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Girls Recap: Cathy Cartoons

“Here’s what I have to say about being married,” Flo, Hannah’s grandmother, tells her towards the end of Sunday’s episode of Girls, after Hannah has intruded onto Flo’s deathbed to introduce Adam to her, on the advice of Hannah's mother. “Someday, you will look at him, hating him with every fiber of your being, wishing that he would die the most violent death possible. It will pass.”

It’s a classic Girls moment: honest in a way that might not be necessary but, when it hits upon a good point, cuts to the bone and strips it clean. Hannah and her friends spend a lot of time living in the moment and thinking about hugely abstracted visions of the future, along the lines of Shoshanna’s 15-year plan or Marnie’s dream of Charlie’s “brown babies,” but they don’t spend a lot of time considering how they’ll get from where they are to where they think they’ll be. And they have absolutely no sense whatsoever of what it might be like when that dreamed-of future has arrived and become routine.

It is amazing for Adam to borrow Desi’s motorcycle and show up at Hannah’s dying grandmother’s side. But in 20 years, it might not be so amazing. It might be what Hannah expects, and has the right to expect from him. And it’s fun and uncomfortable to watch Hannah consider whether or not she wants to make the jump with Adam from the heady uncertainty of their still relatively new relationship to the sort of solidity her mother and grandmother are implying.

Maybe it’s a conventional place for Girls to arrive at, after two-and-a-half seasons of their outré behavior. But just watching the characters do the dishes together at the end of “Beach House” reminded us that they are, fundamentally, nice girls. Watching Hannah grapple with whether she wants to be married closes the gap Lena Dunham’s worked so hard to place between Hannah and us over the past several years. As Hannah told a prospective publisher earlier this season, she remains fundamentally midwestern. And for all New York has changed her, it hasn’t altered her mother, or completely liberated Hannah from the concerns and pressures she grew up with.

Loreen (Becky Ann Baker) is probably wrong that Flo, Hannah’s grandmother, actually needs to see her grandchildren be romantically successful. And when she asks Hannah, “Will you tell Grandma that you’re marrying Adam?” she’s probably trying to assuage her own anxieties rather than to soothe her dying mother. “I really thought you were more progressive than that!” Hannah tells her, surprised. And it’s a moment of kind of lovely honesty when Loreen admits to her, “No, I’m not.” Ideals extend so far when your perceived sense of your child’s happiness is at risk.

And as much as Hannah thinks her mother is being ludicrous, Loreen’s suggestion clearly lights up a part of her brain that she’s thought was permanently in the off position. When she calls Adam to tell him about her mother’s crazy plan, and he tells her “we’re not getting married,” Hannah reacts in a way that’s uncharacteristic. “You mean, not ever?” she wants to know. And when Adam wants to know, “Do you want to get married?” she doesn’t really have an answer.

That, as she tells Adam, “It’s making me extremely stressed and a little angry for reasons I don’t understand,” seems like the appropriate response. The situation is bananas, but the issues are real. And that Hannah could be irritated at her mother for railroading her into pretending she’s married, but angry at Adam for not seeming to have considered their future is, under the circumstances, entirely reasonable.

And it’s even better that, after Hannah and Rebecca get into a car wreck, Adam shows up and does precisely what Loreen wishes Hannah would do. “Hannah and I are getting married!” Adam tells Flo, who is totally uninterested in meeting him. It’s delightful to watch him flounder through the fictions of their supposed wedding date, explaining to Flo, in a parody of bro-ish enthusiasm that’s more delightful for his failure to fully inhabit it: “We’re pretty happy about it. We’re excited to finally lock it down.” Adam’s doing what he thought Hannah wanted, which is in fact not something Hannah was sure she wanted at all, in response to something Loreen thought it would be good to do for Flo, even though Flo isn’t really interested. It’s a disaster that’s produced an awkward kind of generosity.

I love that it ends in utter discomfort, too. Loreen is, of course, right, when she sizes Adam up, telling Hannah, “He’s odd. He’s angry. He’s uncomfortable in his own skin. He bounces around from thing to thing.” And when she warns her daughter, “I don’t want you to spend your whole life socializing him like he’s a stray dog, making the world a friendlier place for him. It’s not easy being married to an odd man,” Loreen isn’t just undermining Hannah in Adam’s eyes, she’s reminding her that New York is not actually so different from Michigan.

She’s absolutely correct that Adam is difficult. And Hannah is always absolutely right that Adam, in showing up and lying on behalf of the Horvath women, “just did something very nice for you, and you’re being very unkind.” This is the beauty of Girls, that even when everyone is emotionally perceptive and acting out of concern for each other, everything can still be a complete catastrophe. All the best intentions and deep concern for each other in the world can’t prevent people who love each other very much from talking past each other and accidentally acting at cross-purposes.

Dealbreaker Index
Hannah’s Texting-While-Driving Prevention Strategy: Hannah, I enjoy watching you exhibit some prudence. I especially love that, despite your daring, you’re shocked that your cousin Rebecca, she of the horrible smock-dress thing and insistence on studying while her grandmother is dying, is in a poly relationship. But you do realize that you created a bigger distraction than Rebecca’s quick text, no?

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO