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'Girls' 3x08, Incidentals: Review

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'Girls' 3x08, Incidentals

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“Success looks good on you.”

We all yearn for this backhanded compliment, especially if we happen to be a young twentysomething desperate to make it into the working world doing what we want to do. What does success look like and more importantly what does it feel like? And perhaps just as important: What does one’s success look and feel like to those around them? Coincidentally, success in all of its perceived effervescence is a variable that we all have to learn to adapt to just as much as we have to with failure. We’re at a point where these characters are coming into their own as perspective adults and each of them are encountering intricate obstacles and pressures that affect themselves and their relationships. It is incidental that personal successes find ways to disrupt personal relationships. Girls season 3, episode 8 entitled“Incidentals” (aired February 23rd) sees how success continues altering our characters’ worlds and asks the question of possible personal setbacks along the way. You know, everyone’s got a lust for the life: The good life, but no one can foresee the backlash of what success may bring.

Hannah sits down at a nice little outdoor restaurant perky and appropriately braggadocios about her latest prospect. An interview with guest star, Patti LuPone as herself. It’s something to be excited about for sure, even if the world around you isn’t as excited for you. I have to pause here to say that I love how this show continues to remind its characters that the rest of the world is not as interested in their life, successes and drama as they think it is. There’s a cathartic darkness to that realization, but it is an excruciating reality that is glorious, yet depressing to see reflected. Nonetheless, one can observe and appreciate Hannah’s boastful disposition here. Even when she has to chase down the Tony-award winning star to interview her, one can understand Hannah’s feeling of self-importance rising to the occasion. And what an interview it is, really. Beyond Hannah hilariously attempting to shift the corporate controlled interview in a way that satisfies the promoted bone density drug, Stranova, what this plot device does is set up some very real concerns for Hannah and Adam’s future.

Adam has fallen upon a great creative career endeavor: Broadway. And he’s even made a new friend named Desi--the apparent first of many. And thus, Adam is fulfilling a dream--his first and the first. Hannah’s biggest fear this whole season has been that Adam will somehow in some way disappear. His latest success in the Broadway field opens up the possibility for that scenario to come into reality in a big, disconcerting way, solidifying Hannah’s anxiety. If Adam gets too happy in the career aspect of his life, then he could see how potentially unfulfilling his relationship with Hannah is in comparison. It’s weird because at the beginning of the season, one might have pegged Hannah to be in the position of utter success and which would see her dismissing Adam from her life; however, it seems that Adam is quickly becoming the impressive success story of the pair in a way that shifts the relationship dynamic. Even Elijah can see it…

It’s interesting how we’re starting to see the progression of Hannah coming into adulthood. This episode is very evident of her slowly progressing maturation. Hannah has never been more tolerable than she is here. Her growth is being reflected even in something as remedial as her clothing choices--where she would have worn something more childish and unflattering in previous seasons, she is now growing more “traditional” in her fashion choices. Look at how Hannah unselfishly takes it upon herself to comfort Marnie after she endures yet another bad day. Even the manner in which Hannah confronts Adam about her fear of him disappearing into his new successes turns out to be her most mature heart-to-heart yet. And it is honestly quite refreshing. Everything is looking up for Hannah. But how long can this last really?

The thing is, Adam doesn’t and never really has had a concrete goal for his life; he tries on different versions of himself until something inspires him. He’s stumbled upon success in acting by surprise--it’s a serendipitous accident. Even when Adam is enduring Elijah blabbing on about the intricate dynamics of theater, he says with gusto that he doesn’t want to be a part of “the scene” or any scene for that matter. But isn’t that what they always say when they’re just starting out? The humble, unbiased perspective of just making art and working through one’s passion without cycling through the complex politics of their job scene…it more than likely falters and the groupthink dynamic inherently begins to stick because, well...it's easier. Could that happen to someone as strong-willed as Adam? He does not seem the sort at all. But then again, no one ever seems like it until they are.

Elsewhere, Marnie continues to be the punching bag this week in many ways, but there is a shimmer of foolish hope for her by time the end credits roll…sort of. At least if you’re the optimistic type. Marnie is alone at a random yogurt shop when she runs into none other than the eccentric Su-Jin. The only way this interaction could have been anymore awkward is if Booth Jonathan himself were there. However, life kicks Marnie while she’s down when Su-Jin reveals she’s opening an art gallery in Soho, Manhattan. Marnie sees someone like Su-Jin coming into her own--finding success through her own efforts. Even if Su-Jin comes off as a bit ridiculous, she has reached a point in her life where she is making a name for herself while Marnie, the girl who has no concrete reason to not be as or more successful than Su-Jin, is left flailing. That awkward clothesline hug Marnie gives Su-Jin expresses everything this episode is trying to express: The odd feeling of seeing your peers reach success while you‘re still picking up the pieces of your own shattered life. There is a delusional downward spiral on the way for many of the characters, and probably some surprising small victories. One might be optimistic enough to mark Marnie down for a victory.

But to make matters all the more worse, Marnie’s personal relationships keep crumbling before her eyes: Ray breaks up with her in what is one of the show’s most abruptly ended relationships. But who knows. Maybe it’s not totally over? Ray makes his case by insisting Marnie isn’t real enough for him. Marnie in a way does not match his latest successes and he is no longer in the mood to play fixer for a young woman who is desperately drifting. Ray needs someone who is on his level to say the least. And he’s getting nowhere fast with Marnie. It’s understandable, but a little douchey of him to sort of have his fill with Marnie and then dismiss her. Did Ray not see this coming or was the fact that Marnie filled out that Shoshanna shaped-hole nicely for a while distract him? The failures of the day lead Marnie to Adam’s celebratory gathering where she almost immediately has some sort of connection--whether significant or shallow, it is yet to be full realized--with Adam’s folk singing friend, Desi. The two share a duet of sorts together while Hannah cringes in the background. Apparently for Marnie, Desi is what potential success looks like and being by his side would fulfill both her dream to sing and her dream to have a potentially perfect boyfriend. But then again, anyone who can distract Marnie from her failures seems like her ideal match. It’s an interesting set-up to say the least…

Jessa is bored. She’s never been the type to sit still and be content without some sort of outward stimulation probing her to awaken her trademark backhanded wisdom. And for a former addict, that's dangerous. Jessa has yet to really replace the stimulation she once had and that leaves her unmoved and stagnant. It’s a little sad that her friends haven’t even helped her re-establish a new, healthier stimulant in her life because they are so busy being caught up in their own drama. Jessa is never one to think she has a real problem and we saw that she did not even take rehab seriously--it was a fun little experiment to her in which she saw the participants as her own dolls to play with when she was bored. The montages of Jessa engaging in all types of odd and lovely behavior at the children’s boutique are some of the best moments of the episode, but then comes the kicker with an old friend makes a reappearance. The debauched fun that Jessa has been missing--the thing she never found a replacement for--is back and with a vengeance. The monster piloting this train ride to destruction is charming old Jasper and his cocaine. Jessa will have to make larger strides and endure harsher downfalls in order to reach some sort of saving grace. Observing her and Jasper’s extremely toxic relationship expresses the ugly reality that success is measured in an entirely different fashion for Jessa, compared to the other girls. There may not even be a way to measure success for Jessa. Her definition is certainly on a different level...

On a side note, “Blue Crush was such an important movie for women” may be one of the weirdest statements anyone on this show has ever had the audacity to utter and continue about their day as if it were normal. That said, one should be rather impressed with how mature the storytelling has gotten on this season of Girls. There is more plot-focused interweaving here that is likely to grow more prominent from here on out. In addition, the foreshadowing is strong with this one. For an episode largely responsible for setting up a big fall out (thunder before the lightning) this is a great one--certainly one of the most entertaining and humorous episodes of the season, even with its sitcom-ish tendencies. “Incidentals” gets 4 out of 5 stars!

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© Patrick Broadnax 2014

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