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Girls Recap: In Which All the Girls Are Sad Messes

Had someone asked me to guess what it would look like if Girls ever addressed mental illness, I would never have picked OCD as the appropriate affliction. And I wish Lena hadn’t. It would seem odd to — unlike the bromance, or the brownstone lover — sweep this all-consuming condition under the rug next week like it never happened. But, then again, I don’t feel particularly wedded to watching Hannah twitch forever (unless it makes fodder of mild assaults on unsuspecting Carlyle Cafe restaurant patrons, which was funny).

It’s an episode that, like Adam’s old glass of milk, soured in my mouth. (I couldn’t spit this one out, unfortunately.) Yet it also gave us Carol Kane! Who doesn’t love Carol Kane? (I’m not in the target demographic to properly appreciate Judy Collins, but surely many of the show's viewers are.)

Sk8er Boi; or, I’ve got 99 Problems and They’re All Boys
“This is what she does. She fucks shit up, leaves, and blames it on her marriage, or her relationship with her dad. This is what she does, this is classic Jessa,” Marnie explains to Shoshanna. The rest of the episode is spent dismantling the “classic” ingredients of every character, until we end up with: Marnie the cocktail waitress who sings; Shoshanna the unwitting cheater; Hannah the OCD victim; Charlie the bougie nightmare; Adam as the “really nice boy”; the psychiatrist as kitschy novelist. Jessa’s reputation as a “fucking hustler” remains intact, but only because the whole sentimental “I’m the child!” bit from last week — not to mention the gilded cage of her marriage — did similar work in the rounding-out-characters department.

“Charlie has a company?” Marnie squeaks, rhetorically, in her pigtails and hooded long-sleeve T-shirt, then runs away. If only she’d known he’d grow up to be a (bread) winner!

The least flash-in-the-pan-y seeming character evolution in this episode is granted to Charlie, which not only gives an otherwise flailing plotline some traction but gives Marnie another legitimate thing to whine about. Is it just me or has Marnie morphed into a wholly sympathetic character this season? I don’t fault her for liking Charlie now that he’s a moneyman, even if it’s technically a despicable move. But who hasn’t felt awkward about not recognizing the potential energy of men until they’re your ex-boyfriend?

It’s made worse, of course, that Charlie seems content with his promise never to give Marnie sway over matters below the belt. In fact, he’s weary of her and rightly suspicious of her motives:

Marnie: I’m just here for support.
Charlie: From me or for me?

But actually the real kicker is the fact that Charlie would never have created “Forbid” — which sounds hilariously like a bad perfume — had Marnie never broken up with him. Ouch. Not to mention the fact that the episode starts with a vignette of Hannah spiraling into a stress ball after getting a mostly unwanted call from Adam.

I do love that Charlie’s newfound fiscal solvency allows us a window into pre–"Harlem Shake" start-up office culture, even if it has the potential to permanently close the door on the Charlie-Marnie saga. (LOL to the datedness of Teach Me How to Dougie.) “I’ll have my assistant send over the new Jack Johnson album,” someone tells Charlie, signaling to us that our musician has officially given up the dream for this carpeted sweatshop. (Since I’m making mention of perfect cameos: Charlie’s svelte, blonde co-worker who interrupts his tête-à-tête with Marnie happens to be the Brooklyn-based writer Alice Gregory. I also support the verbal hat tip to Ann Patchett as the go-to author for moms from Michigan.)

“Is she in a tropical climate or somewhere up high. Omigod! Is she warm enough?” +5

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“It wasn’t love the way I imagined it,” Adam says of his relationship with Hannah. “I just felt weird if I didn’t know what she was up to or whatever.” I can’t help but be reminded of Hannah’s utterly beautiful, not to mention heavily screen-capped monologue about what she — and every woman — wants from their not-boyfriends. The great thing about Adam is that he does feel a lot, in the same way that Hannah feels a lot, but he’s much more honest with himself about what his feelings reflect about him. The contrast is especially potent in this episode, if only because we’re privy to more of Hannah’s poor-me talking points (which are directed now at her parents, rather than Adam), which paint her as lacking self-awareness in the most juvenile possible way.

Carol Kane, playing the chain-smoking mom at a PTA meeting on Long Island, recognizes a boy who’s trying to figure his life out and likes what she sees. Her spawn would be attractive and compelling in all the right ways! Not only does she work for a private eye, she has a landline. Perfect woman.

“Goddammit if you’re not cuter than a dimple on a bug’s ass.” +3

“Your mother said you have great teeth.” +5

In Which Things Fall Apart for All the 20-Year-Old Women
Ray muses that Shosh is “navigating through the folds of pure conformity” at her NYU party, unawares that his premonition is being taken fairly literally by our adulterer. I realize their May-December romance has to disintegrate, but must it happen in such a contrived fashion? Speaking of contrived, does Marnie have to be a singer? I hate everything about this episode, and I get that certain stereotypes are being rewritten or made fun of, but Marnie can’t be the next Norah Jones. (Also: Oasis, Norah Jones, Duncan Sheik — what are these twentysomething-year-olds doing listening to the music of fortysomethingthirtysomething-year-olds?)

What isn’t stereotypical for TV, obviously, is Hannah’s OCD. (Apparently Lena talks about her own brushes with the disorder in her Rolling Stone article, but that’s a paywall I have yet to breach.) “I’m not supposed to be here,” Hannah exclaims after being escorted to a psychiatrist’s waiting room by her parents. She’s right. Hannah’s got a potential entree into the adult life she’s always dreamed of, and the stress has caused a regression in her mental health.

Marnie’s not supposed to be where she is, either: “It doesn’t matter how right you do things, because you know who ends up living their dreams? Sad messes like Charlie.”

Ray, ever the pocket philosopher, points out that Marnie’s only “mad because [she] wants what he has.” And it’s true. The girls are not at a loss for knowing what they want, even if they have no idea of how to go about achieving it. Shoshanna wants Ray to have a real job so they can go on dates; Hannah wants to be an established writer; and Marnie wants to pull her weight in a power couple.

Good luck with those dreams, ladies!

“You’re, like, really good-looking for a doorman.” +1

“You can’t dress like a magician’s assistant for very much longer.” +5

Photo: Jessica Miglio/HBO