Fairytale of New York
Girls Season 5 Episode 6 recap
Ohhhh, this was such a great episode. I knew as soon as Desi repeated “recoiled from my touch” that we were getting to the real truth of the thing, mainly that you can be way too much, like Marnie Michaels is, and still not be able to deal with the way too much that is Desi.
But that wasn’t the point. The point, of course, was Charlie.
God, everything about him was bad news in the best way possible. And that’s saying something, because my first and most visceral memory of Charlie is of him saying ‘do you have anything for me?’ in the pilot, right before Marnie coughs up her retainer for him, literally. No matter what startup-related douchery he got up to later on, he was always going to be a caretaker. In fact, his character description in the pilot script says 'oozing kindness'.
But people change. “There was some legal bullsh*t, I wound up with nothing.” Charlie doesn’t ooze kindness right now…that’s who Desi is. (God, the sight of them in that ‘room’ he constructed! Did you ever feel more claustrophobic?) Desi wants their whole world to be that studio apartment, that bed, and Charlie’s world is big. Huge, by comparison. He has friends named weird West Side Story things and they seem like the chorus of a musical, galloping behind him. He’s acquired a Brooklyn accent because…of course he has. He’s nothing like Marnie remembers. Nothing like we remember. Is anything true? Did his dad really die by suicide? Does it matter?
Because he opens everything back up for Marnie in a way we didn’t know she needed. You can live in the coolest part of Brooklyn and have the most introspective career that’s still considered a job and still need this desperately. Nobody ‘needs’ an obnoxious old-people party at a hotel on the Upper East Side…unless they’re Marnie. Unless they do.
I can’t remember if we’ve ever even seen Manhattan the way we see it this episode. For Marnie, it’s a tonic. Sure, she figures out early on that Charlie is dealing drugs, maybe – but she smiles. Her face is open and her hair is down. She makes a prostitution deal that seems stupid in its simplicity and that definitely, definitely borrows lines from Pretty Woman, which would of course be Marnie Michaels’ prostitution reference.
Charlie is enthusiastic and charismatic and rowboat-stealing, and completely and totally useless in the face of a seemingly pathetic mugging, it should be known. Still, Marnie is determined not to care. “I’m not trying to change anything”, she keeps saying, and she actually seems to believe it. She’s reveling in Charlie’s dirty bed, terrible apartment, ‘Humble Life’ tattoo. She’s liberated from everything – from her old life, her stuff—even her wedding rings. Marnie can’t help but change. She’s finally allowed to change.
And then of course the fairy tale is over, Charlie is a junkie. A lovely, warm junkie, but still. Marnie has to collect herself and go—but she’s changed. Marnie’s hair is down this whole episode, which it never is. In fact, even wet-hair-in-the-shower Marnie responds as normally as she can when the amazing-haired Julia Garner appraises her tits. The new Marnie walks home, shoeless. Hair still down. No more armor.
She tells Desi she has a lot of sh-t she has to work out. How does she wind up in situations like this? If she hadn’t dumped out Charlie’s gear by accident, how far away would they have gotten, ‘running away’? Probably Stamford, maybe Cincinnati, but still. Sure, she may get murdered since that’s how unaware of the world she is, but why has everyone always been protecting her so hard?
Most importantly to me is how much time the show spent showing us that Desi was a bad guy. Or thought he was a bad guy, or both. He moaned over and over again that he was going to hurt her, and yet he winds up sobbing on the stairs (but also, sobbing about her not wanting to get a scone, so I’m not sure she’s wrong here). She never thinks about Desi once, despite all the threats that she’d be left at the altar. None of it comes true. If he did hurt her maybe patterns would be the same. Now, though, it’s different because it has to be.
There’s that thing that happens with people from a long time ago. We’re so different than we were back then, we know so much more and we’ve had more experience. But at the same time…we were less guarded then. They knew more of us, maybe, because we didn’t know how to hide as much. So when we see them, no, it’s not going to work out, and yes, maybe we’re running from our current lives - but something about it is the kind of unfettered real experience that tends to make you realize you’ve been straying away from the person you promised you’d be.
I’m not sorry for Marnie’s adventure, and I’m going to alternate listening to that amazing final track, and the title song for this article, Fairy Tale of New York. I’m excited to see what comes next, even if it’s several steps backward.
But I am sorry she lost those high-tops. I really liked those high tops.