Girls Talk: Staging a ‘Sit-In’ and Crafting One of the Series’ Best Episodes Ever

By  · Published on February 16th, 2015


After a gobsmacking fourth episode, Girls delivered on the promise of the wrenching, weird “Cubbies” with a self-contained episode that saw Hannah (Lena Dunham) working through some big issues while the rest of the HBO series’ cast filtered in and out, delivering information and advice with varied returns. Now that Hannah is back from Iowa, she’s forced to confront some hard truths, like that Adam (Adam Driver) has a new lady (Gillian Jacobs) and that her supposed best friends Marnie (Allison Williams) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) remain terrifyingly unable to really deliver when their pal needs them. Stripped of most of her identity – writer, girlfriend, ugly couch owner – Hannah enters a brave new world. We just hope she stays there.

As ever, Rob Hunter and I grapple with another episode of Girls, from what we loved about it (almost anything) to why we’re still struggling with the show as a whole. Oh, and that Jessa problem, that gets some love (read: hate), too.

Kate: Did it finally happen? Did Hannah finally grow up? In one of the best episodes of Girls yet, Hannah finally appeared to go through a genuine and hard-won evolution. Sure, most of the episode was weirdly gut-wrenching – even for me, who has never been a fan of Hannah, a Fannah, if you will – because Dunham suffused her character with enough pain and bafflement that you simply had to take notice, but by the end, things seemed weirdly hopeful-ish. Hannah may not have changed much by going to Iowa, but she changed a lot by coming back.

Also, she should probably ditch Jessa for once and for all, because holy fuck.

Rob: It may surprise you, but this is, hands down, my favorite episode of the series. It reminded me briefly of the Patrick Wilson ep (one of the show’s worst) in how it feels like a dream of sorts unfolding in one location. The difference being that instead of a weird fantasy we get Hannah at the center of it as the people in her life cycle through imparting thoughts both wise and less so. More than that though, and the main reason I loved it so goddamn much, is that it leaves the usual quirk and ridiculousness at the door in favor of raw honesty.

This is also the first time I’ve truly felt for Hannah. Yes she’s the one that left, yes they left things open, but the pain is real, and Dunham does some beautiful work here as an actress. It’s too soon for me to say she’s grown – this may instead set her back some – but it definitely changes her direction and forces her to make some changes.

And yeah, welcome to the “Jessa is a shitty shitty friend” bandwagon that I’ve been riding for years now.

Kate: Girls has never really been able to successfully juggle multiple storylines in a satisfying and natural way. It’s always big chunks of Hannah, a generous dash of someone else, and then whoever else needs a five-second check-in. As you noted, the key to both this one and the Patty Wilson (we’re tight) episode is that they mostly stay in one location and keep that focus tight. This felt like a play or a particularly weird re-telling of A Christmas Carol, with everyone filtering in and out to deliver “advice” in varying degrees.

I really believe that Hannah thought she left things far less open than we – or Adam – thought, and Dunham conveyed that just beautifully with her performance here. Wrenching stuff, and the first time I’ve been able to put myself in Hannah’s shoes in a long, long time.

Weirdly, Hannah has been a pretty great friend to Jessa over the years – think of that awful family visit or the time she went to pull her out of rehab (a bad decision, really, but one that Hannah thought was for the best) – so it’s even more painful and bizarre that Jessa treats her so terribly. Even Hannah and Marnie have been more equal-oppurtunity bad to each other, and they still seem to love each other. Jessa, on the other hand, doesn’t just seem disinterested in bucking normal behavior as it applies to friendship (like, I dunno, not setting up your friend’s maybe-ex with a pal?), but she seems totally unable to.

Rob: Jessa didn’t even know she was in Iowa, as she asked Hannah about Idaho! But while I wholeheartedly agree that Jessa is a terrible friend, she’s not that far off in her observation – did Hannah really expect everyone in NYC to freeze in place while she explored the Midwest? Hannah even acknowledges that she and Adam left things open-ended and that, combined with her plans to be away for two full years, makes it pretty clear that they were on a break.

But what about Mimi Rose’s YouTube video that Hannah obsesses over in her room and during her shower? I’d love to see Gillian Jacobs become a fixture this season – and maybe even Hannah’s friend? – but I expect the most we’ll get from her is the wisdom of that clip. Will Hannah take away the important bit too and find the strength to focus on her own interests and talents instead of the attention of a “boy”?

Kate: I hoped that Jessa had matured a bit when it comes to interpersonal relationships after she showed such compassion for what’s-her-name one-time employer, along with her so endearing admission to Adam that she needs him to be her friend! Jessa needs friends and the only way to really get them is to be one – and she can’t do that. So much for that possible maturation.

I’d love to think that Mimi Rose – read: Gillian Jacobs – was sticking around to teach Hannah some stuff, but I have an issue with Mimi Rose’s BIG! IMPORTANT! LIFE POINTS! if only because she was obviously knowingly banging a dude connected to another lass, and then MOVING INTO THEIR APARTMENT. She talks a big talk, but I’m not sure she can entirely walk the walk.

And, man, I hope Hannah stays away from dudes for awhile, but that might be a tall order, because I think Hannah should stay away from everything right now, from relationships to academia to work life. She can’t seem to do anything right.

Rob: I think your newfound compassion and empathy towards Hannah is once again blinding you a bit towards other people’s POVs. You’re assuming Mimi Rose “knew” Adam was still with Hannah, but since Adam himself didn’t even believe that it seems pretty straightforward that Mimi thought they were done. You do make an interesting point about her commitment to her own prescription, though – after her big statement about not letting a guy be a distraction she’s settled into a living arrangement with a guy who almost guarantees distraction. His connection to Hannah alone makes Adam a good bet for being a problematic boyfriend.

I do wonder if the show would even allow Hannah to remain romantically disengaged for the rest of the season. Story-wise it makes sense – the break-up would logically leave her single, and Hannah would clearly, err, theoretically benefit from being able to focus on herself – but I’m curious if Dunham and friends will follow that instead of a mandate stating that young adult TV characters must be dating and diddling.

Kate: I don’t think that Mimi Rose knew Adam was still with Hannah (or could even be perceived by anyone as being “with” anyone, considering the huge disconnect between her and Adam’s impression of the situation) – the word I used was “connected” – and I think it was an obvious choice to make her KNOW who Hannah was when she randomly showed up in “their” apartment. Mimi Rose knows about Hannah (even if it’s just Adam’s version), so I’m automatically suspicious of her big-talking take on relationships. She and Hannah are both people who seem to relish talking about big – and good!! – ideas, though they find themselves unable to really live it. Mimi Rose has an awesome personal message, but I can’t quite buy her shtick. More appropriately, she doesn’t seem to buy her own shtick. I wish she would. I wish Hannah would, too.

I loved the Hannah we saw in this episode – the FREE Hannah – so although I agree that the show will likely not allow her to be unattached, I wish she would be. I’m desperate for Hannah evolution, and that seems to be be only way to get there.

Rob: So we’re both team Hannah and you’re throwing some shade Adam and Mimi’s way – but what about the others? This was obviously a Hannah-centric episode, but the brief glimpses we got of the others reveals a mix of people stuck between frustration and the status quo.

Ray is still – still! – upset about the traffic situation, and I fear he’s been lumped into the Shosh category of characters kept around more for humorous asides than actual development and depth. Jessa we’ve already covered, but how about Marnie? She seems pretty content with her “Mumford and/or Son” Desi, and I assume this means we’ve (sadly) seen the last of Clementine.

Kate: I loved that Marnie was kept away for so long. I thought that was such an interesting dramatic choice. Were she and Desi in a straight up shack somewhere? Making music? And other stuff! Ew. I have not given up hope that Clementine will be back, only because I want something really messy to happen to Marnie. She’s always hedged about against big disasters without any lasting effect – remember Music Videogate? – and it’s time something shook her up for real.

Is that terribly mean?

Rob: It is terribly mean, but you know how girls be.

And I would also love Clementine’s return as it most likely would involve Desi choosing her over Marnie which would in turn lead to his exit from the show which in turn would make my ears very happy. I do think though that Marnie has seen her share of failure and disappointment, though. She’s a drama queen at times, but she’s also a relentless optimist long past the point that evidence would support. So does she actually need further disaster, or do we just want her to have another one for the entertainment value because we’re terrible people…?

Kate: There’s not a lot of entertainment in watching characters be happy, so… Also, Desi sucks! I just don’t want to have endure more vague Marnie drama if it means we just need to see her making her terrible music with Desi and being kinda conflicted about it. Zzzz.

>Here’s something I’ve been wondering about. A few days ago, I saw a tweet that basically said, these girls would not be friends anymore. I haven’t been able to get that out of my head. Why are they still friends? Is this believable? I don’t think they would be. What’s keeping them together beyond, well, the show itself?

Rob: That’s actually a great question, and I agree that as it stands now they most likely wouldn’t be close friends at this point. The show is trying to have it both ways, though… it’s not avoiding the fact that the quartet seems to see each other less and less, but it also keeps returning to the same core relationships. It makes sense in the world of the show, but it’s doubtful these girls would be anything more than acquaintances. There’s really no other option though is there.

Kate: Hey, not if they still want to have a television show!

Rob: True. Sad, but true. But to be fair, the show’s about girls. If they wanted it to be about friends they would have called it Close Acquaintances or something catchy like that.

Kate: College Friends. Roommates. Shared Chromosomal Makeup.

Rob: Females Who Pee Places Other Than Bathrooms. (Although that’s probably more of a Cinemax series than an HBO one.)