Mar 7, 2014

TV Recap: Girls - "Flo"

Left to right: Becky Ann Baker 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.


After two weeks of episodes that felt like transition to the second half of the season, we are finally back up and running. We're also finally getting an "isolated" episode in that we don't see the rest of the regular gang. Instead, we get to continue to understand the Horvath family with a trip to see Hannah's (Lena Dunham) dying grandmother Flo (June Squibb). Not since season one's "The Return" has there been an episode that has opened a lot of context clues into Hannah's past while telling a compelling story that makes it seem tragic that the seasons are on average only 10 episodes long. Also, with "Dead Inside" in the relative past, this feels like the follow-up episode to the death coping concepts established int he episode. If that isn't reflective of how the intricacy, I don't know what else is.
As the episode begins, Hannah is getting ready to go up to see her mother (Becky Ann Baker) and the extended Horvath family at a hospital. She wants to pay her respects to her dying grandma Flo, who went in with a broken femur and ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia. Adam (Adam Driver) wants to go in order to leave a good impression on her mother and Flo, but has to attend rehearsals for his stage show. This leaves Hannah to travel alone.
June Squibb
When she meets up with her mother, she gets a quick introduction to her extended family as well. Flo is in a hospital bed, doing well. When mother has a heart-to-heart with Hannah about Flo's impending death, she comes to the realization that she has had a lousy life. In order to make Flo feel right, she feels like she needs Hannah to tell Flo that Adam is going to marry her. With Flo on the way out,this wouldn't be too much of a problem, as the ruse would only make it sound like Hannah is the only one in the family who has their life together.
When driving over to the Horvath house, Hannah meets her cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele), who is studying to be a doctor. After Hannah makes a wisecrack about Grey's Anatomy, Rebecca demeans her for not taking her studying seriously. She wants to be a doctor, plain and simple. She ends up deciding to take Hannah to a bar not because she likes to drink, but because she feels like Hannah is the type of person who would go to one. Rebecca in general hates writers as they seem too snobbish and full of themselves. This only riles Hannah up more and causes them to fight on the car ride back to the house.
This results in a car crash that leaves Rebecca in a neck brace. Adam comes rushing over at the word that Hannah has been in a "car crash," only to be annoyed that she was vague about the comments. When talking to Flo, Adam establishes that he is marrying Hannah. This gets Flo all excited and helps her to share some advice: you may have some bad days where you want to kill them, but keep going. Upon Adam's exit, mother decides to give Hannah a talk about how she feels like Adam is insecure and will be a burden in the long run. Hannah becomes offended and starts a little riff between them.
Before leaving, everyone visits Flo one last time. She is doing a lot better and even eating a healthier array of foods. Everyone is happy and have set aside their problems with divvying up Flo's heirlooms to each relative to enjoy the moment and commiserate about being closer and celebrating more holidays together. Upon arriving back in New York, Hannah gets a call from Rebecca that Flo has died and that she needs to get back there quickly.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Left to right: Baker and Deirdre Lovejoy
In a way, this whole season like it has been a call and response to themes established early on. "Beach House" was a response to "Truth or Dare" and "Flo" is a response to "Dead Inside." At least, the building blocks for a potential arc are established here. In the episode, Hannah explores death on a more personal note. With someone directly related to her, she is a little nervous about losing her grandmother. The void of emotion that was the call is now filled with brimming nervousness in the response. As seen in her face as Rebecca gives her the call, there is concern and worry that everything is about to rapidly change. Not necessarily in terms of career this time, but the constructs of family.
The most notable is the idea that she could end up marrying Adam for numerous reasons. The obvious is to appease the many family members who now believe this to be a fact. In fact, the enthusiasm is high and with exception to her mother, there doesn't seem to be much problem with it. It could go well, or it could go terribly. This feels like a rushed, last minute concept that was meant to humor a dying woman. Instead, it could likely lead to an uncomfortable, too soon marriage that results in conflicts that cause the show to shift more towards familial. Either that, or the marriage is a facade and nobody cares.
What is interesting is that Flo is quite an encompassing character. We have only known her for this singular episode, but she is an endearing figure. She may criticize looks and weight, but it seems to be out of love. It is a prototypical grandmother character, but for those who saw Nebraska, the passion that June Squibb brings to this role is definitely understated. She isn't necessarily the funniest character, but she influences everyone in unexpected ways. 
This isn't specifically referencing the marriage that could be happening. It influences how the Horvath sisters get along. Some have stuck around while others have left town. They argue over heirlooms and who should get rings. They even question who really cares about Flo, as they all seem to be somewhat possessive and want whatever they can get their greedy mitts onto. Flo's thankful survival brings them closer and almost creates a realization of life's preciousness. The only question now is if the show is going to continue to explore the death and if that is going to continue to show us more problematic sides to the Horvaths.
Then there is Rebecca. One of the episode's highlights is that it does feature a lot of relative rivalry. People are talking smack and criticizing flaws. It is delightfully realistic and only adds to a sense of connectivity. We get a sense of how Hannah is seen by her extended family and we also see that there are responsible people in the Horvath universe. Rebecca is a little bit of a strange one, as she is neither interested in sexual nor bizarre behaviors that have defined Hannah over the past three seasons. Rebecca almost plays like the antithesis. Yet somehow, through their own little wreck, they seem to respect each other a little more. It also plays into the concepts of communication, which may be the show's overall achievement in continuity: a simple theme with various, majoring impacts.
We are almost at the finish line, and it is quite an exciting time. Despite two less interesting episodes back-to-back, this looks to be putting us back on track. It isn't nearly as exciting as Hannah's mental breakdown, but it doesn't always need to be. Hannah is a "real" person now with responsibilities. She isn't a major mess as she used to be. The question now is if every other character can even come close to this realization. I do worry that the show is just shifting roles to various characters and rehashing concepts. So far, it isn't that noticeable or tragic. However, let's hope that it stays that way.

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