“Everything‘s my business”
How little do you mean in the scheme of someone’s life? Everyone’s circumstance at the moment is on unstable ground. This is why this episode made me nervous. Every one of our main characters has their distinctive downfalls and they are making ugly returns in this week’s penultimate episode. Hannah is rolling around in horrid decision-making and she’s pulling everyone else down with her. At this point in the season, things are heading south very fast. Hannah is watching it all from behind a dingy window and her perspective is haunted by her own insecurities and shortcomings. The conventions that allowed us all to see Hannah as more mature this season have fallen by the wayside and we are able to see that the immature, self-sabotaging brat is still indeed there and she is in rare form. It’s frustrating. Personally, no other episode of Girls has frustrated me more than this one because the viewer can see Hannah unraveling and contradicting herself in a way that would light a fire under the most patient of viewers. “I Saw You” is the kick to the face the audience has been waiting for. You didn’t think the girls would grow up that fast, now did you?
The episode opens with Hannah and Adam having sex. Intimate enough, but they still are so far away from each other. Adam’s head isn’t in it--he isn’t in any of it. And neither is Hannah’s, because she sits assuming the possible worst while her odd beau is busy bouncing lines off of Ray. Since the day we met Adam, he’s been a man of whole presence. All of him is thrown into what he’s doing and right now, he’s wholly engaged in his work. Hannah can’t understand this because she is someone who much like her friends (namely Marnie and Elijah) need validation from others to have her entire being feel valued or authentic. Adam doesn’t need to process other’s reactions to him in the way that Hannah does, this is why she has become so clingy to him--his whole involvement in her has been replaced by something else. These are too people who love each other but clearly operate on different wavelengths--on this matter they do not understand each other. Hannah’s anxiety is triggered and boiling under a veiled sense of mature contentment until she can’t take it anymore. The catalyst comes full throttle when Hannah visits Patti LuPone’s apartment accompanied by Elijah. Most of the visit is played for humor (Rannells and LuPone are hilarious together!) until we meet Patti’s husband, Peter, a college professor who subjugated his passion for writing in order to support his wife’s own creative successes. This is a warning to Hannah that her relationship is likely to dissolve into a one-sided success story while the other falters. Either that or Adam will leave Hannah. Either outcome is deplorable in Hannah’s perspective.
Throughout the rest of the episode, Hannah is reminiscent of an older angry great-aunt who feels the need to spread the misery, which breeds more importance to one of the most powerful quotes of the episode made by the artist Marnie accommodates, Beadie (Louise Lasser): “[…] It was harder when I was young, but now I’m old and no one ever looks at me anyway. Getting old is the piss. I hate watching television because all the old women are shells…it just hurts to be a shell.” If we apply this statement to where Hannah is at this point in her life, there is a disturbing relevance. While Hannah is still very young, she too is in the position of being a shell. Her job makes her feel numb, her boyfriend’s success has her creative passion pushed to the background, and her friends are in more desirable positions than she thought herself to be in. Around the time Hannah’s book deal dropped and she took a job at GQ which failed to speak to her creative individuality, she began placing more dependable weight on her relationship with Adam. She began to become controlling and afraid of the worst possibilities. She wanted to control the narrative of her story, but she’s not the only one writing it. That’s what sucks about life for a writer, they aren’t in control of the narrative execution. Adam’s narrative is being maintained on a level beyond Hannah’s and she doesn’t see where she fits into his story anymore, making her feel like a shell. She could handle being a shell at work because she had Adam to come home to, but now that he’s slowly disappearing, she is forced to break out of the stifling corporate setting in true self-sabotaging fashion.
We were given a look into how Hannah brings other people down after she kicked Adam’s sister, Caroline out after her book deal went south. She does this again at her job, speaking on an angry truth that Hannah has been suppressing this entire time. The job she occupies is empty labor--a squandering of creative talent to sell commodities to people who aren’t happy with their lives. Hannah speaks on it! It’s self-sabotage thinly-veiled in creative integrity. She’s way too young to realize what a poor decision she’s making, but what she’s saying isn’t necessarily wrong--exaggerated maybe, but not total drivel. These are the thoughts every writer has when they realize they are selling out. But we contain them and make efforts to be in a more desirable position down the line. For Hannah, the lack of control pushes her to the point of no return and she loses her job in the wake of personal disaster. It’s a rebellion against her current circumstance and she digs into everyone at the table before she makes her dramatic exit.
One of Hannah’s many and constant downfalls is that she routinely humiliates herself by her inability to read and understand a situation from outside her limited perspective. And Elijah is not what one would consider a healthy sidekick. They both diminish Marnie’s efforts in potentially bettering herself and prepare for a “s**tshow” reminiscent of Marnie’s painful cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger” from Season 2. Hannah and Elijah are the equivalent of two bitter brats destroying everything so that no one else has anything left to be happy about. It’s very solipsistic and destructive. Marnie’s venture back into music with Desi actually turns out to be a brow-raising success, even if the song they’ve created is remarkably cheesy. Also, shout-out to the open-mic rapper in the beginning of that scene! Hilarious. Marnie’s success is just another jab at Hannah--a reminder that she is faltering while her friends indulge in their own triumphs, big and small. Hannah just lost her job and probably soon her boyfriend, but she parades her latest turbulence as something to be proud of--something cool to flaunt in from of Adam’s theater friends. The thing is, Hannah is operating on a less than mature perspective. All of the successes she worked hard to acquire this season have disappeared and she’s reverting back to childish ways of validating her circumstance in a way that the adults at the table don’t take as a charming interlude. It’s just…sad.
We see Jessa at her most vulnerable this episode, meeting up with her in the midst of an obvious personal meltdown soundtracked to a jazzy Lee Moses bumper. Jessa is bored and her nerves are shot. The stimulation she needs to replace is absent so she’s left raw--like an exposed nerve. And Shoshanna doesn’t know what to do with that--she can’t even be bothered to indulge Jessa’s unstable state because this kind of Jessa doesn’t fit into her naïve view of the world so she expresses cheap words of encouragement and goes about her business. To Shoshanna’s credit though, at least she’s there and aware of what’s happening to Jessa. The others are too wrapped up in their own dramas to notice their friend in danger of herself. When Jessa stumbles into Su-Jin’s art galley where Marnie lamely hashes out some last minute alterations with the artist, there is potential evolution. Jessa is forced to make strides in bettering herself--doing something with herself and her downfall leads to something great: A new job that she slips out of Marnie’s hands. Could artist, Beadie detect more of a personality in Jessa than in Marnie? One thing is for sure when Jessa falls, she sort of falls into the right hole.
Meanwhile, Marnie’s success is sidelined for her feelings for Desi. It’s not enough for Marnie to enjoy one success at a time. She’s got to have it all and she’s impatient to have it. Marnie’s need for sexual validation is her biggest downfall. Seeing Desi with his girlfriend, Clementine, Marnie falls prey to her insecurities yet again and isn’t satisfied with the creative victory that is her successful open-mic performance. Validation in lieu of personal growth is what leads Marnie back to Ray for a little pity sex. And it’s just too bad especially, when we have a bitter Hannah lurking around. Oh yes, Hannah makes it her business to spread the backhanded wealth of unhappiness everywhere she goes. Hannah makes the ugly discovery insisting bluntly that everything is her business--she wants to control this narrative--Hannah literally invades another person’s story for her own benefit. This discovery--the fact that Marnie’s standards have sunk so low in a time of loneliness and loss of control--is the validation Hannah needs right now. It is a justification. At least Hannah hasn’t sunk so far as to sleep with Ray. That’s something Hannah can hold over Marnie’s head forever. And it’s pitiful and childish and…ugh. Background observation: Did anyone else notice that in Ray’s apartment, he has a cage full of things titled “Adam’s Creepy S**t” next to a bust of a fox? Also, Ray’s framed picture of Buster Keaton in his bathroom. The indirect things we find out about Ray just by looking around his apartment…interesting.
Bitterness doesn’t look good on anyone and there is a special place in purgatory for people who barge into a person’s room while they’re having sex. Girls does a lot with this penultimate episode, but most of all it is a return to the status quo--the girls haven’t grown up all that much: Check how Marnie attempts to save her own skin after Hannah discovers her and Ray together, insisting “He made me.” It is simultaneously hilarious and sad. The clashing narratives in this installment rightfully prepares us for a season finale that is sure to surprise. The lack of genuine expression that is eroded by personal frustrations falsely justifying reversions of childish behavior pulls each of the girls out of their complacency and forces them to (maybe) confront the consequences of their actions. And just when it seemed like they were almost getting it kind of together. This episode makes Girls a true tragic-comedy staple. “I Saw You” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2014