Season 1, Episode 6, “The Return”

Episode 6, “The Return,” is particularly interesting because we finally catch a glimpse of Hannah’s childhood in Michigan, as the episode just follows her during her trip home for a weekend. Her relationship with her parents is explored in more detail, which is great since they were only featured for a few minutes during the first episode. Also, we are able to see the difference between how Hannah is treated by her friends from home, versus her New York crew.

Hannah’s parents driving her home from the airport.

While at home, Hannah bickers with her parents and broods in her room. Clearly not much has changed since we last saw her in New York; she is whiney and entitled. But the next day, we begin to see her unwind and act more confident…perhaps her lack of self-esteem has something to do with living in the city, and is not a personality flaw after all.

While running an errand for her mother, Hannah stops by to say hello to an old girlfriend from high school. She is bubbly and friendly, which leads us to believe Hannah used to be that way too. Apparently the city has hardened her. While catching up with her friend, Hannah learns that another girl from their graduating class (Carrie) went missing while on vacation, and is believed to be dead. The town is throwing a benefit to raise money for Carrie’s parents, so they can afford to hire a private investigator. Clearly this is a close-knit town, where people care about and want to help one another. Again, basically it is the complete opposite of Hannah’s dog-eat-dog life in New York.

Later, Hannah heads to the local pharmacy to pick up medication for her mother. The handsome pharmacist behind the counter recognizes her from their high school class and tries to start a conversation. At first it seems Hannah is caught off guard (someone actually being nice to her for once??), but quickly warms up to him. He is a genuinely nice guy, which is a good thing for her. To both Hannah’s and the viewer’s surprise, he asks her to be his date for the Carrie benefit that evening.

Hannah giving herself a pre-date pep talk.

My favorite scene of the episode (and possibly of the whole series thus far) is when Hannah tells her parents about her upcoming date. As she was visiting them for their anniversary, Hannah’s parents are upset since they already all had celebratory dinner plans. Hannah responds, “I don’t really think that you guys are understanding the severity of this situation. I have been dating someone who treats my heart like it’s monkey meat. I feel like a delusional, invisible person half the time. So I need to learn what it’s like to be treated well, before it’s too late for me.” Finally admitting her unhappiness with her relationship with Adam, it seems Hannah is making great strides. She is finally honest with herself how cruelly Adam treats her and that she deserves better. I wanted to jump up and down in my living room during this scene; Hannah is finally seeing clearly, it’s a miracle!

While getting ready for her date, Hannah gives herself a pep talk. While her self-esteem has seemingly soared since she has traveled home, her confidence is still slightly lagging behind. Looking in her mirror, Hannah tells herself, “You are from New York; therefore, you are just naturally interesting, ok? It is not up to you to fill all the awkward pauses. You are not in danger of mortifying yourself. The worst stuff that you say sounds better than the best stuff that other people say.”

Hannah awkwardly reacting to the pharmacist putting his arm around her

It appears that Hannah is a bit nervous and on edge, but thankfully she loosens up while eating pizza with the pharmacy guy. However, her awkwardness comes out in full force at the benefit, when he puts his arm around her shoulders. Poor Hannah looks shocked, horrified and like she going to cry all at the same time, which I found confusing. Shouldn’t she be happy someone is finally treating her well and respects her? Hannah ends up sleeping with him at the end of their evening out, but she is too forward and needy. It is awkward and uncomfortable to watch.

While she is sleeping in her bed after returning home, Hannah receives a call from Adam. She pretends to be nonchalant about it, but it’s obvious that she is excited…especially after he says that he misses her and wishes she were there with him. Oh no, here we go again…Hannah is going to get sucked back in. Nevertheless, the rest of their conversation is interesting. Hannah tells Adam how everyone is different in Michigan and how nice it would be to live there. “It’s like why doesn’t everyone struggling in New York move here and start the revolution,” she says. “It’s like we’re all slaves to this place that doesn’t even want us.” Prophetic words indeed; hopefully she still feels the same way upon returning to the city, and doesn’t lose the sense of self that she has gained from her time at home.

Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 4

This is the fourth and final live-blogging post, reviewing episode 5.Marnie is miserable without Charlie, and is determined to get him back. She goes to the coffee shop where his roommate, Ray, works and gets their address—a hint towards how self-absorbed and selfish Marnie had been. She had never even been to Charlie’s apartment, so clearly he was putting forth most of the effort in their relationship. She argues back and forth with Charlie about getting back together, and during this the two remember how the first met.

Marnie visiting Charlie’s apartment for the first time.

In a flashback to their time in college, Marnie is freaking out about being “stuck to a pole” after eating pot brownies with a jello shot on top. Jessa is talking to her, asking her how she is feeling—if the music is going “wow-wow-wow” and if “it feels like her heart is going to fall out through her vagina.” In response to Marnie’s worried agreement to her statements, before running off Jessa says, “then I’m getting me one of those.” Hannah fawns over her distractedly, but ditches her when she wants to dance with her boyfriend. Not much has changed in terms of the three girls’ characteristic quirks—Marnie is still uptight, Hannah is self-absorbed and always puts herself first, and Jessa is a wild child and free spirit. Finally, Marnie meets Charlie, who hugs her and tells her everything is going to be okay.

Snapping back to the present, Charlie makes fun of the bangs Marnie had in college and tells her that he was convinced she was “the girl from sophomore sluts,” a porn video, and had to go back and watch it to see if it really was her. Marnie is horrified and caught off guard, as she didn’t know Charlie even watched porn…clearly evidencing the disconnect in their relationship.

Eventually Charlie agrees to get back together, after Marnie grovels and says she will do whatever he wants. They begin having sex, during which Charlie tells Marnie all the ways she needs to change and things she shouldn’t do anymore. It is clear that she is yes-ing him to get what she wants, and is just going along with it. But when Charlie continues with even more things and tells her to say “I love you,” she abruptly sits up and says she wants to break up. Perhaps she will now be able to figure out what she wants in a relationship and can be happy. Guess we will see next week!

Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 1

This will be the first of four posts, live-blogging a review of episode 5.

Hannah reading her diary entry aloud.

This week’s show picks up right where episode 4 left off. The opening scene is one of the funniest parts of the whole episode, and is hilariously quote-worthy, thanks to Hannah’s tactlessness. Charlie makes Hannah read her diary entry aloud for Marnie to hear, which starts a whole new slew of arguments back and forth between the two lovers. Like usual, Hannah is incredibly self-absorbed during all this. In the midst of their fight, she makes it all about her and interjects, “Ok, I don’t want to split hairs here but it’s actually a journal not a notebook; it’s notes a notebook, like notes for a book…I’m just saying journal implies like a thirteen year old girl who rides horses and is obsessed with her mom, and that’s not what I’m doing.” Marnie responds with a terrifying glare and Charlie loses it, leaving the apartment. Now left alone with Marnie, Hannah callously pauses a few seconds and asks, “Hey Marnie, if you had read the essay and it wasn’t about you, do you think you would have liked it? Just as a piece of writing?” Marnie does not even dignify Hannah with a response and slams the door to her room.

Marnie’s death glare at Hannah’s self-absorbed comments.

The next morning, Marnie seems to have cooled down a bit and the two girls are having breakfast together. Marnie resolves to win Charlie back, which Hannah scoffs at and reminds her that she didn’t seem very happy when she was with him. Marnie quips back at Hannah that she just doesn’t understand because nobody has ever loved her that much. Realizing an awkward pause and that she may have been a little too harsh, Marnie quickly adds, “…as much as me, I love you. And your dad. And your boss.” Hannah thinks about it for a second, and responds, “I hate everyone that loves me.” Though this seems like an impervious response, it is telling of Hannah’s worldview and lack of self-esteem. She doesn’t even love herself, in fact she hates herself, and therefore hates anyone who feels differently—a possible explanation of why she repeatedly takes emotional abuse from Adam and never stands up for herself at work.

Lena Dunham in Rolling Stone Magazine

REVIEW of: “Girl on Top: How Lena Dunham Turned a Life of Anxiety, Bad Sex and Countless Psychiatric Meds into the Funniest Show on TV” by Brian Hiatt. (Read an excerpt of the article here.)

Dunham on the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone.

Lena Dunham (writer, director and star of “Girls”) is the cover girl of this month’s issue of “Rolling Stone Magazine.” The article (by Brian Hiatt) accompanying the cover was beautifully written, delving into Dunham’s childhood, personal life and deep connection with the show. Dunham’s authenticity and honesty struck me; she did not hold anything back in this interview, even discussing her personal struggles and psychiatric medications. While this may seem like an overshare, reading about her background helps you to better understand “Girls” as a viewer. It’s not just a witty television show, but one intimately based on her life.

As a child Dunham suffered from horrible OCD and anxiety, explaining some of Hannah’s phobias and preoccupations on the show (like her fear of what “gets up around the sides of condoms” in episode 2 and her feelings of discomfort towards sex throughout the series). In the article, Dunham explains that the character Shoshanna represents her as a child. “Shoshanna is the part of me that was terrified of sex and felt a little bit left out of the group,” she said in the interview with Hiatt.

Towards the end of the article, Dunham confronts the criticism she has received from “the show’s frequent depiction of sex as awkward and demeaning.” As I have pointed out in past reviews, this aspect of the show is raw, realistic and painful to watch, but necessary.

In the article, writer Brian Hiatt is spot on about this too. He comments that while this aspect may appear “awkward and demeaning” at first, “a closer look, however, suggests that Hannah clearly gets off on being degraded (though not to the point of being peed on)—and that her relationship with [Adam works] because he’s into doing the degrading.”

 Like everything else in “Girls,” this portion of the plot comes from Dunham’s personal experiences—“I had to watch out for it more in my younger days,” she said. “I also think I always have had an attraction to depicting degradation that I still haven’t worked out.”

Dunham is a work in progress and an inspiration–“following her dreams, one mistake at a time,” just like the characters on her award-winning television show. 

Season 1, Episode 3, “All the Adventurous Women Do”

Theoretically, episode three is full of drama—Hannah discovers she has HPV, Marnie has a hot encounter with an artist and Jessa finally gets a job—but when you’re watching it, it feels like not much is going on. But still, like past episodes, there are some subtle comedic gems throughout the plot that keep you watching.

The most interesting part of this episode was Hannah’s HPV debacle. Immediately after receiving the call from her gynecologist, Hannah informs Adam. He denies giving it to her and turns the situation around, blaming her for accusing him, possibly giving it to him and claiming that he had been tested already and is clean. He’s quite a master manipulator, as we will later find out.

Mortified, Hannah calls her ex-boyfriend, Elijah, to meet her for a drink so she can break the news to him. Hannah seems pretty calm and in control when she first sits down with him at the bar, but then all hell breaks loose. Elijah mentions that he has come out of the closet and has a boyfriend, which throws poor Hannah for a loop. She is supportive but it is clear that she is very upset.

Elijah keeps making it worse, telling her that he liked her because she appeared masculine, he was attracted to boys even while they were dating and he believes her father to be gay. Hannah starts crying, but recovers. She tells him about the HPV and, just like Adam, Elijah gets offended that she accusing him. He bitchily informs her that Adam must have been lying because there is no HPV test for men and they do not exhibit symptoms. Immediately, you can see the sinking feeling in Hannah’s eyes and your heart goes out to her. Perhaps she is just starting to listen to her inner voice, suggesting that Adam isn’t the greatest person. As an outside viewer, it’s obvious that he is a horrible person, manipulative and borderline emotionally abusive, but Hannah either doesn’t care or is so desperate for affection that she puts up with it. But maybe things will change after this.

Marnie and Booth Jonathan talking on the high line.

Marnie is working at a gallery opening when her boss crassly introduces her to Booth Jonathan. He is rude and aloof, which she finds attractive since her current boyfriend has no backbone. They share a moment outside on the high line, and Marnie girlishly tells him that she won’t kiss him. Jonathan acts like she is crazy, but then pushes her up against the railing and tells her, “I want you to know the first time I f*ck you, I might scare you a little. Because I’m a man and I know how to do things.” Then he just walks away without a word. This is probably my favorite scene of Girls so far, because it is just so absurd and hilarious.

Shoshanna shares a cute scene with Hannah, in which they bond over television shows and secrets. Shoshanna is important to the show, as she provides a balancing source of propriety, normalcy and innocence. Without her to anchor it, I think Girls would just seem chaotic and make viewers anxious.

Finally, Jessa lands a job babysitting for a busy family. She surprisingly seems to have a good rapport with the young girl she is looking after, uncovering a different side of her. In this light, we remember that Jessa is still a young girl in her twenties, despite the fact that she seems so worldly and experienced. She smokes weed with the father when he comes home late at night, and it seems the two are flirting. It will be interesting to see what happens there in the future.

All in all, an interesting and pretty funny episode of Girls.