Jun 14, 2012

TV Recap: Girls - "Leave Me Alone"

Left to Right: Michael Imperioli and Lena Dunham
I am going to attempt to keep up a weekly entry recapping the brand new HBO comedy series Girls, written, starring, and directed by Lena Dunham of Tiny Furniture fame. While the episodes usually premiere on Sundays, my entries will be posted towards the end of the weeks, usually on Thursdays or Fridays. This is more of a time convenience as I hope to take this new venture seriously and take time to review each episode. If this goes over well, I will continue to do more of these. I was going to do Bob's Burgers, but the idea came a few episodes too late. However, I am still considering doing Louie, whose previous season remains the best 30 minutes of TV each week.


As we approach the end of season 1 of Girls, it is time for certain stories to finally come to an end. While the show hasn't developed any strong conflict that makes next week's episode a grand moment, we will hopefully get some answers, including what I feel is the central arc of this season: the relationship between Marnie (Allison Williams) and Hannah (Lena Dunham), who started off inseparable but by the end of "Leave Me Alone," leaves an uncertain loom over whether they will be sticking around come season 2. From a narrative standpoint, this is also an excellent play out of "Pilot," which saw Hannah's parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari) cut her off financially. Now that her best friend is turning on her, where will she go?
Which brings us to "Leave Me Alone," an episode where we return to Hannah the writer and bad employee. The episode opens on a book launch for an author named Tally Schifrin (Jenny Slate), who was a fellow student in Hannah's writing class. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is really into the harsh writing about dead boyfriends and compares it Sex and the City. During this party, we are introduced to Tally, who is enthusiastic and excited for her book launch, though Hannah shows signs of disinterest. She is more interested in her former teacher Powell Goldman (Michael Imperioli) who agrees that Tally wasn't as great a writer as her. The conversation ends with an invitation to a reading that he is hosting.
Waving: Jenny Slate
She is planning on reading a story called "Phil the Hoarder" at said event. However, the criticism starts when Marnie admits that the piece is a little whiney and not a way for her to get Powell's attention. Hannah admits that she wants to take chances to be like Tally, and that this reading is her chance to branch out. Adam's (Adam Driver) brief screen time sees him reduced to the exercise hog that we knew him in the earlier episodes. He is using Hannah's key to live in the apartment, which baffles Marnie.
We meet up with Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna, who are discussing their day and what their plans are. Shoshanna admits to making an online dating profile to find someone. She claims that she met someone Jewish named Bryce, which she considers to be a good name. Jessa is distraught and decides to just spend the day reorganizing their apartment without Shoshanna. 
Hannah now works at Ray's (Alex Karpovsky) coffee shop. When she shows up wearing a white dress, which Ray insists is an open invitation for homeless people to rub blood on her. He suggests that she doesn't wear anything like a Taylor Swift shirt, because that would be a dick move, which he admits to know all of the dick moves. He would prefer a nice top and slim leg jeans, and to stop by American Apparel if she has to.
Meanwhile Jessa is reorganizing furniture when Katherine (Kathryn Hahn) shows up to discuss her coming back to babysit for her kids. Jessa is reluctant, but causes Katherine to discuss how Jessa opened her eyes to her marriage to Jeff (James LeGross), which she admits having problems with for some time. Jessa admits to a fleeting interest in him for moments, which she insists is because she likes everyone when she first meets them. It ends with Katherine revealing that she hasn't cared for Jeff in 15 years. Also, Katherine insists that Jessa needs to look insider herself and stop getting into relationships to hide from whoever she wants to be.
Back at work, Hannah and Ray have a conversation about the reading. When she reveals that she is reading "Phil the Hoarder," Ray goes off on her and calls it trivial. He feels that she should be writing about something more substantial and global. This is mostly sparked when Hannah modestly calls it a funny piece that tackles big issues like intimacy, which Ray thinks is stupid.
Hannah attends the reading and reads a piece that she wrote on the subway that is very bleak and mundane. Nobody actually claims to like it, though Powell constructively says that it fell a apart at the end and that she should have read "Phil the Hoarder" as intended. She admits that she thought that the piece was trivial and she feels stupid now. When Powell tries to give her advice, she runs away.
The episode ends back at Hannah and Marnie's apartment. Hannah discusses being flustered and failing to do what she set out to do. Marnie, who is collecting clothes to throw away, eventually shrugs her off because she is tired of hearing her problems. Hannah insists the opposite, which causes bigger arguments and who is the more reliable friends. It gets to a point where Hannah insists that she has been angry because of Charlie (Christopher Abbott) dumping her. She is also someone who only wants to be around people who know what they want. After an extensive argument about personal events, Marnie tells Hannah to move out, because she is tired of covering her rent every month.

Allison Williams
My one problem with this show has been that it has taken it's time to develop certain plots. For the first half of the season, it was the inevitable break-up of Charlie and Marnie, which had been apparent since "Vagina Panic" launched a discussion about why they were even together. When it finally started in "Hannah's Diary" and ended in "Hard Being Easy," it felt like a relief and that the plot could progress. While it has been apparent that the break-up has hurt Marnie, it seemed to never be a focus to any episode that she hated Hannah. Maybe it was because of her diary that this whole thing started. 
However, I am under the impression that this show is planting subtle clues throughout the season on future plots. In "the Return," Hannah tells Marnie that she will pay rent. In "Leave Me Alone," it is revealed that she can't even do that. They have also done wonders of slowly revealing the human side of Adam, whose exercise motives are now put into a little perspective. It is also nice to get subtle callbacks, like Tally telling Hannah "At least your boyfriend isn't gay," which references Elijah (Andrew Ranells), who admitted in "Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a the Crackcident" that Hannah and Marnie are very similar. That last statement feels like it rings true to the final scene in which they argue about each other's problems in ways vaguely similar.
I must admit that this brings me to believe that the big reveal will be that Jessa is either gay or bisexual. Going back to "Vagina Panic," she says that dates are for lesbians. The joke seemed to be a throw off, but there have been small lines about being gay throughout this season. Maybe Katherine's little speech will convince her to try it out. Either way, it feels like she has had the most fulfilling arc of the main characters this season; going from lazy traveler to responsible babysitter. Maybe the future will present an unfortunate regression, but it would be interesting to see where her career goes next.
Left to right: Zosia Mamet and Jemima Kirke
What I really enjoyed about this episode was that we get a sense of Hannah as a writer. Not her literary style (though it is teased with some half-assed writing), but just her confidence. When Ray and Marnie undermined her work without as little as an excerpt, she crumbled to come up with something more accepting. People like Powell are also a nice touch, because there is a sense that she is a good writer, but is afraid to present her work. It is curious to see if Tally is really as bad a writer as she states, or if Marnie and Shoshanna are right and that she is great at writing about problems relating to their generations, a concept that hearkens back to "Pilot" when Hannah stated her significance as a writer. 
I am wondering if knowing this, her book "Midnight Snacks" is doomed to fail. I think that there is a possibility that the finale's reveal will be that Marnie was slowly turning against Hannah because of her diary. This would cause Hannah to doubt her work more than ever, and it is possible that her essays, claiming to be personal, will be highly altered and eventually ruin the book. Also, is it possible that Tally will come back again as intimidating, or an eventual enemy? 
I also enjoy that they manage to use Marnie sparingly, but effectively. We know that she is grieving over her break-up, but it isn't hammered home too much. It felt a little much in "Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too," but has been building to this moment, which is satisfying. Will Charlie come back in the finale? Will all hell break loose when Charlie and Marnie land in the same room? 
It also seems that Shoshanna and Ray will not end up together. She is going after someone named Bryce. Will we actually get to see Bryce, or is this just another one of those annoying teasers. I really want Shoshanna's story to develop into something more. She feels like her role is being a tug to the others. She is at times funny, but I don't feel like her part contributes enough to make it worthwhile. Can we just give her a boyfriend already? 
I also like that Ray has been integrated more into the plot, and rather effectively. I don't see Ray falling into the trap of Hannah's previous boss in "All Adventurous Women Do" in which she is sexually harassed. I don't know that they'll end up friends, but I see Ray being what I pictured Marnie to be: the source of wisdom. He may admit to being a dick, but he does give some funny advice. Also, will he come into fire for initiating the break-up in "Hannah's Diary" by reading the diary in the first place? I also hope that we can stick with one job for a whole season, as it is looking likely that it would be ridiculous for Hannah to quit them one after the other so quickly.
Overall, it was a decent episode topped with a nice moment reminiscent "Hannah's Diary," which left me wanting to know the conclusion. I am just hoping that it is successful.

Favorite moment: Obviously the five minute argument at the end, which begins soft and innocent and builds to the dark conclusion. It leaves many questions in the air while answering others. It took it's time getting there, but the energy is all present and rewarding. I enjoy that it feels real by getting personal and tragically comic. It also establishes small empathy for Hannah, whose narrative hasn't been all that complicated so far. Most of all, if Marnie can snap on her best friend like that, how is Charlie going to survive the shit storm, if he ever comes back into the picture? It is real moments like this that makes me enjoy this show a lot.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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