“Sometimes being really good all the time feels really bad.”
Some people think watching an episode of Girls is uncomfortable. It’s full of graphic & awkward sex scenes, extremely flawed characters, and disturbing poignant truths about a flailing generation. It’s not everyone’s ideal television diet. The latest installment of Girls may be its most challenging, it’s darkest, it’s most uncomfortable, a trifle upsetting and still possibly it’s most brilliant. It’s really good, but it feels…really, really bad. So as we hide our faces in secondhand embarrassment and cringe, undeniably disturbed, at some of the developments made in “On All Fours”, it is imperative as a television viewer to realize the poignancy in what explicit bizarreness they’ve just witnessed. Desperation to show people who you really are and covering who you really are up in a pretty package can lead to some disturbing revelations. To make matters worse, everyone is divided. That’s what happens in this week’s rather unsettling and fearless episode of the controversial HBO comedy series that’s adding a touch of ugly drama to its “condition”…
Last week, Hannah’s battle with OCD was discovered much to the audience’s surprise. Everything took a slightly darker turn for her character and the entire tone of the remainder of the season, which is very clear in this episode. All the anxiety on Hannah has her cooped up in her apartment (she’s actually being able to pay rent) attempting to finish her e-book. So far, it’s not really what her publisher (John Cameron Mitchell) would consider a “go”. Hannah has supposedly written something that is “Jane Austen-like” concerning friendship and such and what her publisher wants is “the pudgy face slick with semen and sadness” as well as her sexual failure. Again, here’s people who Hannah looks up to bashing her subtly and not-so-subtly. So now that her progress so far has been scrapped, Hannah is forced to start all over which doesn’t help her anxiety one bit, but definitely exacerbates it. Out of all the cringe-worthy incidents to occur in this series where cringe-worthy events are plentiful, the Q-tip incident has to be the worst and for me, unfortunately embarrassingly relatable, which made it all the more hard to watch. Hannah’s trying exceedingly hard to tackle her dream. Writing book is what she’s always wanted but at the same it’s the most stressful thing she’s ever dealt with--it’s her dream, but it’s also her worst nightmare at the same time, which unfortunately is how a lot of things pan out for foolish young dream seekers like Hannah.
How many of us have ever been in the process of reaching a dream and being miserable at the same time. It feels awful, but you know you’re succeeding. It really messes with one’s head. You’ve achieved a goal, but you’re kind of like, “Is this what I’ve been dreaming of for so long? I’m freaking miserable. Is this success?” So not only is Hannah a flailing mess because of her anxiety and OCD, but she’s also second guessing her dream. Hannah’s publisher wants more of the Hannah that is hungry for usually self-destructive experiences (like accidentally having sex with a gay teenager) and even insists she lie if she has to--to fabricate and he simply asks her to write a novel, which not only changes Hannah’s whole stage, but pushes her to forget her own struggles in order to please her jaded publisher. It’s frustrating trying to present some sort of truth to the world, yet it continues to reject you. It no doubt contributes to Hannah’s stress as well…
Marnie is laying down tracks. She’s literally trying to become a legitimate singer and it’s a bit ridiculous, in the most hilarious way. She’s trying really hard and taking Ray’s advice to be who she is and realize a dream she previously had pushed aside, but with Marnie it’s always a few pushes too much. She’s still attempting to push her way into Charlie’s life--his new successful life--even more and takes stage where she really doesn’t have much right to. Again, Marnie is being the perfect self-destructing ex-girlfriend, and it’s quite embarrassing to watch. And a little sad. Accompanied to Charlie’s raised MAU (monthly average users of his "Forbid" app) celebration with Ray and Shoshanna, Marnie unleashes one of her new tracks--which just so happens to be a rearranged Kanye West song--on the unsuspecting office of hipsters in the midst of a glorious “premature success”.
Allison Williams can sing, but her character Marnie is, just as Charlie says, a bit manic in her need to show who she is when the world around her doesn’t really seem to care or are just momentarily indulging her for their own amusement. Marnie’s dream of being a singer and making a breakout performance at Charlie’s new office just turns into another one of the most cringe-worthy scenes of the episode. The thing Marnie has to learn is when to pull it back. Ray’s motivational speech to her in the last episode only results in this bizarre misstep that puts Marnie and Charlie back where they were when they first started having problems. Or so it seems. Charlie should be smart enough not to involve himself with Marnie yet again, although he has a weakness for her. I guess we’ll see where this goes in the season finale.
Then there is Ray and Shoshanna. Our girl, Shoshanna has definitely gotten herself in a mess after her actions from the last episode and she’s trying to hide it--trying to hide who she is, which in this moment is a cheater. But I don’t think that is what’s really bothering her. At least not as much as one would think. I think Shoshanna is realizing that she doesn’t love Ray as much as she thought, but more so the idea of him. Shoshanna is no doubt dealing with some guilty conscience issues right now, but by the way she distances herself from Ray throughout most of this episode, it seems like she wants something else. Shoshanna has been pushing Ray to become more of the man she thought he would be. Someone with goals and dreams and ideas, much like the guys that populate Charlie’s office hipster party. Shoshanna even lets a subconscious thought concerning Charlie slip at one point (funniest part of the episode). Does this mean I think Shoshanna is a gold-digger or a bad person? No. She simply would like someone who has something they want to achieve in life.
As Shoshanna has told Ray before; he has no hobbies or things that he likes or ideas about the future. He just lives and to Shoshanna that is an odd existence that she can’t fully wrap her head around. She wants Ray to be someone other than who he really is, which will only end in a breakup sooner or later. All Ray does is complain that he best friend has become like one of those successful jerks he despises and essentially calling Charlie’s new life pretentious, all while Shoshanna chats with other guys at the party. Shoshanna attempts to tell the truth but instead insists that she “held the doorman’s hand.” And Ray believes her because he feels like someone as innocent as Shoshanna would think holding hands with another man meant something more than what it actually is. Ray only sees the innocent side of Shoshanna, maybe because that’s what he wants to see or chooses to see. It’s a recipe for disaster. Like Adam said a few episodes back, sometimes Ray and Shoshanna are like “babies holding hands.” completely oblivious of each other’s true selves for better or worse…but in this case, mostly for worse. Can you believe Shoshanna of all people is taking advantage of Ray? You’d think it’d be the other way around.
Adam continues his wondrous new relationship with Natalia (Shiri Appleby). It’s all going swimmingly. Or at least it seems. Our adorable weirdo, Adam is trying to be someone he’s not. He’s trying to be a “normal” person. But he is far from it. Seeing Adam in this new situation with this new girl who is very clear to him about her boundaries puts him in somewhat of an awkward position. Adam thinks he likes it at first--this new way of being in a relationship. It’s not anything he’s use to at all. It's very "vanilla" but he’s trying to get a feel for it. There are a few scenes in this episode where he just seems aggravated or kind of miserable from trying to be okay with his new situation and relationship. But it’s understandable seeing as how Adam has gone through a tough breakup with Hannah who he fell in love with and was then thrown away by at the drop of a hat. Adam’s desperation to move on from that hurt has him parading around with this “normal” girl whom Adam usually would most likely only have a one night stand with. This isn’t saying that Natalia is a horrible girlfriend, but her and her life do not match Adam’s at all. A fact that is evident when Adam accompanies Natalia to an engagement party of her friend’s (played by the hilarious Amy Schumer) who insists Adam looks like an “old-timey criminal.” Adam even tries to engage in vapid “normal” conversation with another guy at the party. It’s doesn’t last long.
On her way back from the doctor’s office, Hannah comes across Adam who is taking a much needed breather from the engagement party. It’s a reunion we’ve been waiting for since the second episode of the season. Adam’s reaction from seeing Hannah again is spot on. For Hannah, seeing Adam is like a relief. You can see it in her eyes that she’s not anxiety-ridden in those few moments with him. She doesn’t count or mess with her ears. It’s just a weird elation that brightens her up, spotting someone she thought she hated and seeming to fall back in love with him in that moment. However, for Adam, seeing Hannah is just a trigger and a pain. When Adam calls Hannah “kid” like he used to it nearly moves Hannah to happy tears. She’s happy for a split second and she totally misses her weirdo! But Adam becomes too conflicted facing Hannah and goes running back to trying to play normal with Natalia and her friends. This time being pushed over the edge and insisting on having a few drinks, which Natalia should have foreseen as a red flag. In this moment Adam reverts back to old habits that he is pushed into by a girl--by Hannah, who seems to have a lot of emotional power over Adam right now. Here, we see just how much Hannah has scarred Adam.
In this turn of events, Adam takes Natalia back to his place. She’s not impressed to say the least. Natalia tries to hide that she’s kind of grossed out and disgusted by Adam’s man lair of an apartment full of tools and weird fixtures he has built. She insists that it is depressing and darker than Adam is, which again insists that Natalia doesn’t know him all too well. Granted, they just started dating, but Natalia is just assuming that she knows who Adam is, without really knowing him at all. Drunk, Adam orders Natalia to get onto all fours and crawl on his floor--bedded in poorly-crafted wood and nails--to his bedroom. It’s very caveman-like and twisted, even for this series, which opens up some interesting, disturbing yet fantastic character development for one of Girls’ most fascinating characters. The scene may feel a bit rape-y to some viewers, but this isn’t rape or sexual assault. This is consensual sex between two adults, yet it is more of an emotional assault that Adam incidentally puts upon Natalia, who is oblivious of his recent heartbreak.
In the midst of it all Adam tries to get reassurance that Natalia really likes him asking, “You really like me?” He doesn’t want the Hannah situation to recur again. But unfortunately, it does anyway. Natalia is completely turned off and offended by this side of him and immediately rejects it once the act is done. “I don’t think I like that. I really didn‘t like that.” Essentially telling Adam she doesn’t really like him--the real him. This is a side that Adam could show to Hannah even when he was sober and she accepted it and maybe even enjoyed it a little. But Adam has to be brought to a certain low and get hammered to show this side of himself to Natalia. It’s unsettling and heartbreaking to know that our adorable weirdo has to find out this revelation while trying out something new with someone else, just to be rejected again in such a short time. Desperate to move on from one hurt, only to fall into another--to be thrown away again, just under different circumstances--left again. All the while, Hannah is left to injure herself again with the same Q-tip that started it all, in an attempt to gain perfect balance. Someone help these children…
From the title, the episode screamed a theme of desperation and that’s essentially what we got. Everyone is desperate to show themselves or hide themselves in some way and unfortunately the world could careless either way. Girls remains one of the best shows of television because of its unrelenting fearlessness to display these earth-shattering truths with a cultural poignancy that I can only describe as excruciating and emotionally brutal. This episode doesn’t necessarily scream “funny”, but it does do what every episode of the show essentially does, which is present its audience to some very cringe-worthy truths. Adam Driver is excellent, vulnerable and dark in this episode and the places his storyline goes are fantastically unsettling and revealing. All of our characters are divided and at their ugliest here yet acting as though they’re good--that they’re happy and whole. But is being good feel all that…good? Or are they all just suffering from a sinking desperation? I think we all know the sad answer to that. “On All Fours” gets 5 out of 5 stars! Next Sunday is the season finale of Girls. Don’t miss it. Only on HBO!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013