2.08- "It's Back"
Before sharing my review, I feel compelled to present my gut reaction to this episode, which was to pen the lyrics to a Girls theme song that I can only hear in my head:
Wherever we go
There is nothing that can cure our mental illness
Whatever we do
It’s the same thing that we’ve done a million times
Whoever we are
Remains a mystery to us and those around us
Boys make us want to totally hurl
It’s a Girls world!
In a pattern that is unfortunately beginning to define Girls in my eyes, this season’s content continues to fluctuate wildly between mature reflection and petty diddling. Last week’s trip upstate, which culminated in Jessa’s kind-of-unexpected-but-actually-not-that-surprising disappearance, was a slower episode that bit off a central idea about family life and savored its varying flavors for a half hour. This week, it’s back to the city for a very busy episode that speeds up a bunch of plotlines without really pausing long enough to put them in a larger context. This kind of works and kind of doesn’t.
We’ll start with what works. I liked that we got back to Adam for a good chunk of the episode. He remains one of the show’s most unique creations, and his entire subplot was both informative (we learn he’s been in AA since 17, and also that getting dumped by Hannah has made it harder for him to stay sober) and rewarding (his blind date turns out to be someone normal, easygoing, and attractive to boot!). As interesting as it was last season to see Adam emotionally rumple Hannah’s emotional hair with countless emotional noogies, it might be even better to watch him adapt to life with a well-adjusted individual who tolerates—if not embraces—his stranger tendencies. Also, on a selfish note, I like Adam, and I enjoy the show more when he’s not somewhere offscreen hammering on a chair and pining for Hannah.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I also like Ray. I think it’s because he has slowly transformed from the show’s most jaded, one-dimensional supporting character into a vulnerable loser who’s trying to nurture the first meaningful relationship he has ever had. So, naturally, it broke my heart to see Shoshanna fall victim to the persistent epidemic of wishy-washiness that plagues this show’s female leads. From the angle of Ray’s character development, this was a smart move on the part of the writers, as it has been clear for some time that he is lying to himself about how compatible he is with Shoshanna. I believe he will react to her infidelity by either withdrawing from romantic involvements completely or finally taking steps to become happier with himself before seeking a new partner from which to draw confidence and affirmation.
But from the perspective of Shoshanna’s character development, the cheating seemed kind of stupid. As I noted last week, we don’t even know that much about Shoshanna, or, at the very least, we certainly don’t know enough for her impulsive infidelity to feel like a “big” moment for her. In spite of this, I can’t shake the feeling that the show is trying to sell her quickie with the sexy doorman as a serious turning point for her character, possibly sparking her transformation from motormouthed ditz to confident, womanly, casual sex-haver. The decision to elevate her from the show’s occasional comic relief to a real character is a respectable one, but it’s unfortunate that she seems on track to face the same struggle—“what do I really want?”—that Marnie, Hannah, and Jessa (RIP?) are already grappling with on a weekly basis.
Speaking of unfortunate, grappling, and struggles, Marnie continues to harass, stalk, and attempt to seduce Charlie, who has stumbled into some degree of success by inventing an app—inspired by Marnie—that blocks people from calling numbers they shouldn’t. I don’t care about any of this. Later in the episode, Marnie confesses to Ray that what she really wants in life is to front a Norah Jones cover band for a living. It’s a revelation that seems designed to make room in the show for Allison Williams’s singing voice while also testing Marnie’s devotion to the pursuit of a fulfilling career. Like so many other moments in this episode, this could be the springboard for multiple arcs that might even run into season three, so I’m hesitant to pass judgment on it at the moment.
Indeed, even the episode’s title, “It’s Back,” makes it sound like Hannah’s OCD is some shockingly resurrected villain whose reappearance establishes an endgame for the season or series. We’ve known Hannah to have a history of mental illness—the compulsive masturbation was mentioned for sure at some point—but I don’t think anyone understood her problems to be as serious as they are in this episode. It was apparent from day one that the book deal was going to be a curse rather than a blessing for Hannah, and the question now is whether her OCD will become a major—like, even more major—impediment to her perpetually tragicomic, somewhat adventurous lifestyle. There is also the slim possibility that the OCD plot is confined to one episode—remember that her parents left Bob Balaban’s office with a prescription in hand—which would be the weirdest one-off mental breakdown in television history. I can’t say I’m hoping for an intense Hannah/OCD plot to take over the show, but it would be better than remembering Girls as the show that gave its lead a cripping bout of OCD fo
r a single episode and then went back to quibbling over the definition of a “sexit.”
To be quite honest, this episode felt like the first half of a two-parter. A lot of things happened, but they didn’t seem to happen all the way, if that makes sense. As a result, I’m not sure what to make of these new developments, and it therefore seems likely that my opinion of this episode will either improve or diminish with the benefit of hindsight. Tune in next week, I guess.
John Bender is a Twitter anarchist with questionable opinions about celebrity lifestyles and the Lost finale. He edits erotic novels by day and works tirelessly by night to improve upon his personal record of 41.06 in the Mecha Marathon minigame in Mario Party 2. He also plays in Fitness.