“It’s not fair to end things in the middle!”
If that isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. Turning twenty-five. Reaching the middle of your twenties. 25. It marks the first step into the second half of acting as an adult ought to…whatever that looks like these days. Hannah’s twenty-fifth is one that sort of forces her to see where she was and where she is currently going. From here to there, if you will. The first half of Hannah’s twenties were more or less a wacky mess, but now Hannah is making serious strides to be a happy and poised adult in nearly every aspect. That means moving on from childish things, but as we see in this episode of Girls, those first steps into moving beyond the trivial BS is a cringe worthy battle and it turns out to be just as much as wacky and messy as Hannah’s early twenties. Just a different kind of wacky. Something more serious. All of that wackiness isn’t cute anymore, it’s odd and disturbing and real and a little scary. 25 means so much more that it is indeed something to cringe about. But even beyond Hannah, a number of other characters get slapped in the face with ugly realities of their past experiences which brings in the underrated Gaby Hoffmann as Adam’s unhinged sister, Caroline and a few other amusing faces resurface all in a premature celebration of Hannah’s twenty-fifth! It turns out to be one hell of a way to reach one’s middle. And the third season’s rumbling tension rises…
The first event to occur during Hannah’s big day is a somewhat startling first meeting of Adam’s sister and boy, is she a character! First, it would be remiss for me not to mention Gaby Hoffmann’s horrifying and perplexing portrayal of this rubix cube character. In lesser hands, Caroline could have turned into a clichéd crazy girl failure that would make the audience cringe for different reasons. But Hoffman presents a dark vulnerability, sadness and distressing mischievousness to Caroline that is not easy to balance. Emmy nomination for guest star actress in a comedy? I would assume so. But I digress. This episode seems to mark a more mature Hannah, one that is less self-involved--maybe its her feeling the "twenty-five-ness" of it all and making strides to be the caring adult she’s always wanted to be--or maybe it is simply Hannah seeing Caroline as an extension of the man she loves and is therefore willing to put herself aside to accommodate her guest, even at Adam’s dismay. In much of this episode, things just seem to happen around the birthday girl, as she takes in all the surrounding wackiness and surprisingly handles it all pretty well, better than we’ve ever seen her deal with almost anything. But as Hannah matures and settles, everyone else seems to be flailing more than ever. Especially concerning the main relationship of the series, Hannah and Marnie.
We find Marnie in this sort of manic state while trying to convince herself she has it all together. It’s a weird mix of manic grief and personal empowerment that makes for an interesting self-delusional head space. This week, Marnie is dealing with a surprising YouTube video that she and Charlie previously made together, featuring Marnie singing a cover of “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. And yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Between battling to get the video pulled from the internet without contacting Charlie and the sharp insults thrown at Marnie in the usually abysmal YouTube comments section, Hannah’s supposed best friend is having one hell of a time trying to keep herself sane. Frankly, she’s not doing a good job of that. Marnie's distraction from all the crap is taking control of Hannah’s birthday party. Seeing as how she can’t control anything else going on in her life right now, Marnie spends much of the party attempting to take a trip down memory lane and tap into all of the nostalgic fun times she and Hannah had together. The thing is though, Hannah has completely moved past all of that and she’s happier for it. She’s excelling in adulthood, whereas Marnie is left scrambling manically. In fact, Hannah’s reactions to Marnie’s control of the party is reminiscent of an adult trying to professionally inform a teenager that it isn’t appropriate for them to be best friends because of their age difference.
As Hannah’s birthday party rages, we catch up with some old faces such as Tako, Adam’s lesbian friend and Laird, who is enamored by Marnie’s rendition of “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent. And even Hannah’s parents, of whom we should all be happy to see every now and again. Hannah finds herself in a mix of childish things from her past that she is trying to distance herself from--although many of the things that come up is not ancient history. Throughout, there is a weird sort of power struggle between Hannah and Marnie--Hannah goes around saying hi to old friends and dancing with her boyfriend and her parents (It’s kind of great to see Hannah being “good” for a change) but Marnie is still trying to stay stagnant in her own misplaced nostalgia of their old fun, careless times together. It makes for an odd episode that is both tense and consistently cringe-worthy to the point of unbearable but none more than Marnie passive-aggressively forcing Hannah to sing aforementioned impromptu Rent performance that Hannah clearly detests. But Marnie isn’t the only one testing Hannah’s patience and sanity. When Hannah’s book editor, David (who Adam hilariously mistakes as Ed Norton) shows up and sort of taunts Marnie and Adam because of all the dirt he knows about them through Hannah's writing, it is clear that this past stuff is something Hannah is uncomfortable talking about anymore. It makes one wonder what kind of things Hannah has written about Marnie and Adam. After all, it will come out one day and then what will Hannah have to say about it? Maybe she’ll let the book talk for itself. Hannah's book editor, David is an interesting minor character because he is an older individual with an off-putting Shoshanna-like mentality, which makes it perfect for the interaction he later has with Ray…
There is a theme of age difference in this episode that accompanies the theme of moving on from childish things into something real and often ugly--the adult world is occasionally ugly. Much of this is seen through the copious amount of Ray we get this week. Ray, like Hannah, is finally in a position of adulthood that is apparently appropriate for his age, especially professionally and he is perhaps growing tired of all of the crap that comes with the young people that surround him, which is odd because that is much of his clientele. This first comes in Ray’s interaction with Shoshanna that is both a little disheartening but occurs through a surprisingly healthy and very real epiphany. Shoshanna is being fleshed out more and more as character symbolizing the insufferable slinging of extremely shallow pop culture onto unsuspecting yet hungry youth. Ray couldn’t be more opposite of that if he tried. The conversation Ray has with Shoshanna is painful and tiring, but no one is more tired that Ray is. Someway through his whole spill, Ray just gives up trying to relate to someone too foolishly young to be interested in anything other than herself and her fun--finding “dank weed” from pretty strangers--Ray’s epiphany is a healthy decision for him and Shoshanna, who has a lot of growing up to do at this point. While one might assume them to end up back together later on in the series, right now Ray is appropriate to dismiss himself from Shoshanna’s life at the moment. It would only become maddening for him.
Then there is the interaction between Ray and Hannah’s editor, David. Not only does it hit some great comedic notes, but it further expresses Ray’s annoyance with this shallow, youthful mentality (a mentality that even spreads to adults well over the age of thirty such as David) while also highlighting Ray’s own ridiculousness standards of social order (the whole ordeal is over the DJ prematurely changing his soulful Smashing Pumpkins song to an annoying pop hit). It gets surprisingly violent and absurd--ugly--this is perhaps a part of the adult life Ray wasn’t ready for; the ugliness of it all and dealing with the shallow youthfulness that surrounds him. Just the look of horror on Ray's bleeding face when David knocked him on the ground says it all. Still the visual of Ray getting his ass kicked in this fashion by Hannah’s tiny book editor was something we should all feel blessed to have seen at least once in this lifetime.
Hannah’s twenty-fifth birthday, ends on a surprisingly horrific note after her and Adam return to their apartment to potentially have a beautiful night together (after Adam appropriately gives Hannah a necklace with his tooth on it) only to find Caroline standing in the bathroom with no pants on smashing glass into her hand. Potentially one of the most disturbing visuals Girls has ever given its audience. If Caroline isn’t an indication that sooner or later Hannah and Adam’s relationship will implode on itself (probably by Hannah’s doing) then I don’t know what is. The foreshadowing here is excruciating and very ugly to the point of depressing and maybe even soul-crushing, because you know it is an inevitability. One can sort of feel Hannah still fighting to make sure her own sanity is in check as she watches Adam’s sister spiraling and as she watches Marnie spiraling. It’s like Caroline is a warning to Hannah (and the other three girls) that this could be her if she doesn’t keep it all together. And we all know Hannah--she’ll over think it all and drive herself crazy resulting in what she was trying to avoid altogether: Disaster.
I do love that the writers are seriously testing Hannah and Adam’s relationship right off the bat and so far, they are handling each others' issues rather well, but will that really last? I doubt it. The opening café scene from last week’s premiere still sticks and will continue to throughout the season. If this season doesn’t see the slow dismantling of Hannah and Adam’s relationship then I’d be very surprised, but at the least it will continue to throw issue after issue at them. The stresses both Adam and Hannah fight against in this episode come from outside forces in the shape of friends and family--that’s harder to fight against than their own personal one-on-one difficulties. And those outside forces don’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon, which is not just a good thing, but a great thing, especially where Caroline comes in. Adam being the closed off character that he is, the appearance of his unhinged sister will continue to explore the “why” of Adam in ways we may never have seen otherwise. And we’ll also get to see how long this newly matured, twenty-five year old Hannah can deal with this new ugliness--the real ugliness of being an adult. While Hannah now sees her youthful foolishness as something horrific and wacky to avoid, she’ll now have to deal with a whole new kind of horrific wackiness that she may not have bargained for. Hopefully she won’t end it in the middle. “She Said OK” gets 4 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2014