“Too many freaks, not enough circuses”
Things are getting really weird. These characters are revisited by past issues, concerns, dreams, and even a mental affliction that leaves our protagonist in a pool of anxiety. Girls delivers another unexpected episode that further twists the oddities of our already not so normal characters and sets about a new developing storyline that is bound to be full of more drama and maybe some very real concern. It’s again a testament to Lena Dunham’s fearlessness to introduce things about several different characters that we, the audience, were not very aware of before. It’s bewildering and very off-putting at first, yet in separate ways (most) of these developments that seem to come out of nowhere are actually quite perfect and befitting for these fumbling young twenty-somethings. Yes, life is that random--that odd--that freaky. Like a circus. And stability is sometimes a fantasy amongst all the bizarre chaos…
Last week, Jessa escaped her past by running away from her problems. This week the other girls get to gripe with certain aspects of their past, be them recent or further behind them. We start with Adam, who is still twisted in a funk after his breakup with Hannah. I have to say that I have been somewhat surprised at how much this breakup has affected him. So much so that he feels the need to go back to AA meetings to refrain from drinking again. Adam’s existence has become minimal. He seems to keep himself hauled up in his apartment building things and drinking milk, which I guess is a very masculine way to deal with all of his conflicting emotions. Adam is such an interesting character that I am elated to see him back in focus this installment! We’ve all become accustomed to Adam’s oddball charm and creepiness that is actually quite cute. His resolve, his honesty is also very admirable. After attempting for one last time to contact Hannah, Adam releases his feelings in an AA meeting that seems bent on discussing who will be purchasing the next meeting’s cookies rather than helping its patrons. It’s a very raw and honest monologue--humorous and admirable--even slightly moving at points, in which Adam says some very true things to people who could honestly care less.
Adam speaks of his frustrating feelings towards Hannah, a young woman who forced her way into his life and made him slowly fall in love with her only to simply change her mind when the circumstances of their relationship became too serious, too adult, too stressful. The ramifications for that is Adam, left in shambles, but trying to get his life back on track. What’s back rearing it's ugly head for Adam is the temptation of those old Hannah feels! Because Hannah essentially replaces alcohol for Adam. She is his new drug and he’s been experiencing some damaging withdrawal since she’s been gone. Luckily, Adam is intercepted by a kooky fellow AA member (Carol Kane) who is adamant that our adorably odd and tall Adam go out on a date with her daughter, Natalia (Shiri Appleby).
Adam might not be in the position to be dating right now, still hung up on his ex, but this push into a new experience proves to be just what he needs right now, and it is kind of great to see him branching out and doing something that doesn’t necessarily involve Hannah so much. The phone call Adam makes in charming Natalia out on a date is just what one would expect from the often creepy, but gentle giant. Despite Adam’s many oddities, his bluntness and his sometimes overarching passion, he is really at his core a nice guy still in the midst of discovering himself and what he likes. Luckily, this impromptu date turns out to be a saving grace in his current fumbling existence. We don’t spend a lot of time with them in this installment, but Adam and Natalia both seem to hit it off in a really surprising way. Honestly, Natalia isn’t a girl I can see Adam dating, but maybe that’s because we’re so used to seeing him be with someone like Hannah--a girl who is a mess in her own right, gobbling up experiences and dedicated to her sensitive solipsism. Which makes one wonder if Adam will be able to adapt to Natalia in a healthy way that could be the start of a new relationship--finally distancing himself from his feelings for Hannah and jumping into something new. It’s good to see the big guy smiling again at least, but who knows if it will last.
In the midst of her college campus roaming, Shoshanna spills the beans about Charlie’s new app company. Another out of the blue development that shocks the audience just as much as it does Marnie, who is still down and out after her latest blunders. Marnie in pigtails…cute! What’s not so cute is stalking one’s ex at their new job. Somehow Marnie makes it her business to drop in on Charlie while he is in his prime. He’s getting himself together and is seemingly beaming on the track to success, unlike his conflicted peers. Charlie has always been a slight mystery that could go anywhere in the show and he’s ended up in this fun-hipster office with these fun hipster co-workers working on new age apps and moving on with his life. All the while Marnie continues to be stuck in misery, chasing after something and someone she doesn’t even know if she wants anymore. At this point, Marnie is becoming a thorn in my side yet again. She is great on calling her friends out on their BS, but she’s selectively oblivious to her own fallibility, much like a lot of the youth of today, which I can attest to seeing as how I’m a part of that often foolish youth.
By chasing down Charlie at his job, Marnie has sunken to new lows. And Charlie is just totally over it. He may be too nice to say it, but he’d really like to tell Marnie to screw off. She has no right attempting to push herself back into Charlie’s life after their history. Marnie may seem to be at this bright and shiny fun little office to congratulate Charlie, but the visit is really all about her. She needs support in any way she can get it and now that he ex has a thriving new app business, he seems to be the right one to go to. I’m not sure I take Marnie for the gold-digging type, but this makes one guess again. Marnie needs emotional and financial support and her desperation in this episode alone truly stinks up that place and even averts Charlie, who just can’t seem to shake Marnie. She just keeps coming back and this time Charlie seems to be totally annoyed with her presence. Marnie is envious, no doubt. Charlie has found a calling, yet she is still lamely searching for hers.
All it takes is a tough verbal push from the grumpy voice of reason, Ray for Marnie to finally open up about her lost ambition to sing. Yet another seemingly random development that was actually foreshadowed in this season’s premiere episode. And as it turns out, Marnie isn’t bad at all, as she starts singing “Don’t Know Why” and even to Ray’s surprise (and hilarious unintentional affections of intimacy), the girl has a shot possible realizing her dream. Again, like most of today’s youth--screw that--everybody, we all tend to do more pondering about reaching our goals than actually putting the effort in reaching them. It doesn’t happen by osmosis, yet we procrastinate, make excuses and even shudder in fear, discomfort and worry. Apprehension can be one’s worst enemy. Like Ray insists, “the clay is drying” make a masterpiece now, before it’s too late. But is Ray’s motivational speech just ground to give Marnie false confidence? Or will Marnie slip up on her own accord, as she often does.
Elsewhere, Shoshanna gets her groove back! But it sets up some trouble for everyone’s favorite little pair of the series. What’s back for Shoshanna is her past before Ray. A past that is full and present in her old friend, Radhika. Something like this happens to people a lot. They move on to some new stage of their life--say, like transitioning from high school to college. You leave behind your old high school friends, and you still love them, but you also meet these new cool college friends who open you up to a whole new world, a world that is a smidge more mature and interesting. Yet when you go back home for summer break, you get caught up in your old habits with your old high school friends and your college friends are a bit put off by that switch in behavior, which is just frustrating and leads to bad decisions. That’s essentially what happens to Shoshanna in this episode. She feels the need to reconnect with someone who she left behind for her new boyfriend. Shoshanna tries to introduce her two worlds; however, they’re not entirely fond of each other. Ray especially doesn’t respond well to Radhika at all. And he’s right, a thirty-three year old at a college party is really pushing it. Ray’s assertion that a “it’s creepy for a college senior to go to a college party” is also laced in some humorous thinly-veiled truth as well.
Shoshanna’s obliviousness to how certain aspects of the world work leave her open to some harsh realities. Realities such as Ray’s quick judgment of a less than desirable situation, which leaves the couple at odds. Even at the college party, Shoshanna realizes that she doesn’t really meld with her past friends as much as well she thought she would. At least not anymore. Radhika is simply used as a plot point, which is to insist that one’s past sometimes has to stay in the past. If Shoshanna is moving on with Ray, then she has to make a decision. But Ray isn’t exactly everything Shoshanna thought having a boyfriend and a lover would be. In her exit, our conflicted Shoshanna ends up relieving her stresses by having a romp with a sexy doorman. It’s the kind of reckless thing a product of our societal youth does in times of person turmoil. The sort of thing Shoshanna will regret quite soon.
The most seemingly random development that comes back to haunt a character comes as a dramatic and slightly humorous shocker. Hannah’s OCD rears its ugly head yet again. This is something she thought was past her, yet due to all of her current stresses, our darling protagonist is forced to wrestle with the disorder yet again. Some viewers may feel that this character development totally came out of nowhere and isn’t fully warranted. Well, tragic things from the past often rear their head unexpectedly and quite dramatically as one attempts to transition into adulthood. Like all the other characters in this episode, something is forced back into Hannah’s life, but this is something that is really worth worrying over. While watching I found myself wondering if any previous episodes have presented any signs of Hannah’s OCD and the only subtle mention of it I noticed was from the penultimate episode from last season in which Hannah and Marnie engaged in their huge fight and Marnie says something along these lines: “You’ve been crazy since middle school when you had to masturbate eight times a night to ‘stave off diseases of the mind and body’”, which would otherwise be a throwaway line, but ultimately comes around full circle to this troubling storyline.
Fact: Lena Dunham herself suffered from a stint of anxiety-induced obsessive-compulsive disorder in which she had become obsessed with the number eight…
She tells Rolling Stone magazine, “I’d count eight times. … I’d look on both sides of me eight times, I’d make sure nobody was following me down the street, I touched different parts of my bed before I went to sleep, I’d imagine a murder, and I’d imagine that murder eight times.”
So this storyline is very autobiographical from Dunham’s own experience and as random and at times slightly clumsy as the development is, Hannah’s OCD is a great obstacle set before her that should open up more possibilities, story wise for the last two episodes of the season. What is ideal to note is that Adam seems to be the trigger of this twist, just as much as her impending e-book release--a release that she hasn’t barely written yet. Stress is building and Hannah is actually quite alone in the struggle right now, even with her parents visiting her. In fact, her parents visit is probably just making it worse. With someone like Hannah, she hates to be looked at like she’s crazy and she doesn’t like to be pestered by worrisome eyes. I mention Adam mostly because Hannah does with her therapist (Bob Balaban from "Moonrise Kingdom") stating, “I can’t decide whether he’s the greatest person in the world or the worst, so I should probably take my space until I can figure that out. According to everybody.”
I thought it was weird she would even mention Adam in this situation or their breakup even before mentioning her e-book deal. Maybe Hannah is just as much in a funk about their breakup as Adam was, and her repressing it has sort of broken her and caused an old affliction to show up for a compromising reprise. Hannah’s OCD came about in high school and seem to be linked to sexual discovery--sexual fears, in a sense and it’s a tragic as it sounds. When Hannah gives details of just how bad her OCD was, it brings in a heartwrenching seriousness to the situation that makes us worry for our otherwise decidedly foolish young protagonist. There’s nothing classical about it. Stuck between a e-book deal--a huge steppingstone and professional moment for her--and a conflicting breakup with someone she’s clearly going back and forth on, Hannah’s OCD is an appropriately random and sort of perfect development that has our main Girl on edge. And with the deadline for her e-book coming closer and closer, Hannah’s stress will only get much, much worse…
More dramatic than most, this is another odd episode of Girls, in a long list of them. In fact, this second season has taken some great risks in storytelling considering the developments of its characters and the show’s general direction. Right when you think you’ve got it figured out, something seemingly ridiculous and random happens that shifts the story and character progressions. The show--this episode is much like life in that way. Full of bizarre twists and odd returns from one’s past, most of them unwanted and quite troubling. Every ugly little thing about the past…it’s back. And as these characters--these freaks slowly find their way to adulthood, those past issues will have to be resolved. Or else they’ll end up somewhere in a circus together reminiscing the times they were all so horrid to one another and trying to gain back some semblance of stability. Sadly, that is their spectrum. “It’s Back” gets 4 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013