Jan 23, 2014

TV Recap: Girls - "Truth or Dare"

Left to right: Jemima Kirke and Lena Dunham
Welcome back to the TV Recap column for the Golden Globe-winning HBO series Girls. Join me as I capture the exploits of the Lena Dunham-penned series as it ventures through another season of scandal, accidents, and life in general. Will it be another great season for the Tiny Furniture director and her growing cast of friends? Tune back every Friday to find out more.

In a sense, this episode of Girls is one that could work on its own, but only because of the confines that were created for the series. Many episodes begin without any real set-up and move forward through a story that isn't entirely grounded in continuity. However, if watched with "Females Only," it becomes a lot stronger and things make sense. Even then, the payoff mostly comes from the show's ability to essentially forgive and forget the flaws of its characters. This isn't necessarily the right thing to do, but it does it because what else are you going to do in your 20's? What makes "Truth or Dare" essentially one of the series' strongest comes from dissecting the constructs to why Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and the other cast members seem to be together after so many years of letting each other down. It is some sort of inexplicable girl code.
The episode begins with Hannah (Lena Dunham) trying to drag Adam (Adam Driver) out of bed in order to go rent a car. It is revealed that Hannah is 24 and cannot rent the car because of that. Adam remains reluctant as he is forced to pick up Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and drive them all through Woodstock on a boring car drive to the rehab center so that Hannah can sign off on Jessa's release.
During the car trip, Adam gets frustrated with Hannah and Shoshanna's fascination with singing a Maroon 5 song that even they admit makes no sense. This leads to a conversation about how Adam doesn't understand the girl code. He doesn't understand why they need to bail Jessa out of rehab and why women keep putting themselves in problematic places for their friendships. When it is discussed that Adam has never introduced his friends to them, he trails off. He refuses to get involved with anything that could damage his reputation in society. 
While at a diner, they sit around a table and question what food they are going to get. Shoshanna doubts that they have any turkey bacon. After Hannah comes by the table in route from the gift shop, she quickly makes a turn to the bathroom, where she calls Marnie (Allison Williams), who is still in grief over Charlie with her mother (Rita Wilson) trying to keep her strong. Marnie is sort of upset that Hannah was being vague about what she was actually doing. Marnie later admits that she didn't want to go to pick up Jessa from rehab anyways. 
At rehab, Jessa tries to confront her friend Jasper (Richard E. Grant) about the events of the latest rehab meeting. She is fascinated with the details and feels like she has made a friend there. However, things quickly descend as it is revealed that Jasper had always had intentions to have sex with her. This is based off of a moment in which Jessa was being held in custody by a woman named Frank and just happened to give Jasper a glance. She quickly departs when things get too awkward.
Zosia Mamet
On the way back to the car, Shoshanna stops by the gift shop and buys a small desk that they throw into the backseat of the car. Hannah is uncomfortable as she sits by it. She complains that there is no inspiration in the woodsy area of their drive. One thing leads to another and soon they are at a motel for the night where Shoshanna ends up watching sitcoms on a smaller bed while Adam and Hannah sit around talking about things. She tries to start up a game of Truth or Dare, which Adam has never played before. The game doesn't take off and instead Adam turns off the lights and goes to bed. He does at least until deciding to have sex with Hannah, which sends Shoshanna to hang out in the hallway eating Chex mix.
Hannah later runs into her out there and decides to talk to her about why they are picking up Jessa. Apparently while in college, Jessa got really sick and Hannah went to visit her one day. As she left, she saw Jessa crying because she didn't want to be alone. Also, she tells Shoshanna to stay in school because it will be the best thing that happens to her. Life outside of school is miserable and aimless. With Shoshanna set to graduate soon, she doesn't quite buy it, but decides to humor Hannah until the conversation dwindles down.
In the car the next day, Adam cannot handle Hannah's bickering and decides to pull over. He asks her to go for a hike and get inspired from the scenery around them. She isn't buying it and instead leads him to walk around with Shoshanna tailing along. During their hike, they talk about how Adam did the right thing by taking care of Hannah during her mental breakdown. He acknowledges the comment and claims that she is his best friend. Meanwhile, Hannah is lying on the ground somewhere listening to This American Life.
As they finally get to the rehab center, things quickly become clearer. While Shoshanna is hanging out with the addicts outside smoking, Hannah has a conversation with Jessa. She is upset that Jessa didn't take the nearby airport back instead of forcing them to drive up. She is mad at how Jessa has always been a flake. Overall, she just wants Jessa to be around in her life and ends up forgiving her for all of the trouble that they had just gone through. The episode ends with everyone in the car being driven back, happy to have Jessa headed home.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Left to right: Mamet and Adam Driver
I'll admit that one of my handicaps when watching Girls is that I can never quite figure out who exactly Adam is. One week, he is despicable and being repulsive. Then he becomes the sweetest guy in "Together" and leaves me confused on all of the strange roads that his relationship with Hannah has gone down. While the titular "Truth or Dare" doesn't feel momentous, it does feel like the ultimate jumping off place for a lot of truths to come out. Not only involving Adam, but also of Hannah, Jessa, and the overall sense that women have to stick together.
The first act's speech by Adam involving the illogical nature of women may be one of the more profound moments in the series' history. With Adam somehow becoming a stand-up citizen and a voice of reason, it comes out as a fact. Why are they picking up an addict from rehab? Why do they keep bringing her back into their life? There is a lot of grey area that is brilliantly dissected in that singular moment that sets the pace for what is revealed in the rest of the episode. In fact, just like my confusion over the Adam/Hannah relationship, it too is inexplicable why they are still together.
Towards the end of the episode, the "Truth or Dare" aspect became more clear. The implicit became explicit at three specific moments. The first is the revelation of Jessa being desperate for attention. It doesn't make sense to Shoshanna, who still seems very naive and unable to fully understand complex emotions, but it does reflect the endearment that is supposed to be Jessa in their lives. She has been a mess since the early episodes in which she almost had an abortion, got divorced, and disappeared entirely in "Video Games." While it is true that this last one was due to Jemima Kirke's real life pregnancy, it still only made her character seem more flawed and easier to respect. However, with things continuing to spiral and Jessa's sense of getting worse with her addictions, how is her character going to progress, and is she going to be abusive towards her friends?
The second came when Shoshanna talked to Adam about Hannah. From the pet name "Kid" that Adam has called her this entire time, it has been strange to see them still together. We still do not understand much about Adam other than that he is secretive and into strange things despite having a code of ethics. He seems to be loyal to those that he deems worthy. Hannah is one of them. He considers her his best friend and cannot see her in pain. The only strange thing is the choice to call her "Best friend," which does feel like exactly how they act, just with more sex. It is an odd thing that won't make sense to anyone else, but there is some connections there. I just hope we finally dive deeper into these characters. For the most part, the series seems to have found plenty to dissect of Jessa, but with exception to few vague comments, we don't really know anyone else all that well.
The third moment came almost as a way to bookend the girl's code concept presented at the beginning. Hannah talks to Jessa about how Jessa has always been somewhat of a flake and dishonest. This isn't so much new facts, but it does almost seem like an explicit truth in which these two characters talk to each other in ways that haven't been present on the series before. It seems to be just pent up frustration that makes way for yet another inexplicable form of love. Maybe Hannah has terrible tastes in people or is easy to forgive. Nonetheless, she seems to have rotated to one of the show's least frantic characters for the time being. The only question is how long this will last.
As a whole, the two part premiere is top notch and exploits a lot of the truths that have been explored in the previous two seasons. Maybe these characters refuse to have some perfect follow through, but they are there for each other. Their lives make no sense and even the quest to respect Hannah's creative mind comes into play a lot, specifically as Adam seems annoyed with her lethargic approach to the trip. 

The next episode is exciting, as it tackles Hannah's 25th birthday and introduces Adam's sister. I will be diving into that in a post tomorrow. After that, I will be regulating regular releases of Girls recaps to every Friday from now until the end of the season.

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