Let's Hear It For The Girl
Girls Season 1 Ep 7 recap
We're back in New York - Bushwick, to be exact - in one of the strongest episodes of the season. Girls is, like any other show, finding its legs and what's important to its storytelling, and is progressing into something interesting, if not something new and never seen before. This is why so many shows' first seasons are uneven - they have to figure out what works, and who the characters will be in relation to one another. And they should be allowed the time to make the mistakes and choices that lead them here. The only reason Girls is different was because it was anointed from the beginning as the second coming of television, a new generation's guidebook. It may, yet, turn out to be that, but allowing it time to grow is underrated and incredibly important, and a reason why early acclaim can actually wind up being kind of a curse.
This episode worked, for me, because all the girls had a reason to be at the party and something to do while there (the convenience of “everyone” being at the party notwithstanding). The communal atmosphere of everyone on a relatively level playing ground - four single girls with an obligation to make tonight memorable - makes it feel more authentic than when we're watching Hannah worry about her career while Jessa, Marnie, and Shoshanna seem impassive. While the Bushwick party was clearly Jessa's scene, it wasn't her time to shine (in fact, I continue to find her a bit of a caricature). This week's episode was, first and foremost, a love letter to Shoshanna, and I fell exactly into her thrall.
Consider this girl for a second. Though Hannah thinks of herself as the “geek” of the group - something that, Marnie reminds her, exists solely in her own head - it's obvious that Shoshanna is the true misfit. She isn't casual about sex or life or school, she doesn't appear to be disillusioned about what her New York life is, at least not yet, and she's as earnest as a Sesame Street puppet. She doesn't fit with the others, and though they don't mock her innocence, exactly, they never fail to remind us that they're on a different plane.
So given that - given that nobody is a true kindred spirit of hers, Shoshanna could, and should, by conventional wisdom, be a hermit who stays inside, never taking risks or exposing herself to “scary” social circles. And yet. Yet she goes out to giant parties where she doesn't know anyone - alone, no less - and tries gamely to have a good time. She's ridiculously brave. Breaking the stereotypes of the shy, rules-based girl she is, she smokes something in line for the bathroom and that, in itself, is a non-debate for her. She doesn't need to be convinced or talked into it, she merely does it. Is this turning a character archetype inside out, or something inconsistent in the writing? If we were in season 3, I'd say the latter, but this early on, I'll take it as a dichotomy of character - that the ashamed virgin has less structured barriers in the rest of her life than we'd expect. Does Jessa ever push herself out of her respective comfort zone this way? Does Marnie?
What follows is an improbable but amusing footrace that eventually relieves Shosh of the burden of her skirt (and I loved that she was wearing Spanx underneath - it's such a lovely small character moment that even in a giant warehouse party, Shoshanna is more concerned with visible panty lines and smoothing out bumps under clothes than the vanity of wearing sexy underwear). It leads to a nice moment where she and Ray meet cute and defy more expectations (she's interesting in giving him a “nonsexual groin massage”, he's a good enough guy to leave the party to make sure she doesn't kill herself), but of course, it came about through Jessa being a jerk. Again.
I've mentioned before that I have trouble with the Jessa character, not just because I think she's unkind and not thoughtful, but because she seems to exist without any relationships to the other characters. That is, nobody's allowed to comment on her activities, nobody checks-and-balances her recklessness; in fact, other than Shoshanna's breathless bids for approval, nobody talks to Jessa at all, at least not since Marnie in the pilot. So it stands to reason, then, that Jessa's dickish tendencies go unchecked - the wine-bottle toss, in addition to being a bit of a plot device, just proved that she's not merely a free-spirit, she's completely comfortable with labelling herself as a selfish asshole.
But it makes me wonder where she's supposed to go. I understand who Hannah and Marnie are in relation to one another, and despite their failings (thanks, Elijah, for the mental picture of Marnie's nipples), they're earnestly trying to be good to one another. I understand why Shoshanna wants to hang around with all of them; seeking an understanding of precisely how to be a young woman in the city seems entirely reasonable, even if she's not getting any answers. But Shoshanna took more risks than Jessa did this episode - so did Marnie and Hannah, in their ways, each trying to understand someone they thought they had all figured out. Jessa's not concerned with that, and she's not particularly concerned with them. So why are they still hanging out together? Convenience? When is someone going to point out that they really don't like each other very much?
As for Hannah, Adam, and Tako - I'm not convinced Adam is much more than the douche we met in the past six episodes, but Hannah is, and that's what matters. This is where the show gets it right, and what I was looking for earlier in the season - the revelations. The discoveries, late at night, by train tracks, that someone isn't in any way what you thought they were. That you aren't in any way who you thought you were. That all the things you wanted, discoveries and adventures and bonds and moments of true elation - maybe some of them were actually impeded by you. These moments defined my 20s, and yours, and the fact that the men who feature in the stories don't always turn out to be prizes doesn't really matter. Because you're learning about yourself. When Hannah smiles in the back of the cab, she's not smiling at Adam, and how much she likes him - she's smiling at herself. She managed to make someone interested enough to want to be (or threaten to be) her boyfriend. She is interesting, pretty, sexy enough. Marnie is proven right - Hannah's self-image is entirely self-constructed. Watching it break down and change is what her 20s are about, what they're for. It's what I can get on board for. Some of the #mistakesGIRLSmake are about selling themselves short. I'm very interested in watching them change their minds about themselves, but it's much more interesting to watch the Shoshannas and Hannahs - the ones who admit to a relative lack of experience and self-awareness - as opposed to the Jessas, who think they've had everything figured out forever.
More of this, please.
Attached - Lena Dunham shooting Girls last week.