Feb 15, 2014

TV Recap: Girls - "Free Snacks"

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.

With the season over halfway done, it is interesting to note that a lot of plot points are starting to move forward. Where it seemed plausible that Hannah (Lena Dunham) was doomed to fall into another chaotic spiral, the show continues to not stick all of its eggs in one basket. Even if Hannah is on the verge of an identity crisis, it is for entirely different reasons. Also, with the supporting cast starting to come forth in the season, we're seeing some intriguing moments develop that will hopefully pay off in the very short time we have left in the season. With that said, what follows is an episode that feels more like groundwork than anything else, which isn't the worst thing that the show could do at this point.
The episode begins with Hannah deciding that she wants to quit her job at Ray's. Despite this, Ray (Alex Karpovsky) thinks that she'll come crawling back in a few weeks. According to Hannah, she most likely won't, as she's enjoying the prospects of a new job at GQ Magazine, which Ray disagrees with. Sometime later, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) makes eye contact with Ray at a basketball game only to feel nervous about their recent break-up.
As Hannah starts her job at GQ, Joe (Michael Zegen) decides to give her a hand. The office is ran with the intention that everyone knows how things work. Also, there is hostility in the office between the article writers and the editorial writers, the latter of whom are looked down upon. Joe does his best to introduce Hannah to the office environment, though things quickly get sidetracked when he introduces the snack room, where she stocks up on free food.
During a meeting with the rest of the staff, Hannah meets the head writer Janice (Jenna Lyons), who is brainstorming an idea for an article. Hannah quickly throws out several selections that get approved. Everything is going right, even though she now believes that Kevin (Amir Arison) hates her for being so vocal. Hannah in general is nervous about being too high strung with ideas that may cause her to get reprimanded in some fashion.
Meanwhile, Shoshanna visits Jessa (Jemima Kirke) at her job. They discuss how she feels about Ray in the aftermath of their break-up. With Ray's being quoted in Time Out New York, she is growing increasingly nervous about her own future. She feels unstable and believes that the break-up was a rather big mistake. She decides that the most formative measure is to find a boyfriend and start a long term relationship.
Marnie (Allison Williams) has Ray come over after an unpleasant phone call that features several misconstrued jokes. Marnie is sitting around watching television shows on her laptop and Ray isn't quite into them. He decides to have sex with her before taking a walk around town, lost in the blissful glee of the moment. They may have some opposition in their lives, but for that moment, they are connected and enjoy each other's company.
Hannah ends her first day of work by coming home to Adam (Adam Driver) and talking about how excited she is. Adam reveals that he went out for an acting audition, but failed when he got there and refused to look in the camera. Hannah encourages him to try harder and possibly make effort to get the part. Adam initially went to the audition in order to just see if he could do it.
At work the next day, Hannah is starting to bond with her coworkers. In the snack room, she meets up with the writers, who share some unfortunate news with her. Despite the fact that the job is full of writing, it isn't a fulfilling job creatively. Many of them have been there years and have no way out. Even their ideas have begun to dry up and their creative stories aren't being made as readily. It sends Hannah into a panic, which is only fixed when consulting Joe about the potential to write in the evenings after work.
Left to right: Zosia Mamet and
Evan Jonigkeit

Shoshanna decides to date Parker (Evan Jonigkeit), who is very unintelligent. She forces her opinions of a long term relationship right off the bat. Parker doesn't seem to care, as he claims that he is down to do whatever. Having no choice, Shoshanna decides to start dating him in hopes of the relationship developing to something. During a bout of sex, she tries to establish ground rules, but ends up disagreeing with him so much that the sex becomes something of pity.
Ray and Marnie end up going to lunch together and enjoying each other's company. When the discussion begins to turn towards Marnie's regret to not travelling abroad, Ray launches into a debate about how western medicine is ruining Africa. Marnie calls it racist, but Ray insists that it isn't. The conversation builds into a full-on argument until they are about to walk out on each other. Ray's saving move is to admit that neither of them have anyone else to eat lunch with.
Upon returning home at the end of the day, Hannah discovers that Adam has passed an audition. He is excited and wanting to share all of the hot gossip. However, Hannah's new plan is to write every night before bringing in the outside world. This doesn't go over well, as she immediately falls asleep, having not paid attention to most of what Adam has just said about his recent success.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Left to right: Alex Karpovsky and Allison Williams
If this episode has one through-line, it is the idea of being stuck with something you don't like. While Hannah's is more career-based, everyone else seems to have signed on for disastrous relationships. The most notable is Shoshanna, who has been all over the place for the entire season, and things come forward here. She is wanting to live the perfect life with her goals all straightened out. However, because of her lack of experience, she is unable to look at the big picture. She needs to shack up with someone immediately and settles for someone that she even admits is below him. The only question after this is for how long. Ray was a big deal to her and to see him out of her life is quite damaging. She missed out on his success in order to live the wild party life of a college student. The regret is catching up and as present with Parker, it is likely to only get worse. She is a clingy character and even if Parker turns out to be wrong for her, she won't be able to accept it entirely.

On the flip side, Marnie finally feels like her plot this season is going somewhere. While it does seem strange that Ray is slowly working his way through all of the Girls lead characters, it seems like this relationship was mostly established to add balance to the episode. Considering the drastic conclusion in which Ray drops the lonely souls speech, it seems like their relationship is so polar opposite that it will never work. Marnie will just continue to cause arguments and Ray will remain self-righteous. It could also be that his stellar business is on the verge of having a staff of idiots. Say what you will about the former coworkers, they at least didn't enrage Ray as much as the newer people.
At the core is the scariest element of them all: Hannah. While I initially felt like the season was moving at a slow enough pace to suggest it would revolve around her book deal, it is nice to see that she isn't failing entirely. She got a decent job, if just in the sense that GQ Magazine is published in a lot of different markets and would help get her recognized. Then again, it most likely will not, as her job is more of a collaborative thing with unfulfilled results. She may be a staff writer, but she will never get to wax her creative brain for essays and get paid for the work that she wants. There is a chance that this is just a slavish detour until her book's licensing gets freed up, but it does seem like something will happen to cause that book to hit the market.
It is also great to see Michael Zegen on this show. For those unaware, he played Benji in this great movie called Frances Ha last year. It is nice to see him still working and doing quite an effective role as Hannah's GQ mentor. He sympathizes with her and he may also long for the creative freedom that is still fresh in her mind. This is Hannah on the verge of losing focus of her initial goal. It is the death of her dream and she has no choice but to keep with it or risk being unable to pay rent and living a shoddy life with Adam and his reluctance to take anything seriously.
With that said, I don't feel like Hannah's plan will pan out all that well. She wants to write after work, though it is likely to only send her into another spiral. Consider that last season she attempted to write an entire book within a short time frame for deadline that caused her to physically damage herself. It isn't likely to get that extreme here, though I do get the sense that with Hannah's writing career in jeopardy and her inability to focus after work, either her writing will suffer or her relationship with Adam will grow sour. Speaking as Adam has been very embracing this entire season, it does seem likely that it is a set up for some deep conflicts about trust.
The show itself has established its scary second half rather effectively here. It poses questions about the sustainability of following dreams and the reality. While everyone else settles for mediocre relationships, it seems like Hannah is settling for a great job with a mediocre relationship to her writing and boyfriend. The show has never shied away from dealing with harsh subjects, though with one as integral to the show's very existence, it does seem like the show could potentially turn into the destruction of this generation's American Dream. That is to argue that the show doesn't plan to go entirely bleak and have everyone suffer at once. Still, with an effective view on the highs and lows of following your dreams, the episode at very least paints the downside to falling too much in love with that concept and finally realizing its limitations.

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