating how Hannah takes so seriously something Ray thinks so little about, and Hannah is just starting to understand the pressures she's internalized from sources outside herself are usually distractions. But she's still vulnerable. Ray is the oldest, probably the most well-read friend Hannah has, which has been enough for Hannah to let him sway her on literary matters. In "American Bitch," Hannah is summoned by a male author whose work—not whose opinions—has inspired her and informed her desire to write. He wants to talk about an article she wrote about him, the contents of which he objects to (several women writers had written about how he took advantage of them and exploited his power over them), and persuades her with what seems like kindness, self-deprecation, unflattering self-awareness, his own sexual weirdness—all things that resonate with Hannah. He thinks he's a big event in the lives of the women he has sex with, and he does not like being material for a story that belongs to them. In the end, he is just using Hannah to fulfill his own kink and puts her in a situation where the story is out of her hands (and something else is in her hand, ugh). She can't tell the story to anyone without it sounding like she wanted everything to happen, she wanted it to end in sexual intimacy.

The fascination with the male writer by the writers and producers on the episode is palpable, but the relevance to the series is with regards to, as ever, what Hannah wants, and this marks the end of her entertaining her desire for approval from an older man. It makes sense that the catalyst for this is someone besides Ray, someone the audience does not even know, just an ambient male-author-ness, a source of silence—it doesn't matter because he acts indiscriminately, and she has seen enough to know the only reason to take it seriously is the gravity she endows it with. The way they seem to her to genuinely connect over prickly, difficult terrain, over not being easy, over his neg-tinged admiration for her willingness to be a "bitch," recalls the hopefulness that buoyed Hannah when it seemed like that's why Adam loved her. Hannah projected a lot of specific hopes onto Adam when their relationship started transforming into something loose and fun into everything Marnie told Hannah she should want it to be. Because she did have hopes for a particular kind of relationship, but had the sense in the beginning of the show to know Adam was not giving her that or could be expected to give her that: they were just having fun. Hannah did not think that reflected poorly on her in any way, but Marnie told her it did. Here Hannah demonstrates how much she's still hoping a particular relationship will conform to the vision she has for it, but she does not go in thinking that: her guard is up until he lowers it, and she swoons over the idea "I hope someone writes a book about what a cunt I am someday." Hannah has let a lot of people waste her time, and it makes perfect sense that she covets the idea of having driven somebody to such rage-filled distraction they write a book about her out of spite. Hannah gets a chance to feel good about her flaws, only to find he was using that and ultimately uses that against her.

The best thing "American Bitch" does for Girls's audience is how it demonstrates, before the show goes off the air, what a complex character Hannah is: she is extremely vulnerable and prone to internalizing things people say to her offhandedly and with no real investment in her wellbeing, but something unwavering in her has reassured her she cannot punish herself for being difficult or resist making demands. There are some things about season six so far that remind me of season three, which does not bode well—the third season of Girls was weak from beginning to end—but even that season was focused around Hannah refusing to give up on herself, even when it felt like the show's writers were. I'm glad as the show ends it seems like the writers still see Hannah pretty clearly.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 2: "Hostage Situation" - You guys literally cracked open the market on athletic denim.

The social club scene was too real for this week: "Also, for those of you asking on our Facebook if the group is open to trans women, the answer is: we don't know, okay?"

Girls, Season Six, Episode Fifty-Four, "Hostage Situation"

The Desi development makes sense, although it's a callback in every way to big moments with Charlie in seasons two and five. Marnie does not bother to look at something and assess what it is based on tangible evidence. The best and most blatant example of this behavior is in "Beach House," when Marnie insists everyone have fun, insists that the activities she has planned are fun, and if no one is having fun, that is their failure, because she's placed the fun right in front of them. Every attempt for Hannah et al to spontaneously make or find fun alienates her. When Marnie and Charlie rekindle their intimacy at the end of season two, Marnie does not scrutinize Charlie's actions in order to determine what they mean. She insists it means they are in a relationship. She does the same thing with Booth Jonathan. Because he does the things she wants a boyfriend to do, he must be her boyfriend. Naming a thing is more important than determining if it really fulfills its function. It's a symptom of her issues with commitment. It leaps past commitment. Marnie has no model for something just being without her having to worry about it. That's why her relationship with Hannah is important to her, and why it's hard for Hannah to relinquish. Marnie insists they are best friends without examining to closely if that works or makes sense, which it doesn't always because they don't always act like it, but that gesture of devotion and reassurance, that insisting, even though it's hollow and borne of Marnie's fear that no one would ever be her friend, her boyfriend, her husband, and so all she can do is saddle them with the labels and hope they follow through—and if they break their promise, because that's what the label becomes, that's what she's used to, AND it positions her as the victim—even though that's why, it looks and feels to Hannah like faith in her, because she is good for it. And her need for that connection keeps her tied to Marnie, and Marnie frequently has no idea what to do with it except treat Hannah like an idiot daughter, but with every season, Marnie comes around closer and closer to scrutinizing Hannah's actions and realizing that this is her best friend. She really sees it when Hannah carts Desi into the car, after he erupts in rage and confronts Marnie with the fact of his oxy addiction. It's a red herring, planted last season when Marnie ran into Charlie for one whirlwind evening. That was the first time Marnie almost assessed what was going on and her rationale almost beat out her wish fulfillment. She still had to wind up in Charlie's decrepit room and discover his needle before facing it, but when their boat overturns in Central Park, it finds her: this isn't what she wants it to be and she can't make it that way, she can't insist on it. No matter what she names it, something is wrong. Marnie won't listen to herself. The audience already knew this. Even though Desi's eruption is played as an explosive revelation, it doesn't come across that way—not because it's out of left field (maybe on a show without Adam Sackler, but with Adam as the baseline for men on the show, it is perfectly excusable to say Desi was calibrated accordingly and his behavior in itself not necessarily a red flag that was any redder than any other flag flown by any other character on the show, which is just a sea of red flags) but because it proves something we already know about Marnie: she doesn't ask questions, she just dictates and expects everything to be the way she envisions it. The revelation is that she sees and believes that Hannah is her friend, that she's there for her.

It reminds me of season one, episode five, "Hard Being Easy," which follows "Hannah's Diary," when Charlie finds where Hannah's written about Marnie's disgust with Charlie, how her feelings for him have curdled. He lashes out at them in the apartment Hannah and Marnie share, insisting he belongs there. To demonstrate his importance to "the community of this apartment," he upends and carries off a table he made for Marnie, with no regard for whether it hits her or Hannah in the process. It doesn't, but just the same, Hannah shouts at him, "That's the kind of thing you do right before you hit us. Don't hit us!" It's trivializing, but it trivializes her and Marnie's ability to be hurt, not the insubstantial threat Charlie poses to them—which may be compensating for the real damage Hannah has inadvertently caused Marnie, who she did not mean to hurt (and if Charlie had hit her, then Hannah's actions wouldn't look so bad by comparison, which follows Hannah's thinking at the time about how contracting a catastrophic illness would at least distract people from the failures she's accrued when it comes to the romantic love/career/money she's supposed to pursue). When Desi breaks the window with his hand trying to get back in the cabin, the site of the Poughkeepsie getaway for he and Marnie, where Marnie has invited Hannah as a cover, Hannah trivialized his threat by swatting at him with a spatula like he's a blanket that keeps sagging onto her while she's trying to work. It's a reaction that makes her seem naive, like she's not accurately assessing the threat posed by an oxy addict who's been deprived of his substance and filled with raw fury at someone to whose face he has mused she's so dumb about the ways of the world that someone will rape her and murder her. But I wonder if Hannah's not just calling that one correctly. Desi's a human disaster, the threat is insubstantial.

While the Hannah/Marnie/Desi triad works itself out in Poughkeepsie, Jessa and Shoshanna get paired with Elijah back in Brooklyn. Hannah and Marnie are one of the vital pairings on the show, and Jessa and Shoshanna are the other. While relationships have always been something that complicates Hannah and Marnie's friendship, Jessa and Shoshanna's issues are squarely with each other, which they and the writers avoid confronting in this episode. Elijah isn't really part of their orbit, so having him there is all for comic relief and for the sake of mirroring Hannah/Marnie/Desi in the other half of the episode. Throwing Ray or Adam into the mix wouldn't serve Shoshanna's outing to "Wemun," a The Wing-like social club for professional women. While it superbly embodies Shoshanna's hilarious ideals, it also feels a little bit out of step with Shoshanna's narrative — although the argument could be made that now that she's made away with the achievements she has in recent seasons, her zeal to succeed has worn to the point that the Wemun women transfix her with envy. It's also visible how concessions were made to accommodate it within the story, since the set piece elbows out any chance at substantial confrontation between Jessa and Shoshanna. It amounts only to a stepping stone, which undermines the effect of Hannah and Marnie's breakthrough, but for all the audience knows, Marnie could backpedal on that by the next episode, and this interaction could have incited real change in how Jessa and Shoshanna see one another or how they interpret their own actions. Girls doesn't really do narrative progression the way other shows do, so my misgivings about the Wemun outing might be off base. It does bode well for consequences that their shame has a witness, which Marnie and Hannah's really didn't (Desi doesn't know what's going on by the end of it). Even if Elijah thought everything was all about him, that only demonstrates he was quite aware of what Jessa, at least, was saying when she told Shoshanna to grow up.

Jessa says this after accusing Shoshanna of coveting the career that her college friends have and blaming Jessa for distracting her from it. Jessa wishes Shoshanna could look at her and see someone worth being with, but she doesn't in part because of every behavior Jessa has demonstrated on the show. The first scene between Jessa and Shoshanna here reminds the viewer of some real obvious information that, in its obviousness, is shocking considering Jessa's storyline throughout the show: she and Shoshanna are cousins. They share a grandmother, who they create a video voicemail for together. All Jessa wants, all she does on the show, is fit herself into other families. She's in constant pain over her own family's rejection of her. But Shoshanna is her family, and she has accommodated Jessa, and Jessa has never recognized it. They wind up squabbling about Adam and Ray—Shoshanna takes a dig at Jessa for stealing Adam, then Jessa exploits her feelings for Ray who, whether or not she still has lingering feelings of love for him, he has proven to be her friend and has enabled her to become the person she would like to be, and she cares about him. Shoshanna cares that Ray is happy, and he is happy with Marnie, and Marnie, Jessa informs Shosh, is on a weekend getaway with Desi. It's another case of the men representing red herrings. This brief confrontation isn't about Adam or Ray, but about Jessa's covetousness and Shoshanna's priorities. Jessa would probably reason with Shosh that the "friendly" thing to do would be to tell Ray that Marnie is cheating on him. She might read Shosh's allegiance to Ray as exploitative in itself, since they broke up, but she's been able to work toward some of her professional goals by helping him win his local zoning board seat and revitalize his business, all of which may superficially appear like Ray taking advantage of the lingering attachment Shosh still harbored for Ray by the end of season three, but which is framed as and certainly is in Shosh's eyes big chances she needed and met in order to show herself what she can do. She wants validation for that, and she has none. She would rather have validation for that at this point than close friends, since the gamble she took on that with Jessa has not paid off. There would be more tension to this episode if, as a counterpoint to Hannah and Marnie realizing why they're friends, the fallout between Shoshanna and Jessa would have felt more consequential, but their relationship has been so insubstantial for so long—Shoshanna's been trying to avoid Jessa, arguably, since she saw her having sex in season one—there is not much poignancy in them pissing each other off again.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Girls Season 6, Episode 1: "All I Ever Wanted" - It's a boundaryless hinterland of sexuality and emotion.

Considering I had to stay up until 3 a.m. recently in order to find the time to dye my hair, I'm not saying I deserve any accolades for maintaining this commitment—I have dawdled on a draft about BinderCon since November (since when writing about any good fortune felt morbidly absurd). But still:

Girls, Season Six, Episode Fifty-Three, "All I Ever Wanted"

The show Girls is all about what Hannah wants and, superficially, the premiere of the final season seems like she gets it. Hannah gets published in the New York Times, gets a job offered to her for her shtick, and meets an idiosyncratically tender, dashing guy on assignment. Girls has shown the audience over and over since 2012, though, that that's not what Hannah wants, but because Girls lives in the same universe as its critics, it appears to the people around Hannah and to the audience that she is forever squandering and dodging the steps to, according to the other characters, adulthood, and to the audience, narrative momentum. At crucial dramatic moments throughout the show, Hannah went back to Adam, she quit her job at GQ, she quit Iowa, she broke up with Fran, she quit teaching—because those breaks were, in the first place, illusory. Hannah's relationship with Adam was casual until Marnie encouraged her to feel insecure about it and make him commit to her, then judged Hannah for how strange he was and how strangely he treated her. Her jobs were all things she has performed begrudgingly, since she makes the distinction in the pilot between working and dedicating herself to her writing. In passing, GQ and Iowa seem like working as a writer, but Hannah pursues both for positive feedback from others and some confirmation that she is doing something right. Hannah does not trust her voice at all and the people around her tell her what to do and how to feel about her decisions, either because they feel free to because they're assholes, because that's part of who they are and can't help it, or because they think this is an appropriate way to express their investment in Hannah's life. Hannah's mistake is that she listens, but she listens less and less, and that is the real arc of her character, not "having it all" in the form of a relationship, a career, and money. The inciting incident in Girls was Hannah declaring what she wants and everyone shutting her down. The rest of Girls has been Hannah going "what would you rather I do instead?"—and no on except Marnie actually cares, but they all feel free to tell her, mostly in order to project their own anxieties, furies, and desires onto her. One of the reasons Ray's arc is so compelling is that he has pulled back from this: he started out thinking of Hannah as someone who needed to be taught a lesson, and his purpose was to teach her, and his experiences have since awakened him to the fact that he has enough to learn himself, and Hannah has to discover things the same way he has to. That's one of the reasons Hannah goes so berserk when Ray stops judging her. It doesn't look compassionate, it looks as cruel as it feels, like he has abandoned his investment in her. So Hannah went right for an act Ray would sharply and woundingly tell her she was terrible at.

That's what makes the opening montage so poignant and harsh: all the people in Hannah's life read her Modern Love column. They are absorbed, they smile, they react to it. Since Marnie sees Hannah as an extension of herself, Marnie celebrates it as if it's a victory for her. Jessa won't read it, since it's an adaptation of Hannah's Moth monologue about losing Jessa to Adam. Adam reads it and shakes. This is what Hannah said she wanted to do in the pilot, and everyone told her to worry about her relationship/career/money. They have been irritated, angry, and disappointed with her for the past half a decade, and here they are finally happy with her, impressed by her, respecting her, unnerved by her capability (Shosh, though! "That's unladylike"—Shoshanna lives to police the adequacy of other women because she thinks it is a good, strength-giving thing to be as good as possible at being a woman, and Hannah is on the exact opposite side of that spectrum of feeling). It came as a result of the one thing Hannah did not quit crumbling in her hands: one of her friendships. Her friendships come off to the audience like the things she needs to quit, but Hannah's priorities are friendship, writing, and wearing what she wants. It's not more or less self-flagellating than being committed to relationships, career, and money. But it's enough that even the writers have had a hard time staying on Hannah's side throughout the run of the show, so ingrained is the impulse to punish someone like Hannah, who has privilege and access to what women are supposed to want.

"All I Ever Wanted" sees Hannah get something she wants—she's done right by herself, written and submitted something for a prestige publication, done something the achievement of which no one can deny. But one of the things that has kept Hannah spinning is that she does things for other people. However halfhearted and dismissive their judgments of her, she strikes back by absurdly, exaggeratedly trying to meet their standards, showing off how ill-equipped she is to do so, focusing on any entertainment factor the spectacle might have—and while they don't care, they don't change their behavior and leave her to make her own decisions, either. That's happened so many times, it's how Hannah's programmed. It's also prevented her from evaluating and carefully considering what it is she wants, because she's so busy reacting to what other people want her to want. When Girls started, Hannah wanted to write. Does she still want that?

The only thing "All I Ever Wanted" really addresses, with regards to that question, is that she still does not want a job, although with genuine support she might begrudgingly do the job she now has. If her tryst with Paul-Louis, the surf instructor, informs her of anything—in the end she is still enjoying his company, despite the revelation that he has a girlfriend to whom he is committed to going back to when they are in proximity to one another—it is that she wants the kind of consideration and support he provides. Taking that back to Brooklyn with her is a better move than staying in Montauk because it seemed to her like that's what he was suggesting he wanted her to do. But after she suggests this, Paul-Louis is quick to assert that he only wants Hannah to do what she wants to do, and the fact that this comes with affection, unencumbered by expectation, is something Hannah may have only learned that she wants because of the events of the past few years. What the story winds up doing for Hannah is objectively better than what it does as a story. It hits a lot of the same beats that "Queen for Two Days" did last season, with Hannah surrounded by older women who can afford to pay a lot of money to prioritize their desires by ceding determination as to what those desires are to corporate destinations that convince them that declaring their desires is also work and also what they need a break from. It does mine Hannah's defense mechanisms more clinically than that episode, which was a tiny bit more of a romp (by Girls's standards), exploring how Hannah's only means of resisting these kinds of activities, where she can't assert what she wants, is to flake out, quit, and exercise her agency by trying to get aid for a perceived violation against her body. It seems dramatic and babyish and, duh, calls attention to her body, all of which provokes people into writing her off, which is exactly what she wants. She wants to not be on people's radars. She wants to do what she wants to do. This mechanism is like an infantile shriek, demonstrating how basely bananas it is that so much is done to relieve people of their agency. It doesn't merit a rational response. But when Hannah does this by faking an injury to get out of activities at an expensive surf camp, it comes off as stone-cold petulance, because that's the joke—of all the things one may have to do in life, no one has to be at surf camp. But Hannah's lack of agency stalks her everywhere, and the laid-back atmosphere of the beach throws into relief how, even when no one is actually making her do anything, Hannah has internalized this powerlessness. Other critics have observed that when Hannah leaves Paul-Louis to get a draft of her article together and cry, she is demonstrating how her ambitions as a personal essayist puts pressure on her to create tension between herself and what's in front of her, for her to act in opposition against whatever she's doing, but I perceive it as less of a self-conscious quality. One of the things that move Hannah as an essayist, as far as I can perceive it, is that she does not react to everything like she is supposed to. What others find fulfilling, she doesn't. What others dismiss, she can work with. This is demonstrated a lot on the show, but so is Hannah's consciousness of what makes the kind of essays she wants to write and the value of accruing experience. In this case, though, she does not want to incongruously insert her isolated, indoors-dwelling, physical-activity-hating self into surf camp. She wants to cry in her room alone, in a "Sundays-in-high-school way," because she is not having the same experience as everyone else, not just wanting what others want, unable to feel like her agency is being compromised, feeling wrong.

Hannah has the space to gain some clarity about herself in this episode because she largely spends it alone or with Paul-Louis, who makes himself into a vehicle for Hannah to learn a lesson instead of a new set of expectations to which she must be accountable. Everybody else is back in New York. Adam and Jessa are settled into the kind of relationship he and Hannah enjoyed in the first season, with shades of "Weirdos Need Girlfriends, Too" in their mostly-nude sharing of yogurt in the middle of the afternoon. There is no place for Ray in the apartment he had taken over from Adam in season three. He can't stay with Marnie in her Manhattan studio because, unbeknownst to him, Marnie has no intention of wrapping things up with Desi. Marnie can't turn off any potential spigot of love. The way Hannah scraps things, Marnie clings to them, appearing equally stalled out. Christopher Abbott, who played Charlie, seemed to have left the show when it became clear Marnie and Charlie would never leave each other's orbit (ergo Charlie would never seem to grow as a character), and that didn't make narrative sense. But Marnie never leaves an opportunity to feel loved on the table, and it worked out that Abbott's return as Charlie last season gave Marnie a glimpse at the possibility that maybe chasing the loves of these men didn't give leave her with the life she wants. But Marnie doesn't think anything is wrong with herself, and no one in her life but Hannah is there to urge her to consider she isn't doing right by herself. Because she won't let Ray all the way in, he goes back to Shoshanna's, where she was embarrassed to realized he'd moved in without granting her the process of initiating that level of their commitment back when they were dating. In this case, she makes space for him, and they get along with the affability and deference of two people who have helped each other and learned a great deal from each other. As a viewer, I don't need them to get together, and I hope this bodes well for them recognizing each other as the excellent, supportive friends they are. They respect and see the best in each other and they are very similar. Shoshanna raised Ray's standards for his own behavior and taught him to draw strength and satisfaction from improving yourself, and Ray, if nothing else, validated Shosh's feelings and opinions and intelligence. She did much more for him, and that vitally course-corrected Ray's dedication to lashing out, shaming, and finger-wagging lessons aggressively at Hannah and Marnie. That Marnie still wants Ray to do that—shame her, correct her, judge her—is something I do hope the show acknowledges on its way to a resolution for that pair.

I don't reserve hope for anything else, I'm just preparing for the end.