Mar 28, 2014

TV Recap: Girls - "Two Plane Rides"

Left to right: Adam Driver 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.

This week, we reach the end of easily the best season of Girls to date. What the show has managed to do in its third season was take all of the experimentation of the first two and turn it into something of a mature invention that felt like one continuous narrative. While that axed the occasional enjoyment of stand alone episodes, there wasn't much else to detract the show. The cast expanded and Adam (Adam Driver) became easily the emotional center of the show. In the finale, things get even stranger when it leaves probably some of the biggest cliffhangers yet, including the impending doom of our central couple and the characters around them continue to be somewhat unfocused.
The episode opens with Hannah (Lena Dunham) retrieving her mail only to run into Caroline (Gaby Hoffman), who is now living with Laird (Jon Glaser). She is also now pregnant with a baby whom she believes to be female on the basis that she can feel a uterus developing inside of her. When finally opening the letter back in her apartment, Hannah is ecstatic to discover that she has been accepted into Iowa Graduate School. Nobody knows that she was registering, but she cannot wait to tell everyone. She first tells Marnie (Allison Williams), who is excited for her. However, she is also still in need of telling Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) about her affair with Ray (Alex Karpovsky). She is worried about how things will likely go. 
While taking care of Beadie (Louise Lasser), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) gets a strange request from the elderly lady. Seeing as she is depressed and tired of living, she demands that Jessa help her to score some lethal dose of drugs that will kill her. Jessa doesn't seem to be phased by this, as she is also a little burned out on life. She promises to help out Beadie with very little reward in return.
Left to right: Zosia Mamet
and Alex Karpovsky

When Shoshanna goes to pick up her materials for graduation, she discovers that one of her teachers didn't allow her to pass. She is a few units shy and now is faced with the miserable task of having to take the class over. In anger, she destroys her living room and promises to take a year off from school to venture and live her life. During this breakdown, Marnie shows up to have the talk about her affair. It initially starts with talking about how she failed classes to watch reruns of Blossom with Charlie. When she gets to the next point, Shoshanna gets upset and unleashes some fury onto Marnie.
After telling her parents (Becky Ann Baker, Peter Scolari), Hannah gets ready to go to the theater and tell Adam. He is getting ready for the premiere of his broadway show and is trying to stay in character. Hannah bursts into his dressing room, excited to tell him the news with the thought that he would be happy and that it would help them become a strange art couple. Meanwhile, Marnie runs into Desi's (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) room and ends up making out with him. Afterwards, everyone gathers in the lobby to take their seats. As a whole, the party is made up of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, Ray, and Elijah (Andrew Rannels), who are all there to cheer Adam on.
However, they are rather disappointed to see that Adam is not in the first half of the show. During intermission, Shoshanna decides to talk to Ray. She isn't mad about the affair with Marnie, but more the longing to rekindle their love. Ray claims that Shoshanna pushed him away. The positive note is that she motivated him to be a better person and become responsible. Likewise, he feels that he is in a place right now where getting back together would be a little detrimental. 
In the second act, Adam shows up. Everyone is excited to see him and gives him a standing ovation. After the show, Marnie runs into Clementine (Natalie Morales) in the bathroom, also in a green dress. Clementine arrived unannounced after being out of town. She is upset over Marnie's lustful behavior, but decides to give up Desi because it isn't worth it. Meanwhile, everyone is starting to file out and wondering how Hannah is going to do outside of the city. She insists that she will commute, but doesn't sound too sure of herself.
Running into Adam in the back alley, Hannah tries to congratulate him. Instead, it turns into an argument about how Adam was distracted and couldn't focus knowing that news. This lead to frustration regarding how he was tired of Hannah's difficult nature. He was also annoyed that just because he stayed at Ray's for a few weeks, she is leaving their apartment for Iowa. He sounds very frustrated and cannot seem to focus during the celebrations that followed.
Clementine dumps Desi in front of the place where the theater performers are celebrating. Marnie watches in the shadows, sort of happy. Beadie decides to cancel the suicide attempt at the last minute and has Jessa call emergency. Shoshanna is frustrated with her stance in life. The only one who is happy is Hannah, who ends the episode clutching the acceptance letter, glad to know that something in her life finally went right.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Left to right: Dunham and Allison Williams
And with that, another season of Girls is over. Please stay tuned next week for the two part retrospective to be released on special dates of Thursday and Friday. I will be recapping the season as a whole, what I predict for season four, and also the ranking of each episode and how I feel about them as critical entries into the cannon.

If there is one flaw to Girls this entire season, it is that it essentially had nothing for Jessa to do. They released her from rehab and she has been loitering with unlikable folks the entire time. She hasn't really contributed much in the way of story. At best, she has had friends that barge into Hannah's life and are charming in an offbeat sort of way. Ending her story for the season with a potential assistant suicide attempt only reflects how unfocused her character is. While she has always been the loose cannon of the show, at least past seasons have had her spouting wit or doing something clever once in awhile. It doesn't feel like there was much here this season.
We could arguably write her off of the show without much problem. They did it last season, but with more legitimate reasons. Jemima Kirke was pregnant and there was no way that she was going to be able to complete the season. To a large degree, season two worked very well in making Jessa's fragmented life seem somewhat more understandable. There was a dissection of sorts in "Video Games" that I didn't appreciate at the time, but reflected the Jessa we have now. Even in the opening, there was a sense that she could improve herself. A few jobs later and some heavy addictions and we get her not even at square one.
Shoshanna is the biggest tragedy of the season. I have rooted for her to pass college once and for all. With all of the exterior stress that has been building on her, it makes sense how she barely missed the mark. However, it seems unfair to have the entire season just be one big triumph for Hannah. Admittedly, nobody saw that move coming, even if the clues were there all along. Consider "Truth or Dare" when Hannah talked about applying for graduate school. She had planted the seeds early on. I feel that is the show's strengths. It didn't necessarily do the most interesting things, but it was more consistent.
I like that we also got to have a jam packed episode with almost all of the Girls regulars. Caroline returns briefly in what I hope will lead to more appearances in next season. I do wonder if her pregnancy will just become awkward, but she has always been an endearingly strange character. Add in Laird and I could only wish that this hippie of a couple builds to something. They are rather secondary, so even five minutes in a season would be nice. It was also nice to see Hannah's parents, even if they were exposition for things we already know.
Speaking of, it does seem like this is meant to be an implication for things to come. Consider how Hannah's mom in "Flo" wanted her to dump Adam. Similarly in the closing conversation between Adam and Hannah, there is this sense that the distance/"success" isn't going to do them well. Even when Adam succeeds, he is self destructive and uncomfortable. Maybe this logic will sink in and Hannah's motives will change. It wouldn't be the first time that a boyfriend was written off the show. Remember Christopher Abbott left after season two because he didn't agree with the direction of the show. 
I am not saying that Adam Driver has any reason to hate the direction of the show. In fact, I almost feel this whole thing is meta. Consider where Driver is now. In terms of being a film star, he is the most successful of the entire cast. Much like they continue to do for Andrew Rannels, it seems like they will "write him off" briefly in order to accommodate to his busy schedule which already has an impressive catalog of films like Inside Llewyn Davis and Lincoln and he is rumored to be in the new Star Wars film in a significant part. This direction feels very meta and intentional, though it is nice to see him go out, if he does, in a noble way after a season of proving his worth.
Of course, this logic becomes tricky if you consider that Desi may become a more permanent character. True, Marnie's boyfriends have a habit of coming and going as they please. Besides Charlie, there was Booth Jonathan, who appeared in two seasons, but momentarily. Desi could continue the streak, though it would seem weird for him to dump Clementine just to dump Marnie as well. I do think that Desi could become an interesting character, though with Marnie's plot only starting to get interesting again, I would hate for things to backfire and she ends up sulking in her room again for half of a season.
And of course, there's the sense of theme that closes out the season: communication. It is what started off the season and seemed prevalent. However, with communication not being entirely open about graduate school, it does raise the question of what constitutes sharing. It doesn't always result in happy results. Ray and Shoshanna open up only to stay apart. Marnie opens up to Shoshanna only to be beaten up. Even Hannah opens up to Adam only to screw him up. If anything, this season chose to ask if maybe communication isn't always the problem solver. 
I will choose to save my fan theories for next week's wrap-up. However, I am glad to see the season end on such a high note. I feel like while season two's arc in the closing episodes is vastly more powerful, it came from a season that felt like it slammed everything at the wall. Here, that wall is now organized into continuous plot. There are questions that will hopefully be answered, but likely will be brushed over in true Girls form. Either way, I am curious to see how Iowa treats the show, if it does, and if Adam is going to be taking a leap of absence anytime soon. 

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