Sunday, January 27, 2013

TV Recap: Girls 2x01: "It's About Time" & 2x02: "I Get Ideas"

ML- I first wrote about Girls for a school publication before the first episode even aired. In my article I spoke up on behalf of the modern television woman, but inaccurately anticipated Girls to be muted in it's depiction of sex and nudity.

Boy (or should I say "Girl"), was I wrong. The second episode -- my favorite, titled "Vagina Panic" --  dealt with a blasé abortion, sexual harassment and one of the most hilariously vulgar sex scenes ever recorded. Lena Dunham didn't set out to undermine the sexual renaissance trumpeted by Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler, she set out to carve out her own sphere.

I understand why this show is so divisive. Many people just don't understand the appeal of watching a show with unlikable characters. Not in a Seinfeld kind of way, where everyone is a cynical bastard but the laugh track and their uppity tone reels you in. The characters speak their minds with so much self-assurance you sometimes fail to remember how little self-awareness they each possess. They talk like real people I know, people like myself, who writes blog posts about TV shows a week late under the assumption anyone actually cares about my lowly opinion. But I do it anyway, as Hannah and Marnie and Shosh and Jessa all do what they do when they do it because they're young and self-absorbed and have obviously got it all figured out.

This is a show tailored to our generation, though don't assume Lena Dunham takes any real credit for the pedestal we've thrust her on. The amount of times I've ranted in the comments section of Deadline Hollywood articles over Hannah's "voice of my generation" line is embarrassing. For the last time -- Lena is not Hannah. But countless people still miss the irony of it all, judging the characters and the creative team for all the wrong reasons. Is the show funny? To me, yes, often painfully so. That's what matters.

This season premiere was not a painfully funny one, but solid nonetheless. It was exposition heavy, relying on a centralized party to get most of the cast into one place so we could see what's changed since Jessa's wedding. Speaking of Jessa, her scene felt so out of place with everything else revolving around the party/Hannah's different boyfriends. I wasn't a huge fan of the "Crackcident" episode either, so maybe I just don't dig party-themed bottle episodes.

There are different ways to interpret the title- "It's About Time." One of my favorite quotes (my senior yearbook quote in high school, actually) comes from Six Feet Under's Brenda, who mused on life: "I think it's all about timing. I think timing is everything." Another cliched maxim- time heals all wounds. For Adam, that's still not exactly true, especially as he realized over all this time that he and Hannah should give their relationship another shot, given what a doting presence she's been after his accident. Hannah obviously wants to get back with him, too, but the timing just isn't right; she's been seeing Sandy (Donald Glover, aka Troy from Community, aka Childish Gambino, aka Dual Redundancy's Man of the Millennium), and really taking the time to evaluate their relationship as beneficial to her state of being. Adam didn't always respect her, and she believes she needs a boyfriend who does in order to fully respect herself. While she's absolutely correct, it's clear she's just covering her feelings for Adam in a radical attempt at change. Of all people on this show, Hannah is going to be the toughest to change.

Marnie seems to have been struggling with time as well. Since her fallout with Hannah she's been fired from her job and still hasn't found a boyfriend to replace Charlie. At the party she quietly asks Hannah if they're okay. Marnie is floating in a sea of uncertainty, and despite being the most gorgeous of all Girls' girls, is clearly the most self-conscious. That's definitely attributed to her mother, who reminded me of the aforementioned Brenda's mom Margaret on Six Feet Under. We see Marnie's elitist personality springs from persistent nitpicking and even sexual competition from her mother. Eventually she and Hannah reconnect, but Hannah's responsibilities as Elijah's roommate force her to deal with a boy situation.

Marnie and Elijah have been shown as bitter rivals for Hannah's affection in the past, and with Elijah now ruling the roost (and doing a better job of keeping it chic than Marnie ever did, if Shosh's compliments hold any weight) Marnie is firmly behind him in all aspects. He's got a man. He's got Hannah. She accepts his come-on cautiously at first (until she feels his chest) but ultimately gives in. I don't think she wants Elijah, I think she wants to be Elijah, or to maybe beat Elijah, and either way sex is a release of such energy. He can't perform, and Marnie is left to wallow in her own misery once again, calling upon Charlie to platonically sleep in his bed for comfort.

I feel sorry for Marnie, but also I don't at all. She brings all the grief upon herself because of the choices she makes. She's the one who overreacted at Hannah. She broke up with Charlie twice. Yet once he gets a new girlfriend she laments over how unfortunate her life is. She's the classic dissatisfied beauty, a persistent trope that Allison Williams pulls off brilliantly. Is she likable? Not especially, but why, then do I have friends that behave in exactly the same ways? That's what I mean about judging these characters -- they're realer than you may want to believe.

Just look at Shoshanna and Ray. She keeps babbling on about how over him she is, yet she flaunts herself in front of him all night at the party, sings karaoke with a bizarre message, and eventually falls back into his arms. People do this every day. I found Ray's predicament to be particularly realistic as well: Shosh's constant texting with superfluous emoji characters turned him off to her, but in person he can see past her "virtual self", if you will, to her adorable real self. There are kernels of insane likability buried in all these characters, even Adam, as long as you're not too judgmental to take a look.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Zosia Mamet
Original Airdate: 1/13/2013


"I Get Ideas" was a dramatic upswing from the premiere. The script, written solely by Girls EP Jenni Konner, gave every member of the cast moments of awkward, side-splitting glory, and a last-act twist marked this as one of the most plot-heavy episodes thus far -- a change possibly foreshadowed in the episode's most stellar scene, Hannah and Sandy's break-up.

Hannah had little-to-no problem with Sandy as a republican, as nearly everything out of her mouth was a praise of his sexuality. Elijah tried instigating a fight in the bathroom, but Hannah was quick to defend her boy-toy (who seemingly swallowed his toothpaste, disgustingly) and likened his political beliefs to George's Hotmail account. She's obviously no political activist, as Jessa blew her mind with a rant against both republicans and democrats and a plea for Hannah to "read the newspaper. Just read one newspaper." In the midst of the argument itself, Hannah's knowledge of the republican cause was limited to an aversion to Elijah's ability to have a Say Yes to the Dress-style wedding and an affinity for owning guns. "It's more complicated than that", Sandy explained. "Is it?" Hannah countered. Yes, Hannah, it is, but she, like most of her progressive, liberal cohorts (myself included) has an uninformed understanding of the nitty-gritty details of political goings-on. She can quote a Missy Elliot lyric without even noticing, however.

It wasn't that their political beliefs were too different, as Hannah claimed, but rather their beliefs in Hannah's artistry. According to Hannah, everybody else loved her essay on a girl's sexual change, but Sandy thought it seemed more like the stream of consciousness that goes through your head while killing time in line somewhere. And just like that, Sandy was no more. Dunham pulled off the subtly unhinged nature of a criticized writer as if she'd experienced such opposition before (spoiler alert: she has), and apparently much of her and Donald Glover's argument was improvised, leaving room for off-the-cuff comments like "Maybe you see me as one big blobby white mass of stupid ideas."

Hannah is fragile. Elijah pointed it out himself, calling her "thin skinned, like a baby." She is constantly looking around for validation and for clues at how to live in the right. Her first scene showed her mimicking dance moves (terribly) to a work-out video online; the last began with her following along to a YouTube tutorial on haircutting. Watching Marnie tip-toe around making the point that Hannah's "disposition" wasn't right for the hostessing job was painful, but compassionate.

While it can be hard to separate Hannah from Lena, as usually should be the case, it seemed here Konner tried to make a statement on Dunham and her response to criticism. The character Hannah thinks she's tough and capable of hearing the criticism and growing from it, but those that know her best believe she's vulnerable and needs more nurturing. This episode could be viewed as Konner's commentary on all the criticism of Dunham, her writing, her lack of African-American characters, et al. It's a friend and colleague speaking out on behalf of the berated, addressing her faults but urging everyone to calm the hell down.

The scene with Adam at the end showed how strong Hannah really could be. She made it clear she didn't want him coming around anymore, but Adam knew Hannah's cried wolf so many times in the past, but always crawled back into bed. The beleaguered shouts of "Get out of here!" with the exasperated pushes resonated with Adam, whose face dropped. Driver acts the hell out of this complex part every week, coming off as creepy in the video but adorable while chugging milk. I have to question his stupidity while addressing the cops, shouting out his name while having so many legal asterisks that could backfire on him. He's unpredictable, though, so there's that.

Here again, I feel this episode represents a direct reaction to criticism. Sandy chimed in that Hannah's essays didn't go anywhere (despite being really, really well-written!), and then the episode ends with a bang of an arrest. This isn't just twenty-somethings running around having abortions and smoking crack  all willy-nilly anymore -- Adam's past is catching up with him. He's got a consequence, a plot event to tie his and Hannah's stories around more substantial than the amorphous cloud of "relationship drama." Again props to Konner for taking all the hits and churning out such a quality episode of comedy.

This review has gone on long enough, but I can't help but acknowledge some of that comedy from the Marnie, Elijah, Shoshanna/Ray and Jessa/Thomas John storylines. Here are some of my favorite quotes, the true testament of an amazing Girls episode.

-"At least Adam is speaking to you. George won't return any of my texts or Facebook messages." It's insane how we think of such electronic forms of communication as "speaking" nowadays

-"She's not good at... living." Marnie's interview was awkward but felt true-to-life, based on my limited experience around creative executives, if such a thing isn't an oxymoron. The tea-bag dipping was also top-notch.

-"You'd be really great at bathing a pig."Shoshannah is a shining star and Ray is the perfect foil. Their pillow talk was so endearing and entertaining, I could have watched them all day. Zosia Mamet is a treasure, making lines like "It's not like pop stars, you don't need a milllllion of them" pop.

-"I'm personally not attracted to you... because I know you." Ray is so brutally honest it's refreshing and, again, endearing.

-"I'm so impressed by what you do with what you've got." Thomas John grew on me more here, in his attempt to compliment Hannah's style without actually appreciating it.

-"Thomas John looks at my paintings the moment I show them to him." Kirke delivers lines about Jessa's happiness so well. Does she mean the nice things she says, or is she fooling herself? I'm fascinated trying to figure it out. Also -- much love to Garbage, Fucker and Hanukah.

-"Lay this thing down, flip it and reverse it." The best, ever.

Episode Grade: A
Episode MVP: Jenni Konner (Writer)
Original Airdate: 1/20/2013

NOTE: Girls airs next Saturday as opposed to Sunday, probably to avoid the Superbowl. Plan accordingly!

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