Generally speaking, when it comes to media – specifically music, film, and television – I can be an unreasonable jerk. If I adore an artistic work, it is my hope that you share my affections. And if you don’t, I’ll probably think a bit less of you. Not really, of course. But kind of.
I say all this to make a point: my love for Girls is unique. When someone tells me they don’t like (or even hate) this show, I understand. Really I do. And I usually won’t bother defending it either. Because even if you can get past the fact that this show is about a group of hopelessly self-involved twenty-somethings living in NYC, I admit that some of these characters can be very unsympathetic and downright unlikeable at times. For my TV time, however, this is what makes Girls so interesting. We grow attached to these characters in spite of their glaring dysfunctions. And on this week’s episode, besides the usual parade of comically irritating behavior, we are introduced to a brand new character who just might be the most fucked of them all.
IT’S ALL RELATIVE
Actress Gabby Hoffman joins the fun this week as Adam’s sister Caroline, a hot mess who proves herself at least twice as sociopathic as her brother over the course of one episode. Unemployed, extremely dramatic, and newly homeless after her lover allegedly dropped her off on the side of the road somewhere, she places a frantic phone call to Adam and is soon in their apartment spouting her tale of woe to Hannah. (“I got fired because apparently nobody trusts a young, beautiful teacher. They only want old, stinky ones!”) Adam is openly hostile towards his sister’s unexpected arrival and implied layover in their apartment. Well acquainted with (and likely forever shaped/damaged by) Caroline’s destructive behavior, he refuses to invite her to stay, and instead tells her very specifically to “fucking get lost.” Hannah – an only child who knows nothing about the intensity of sibling relationships – is feeling sympathetic and compassionate. Adam takes her aside, and pleads with her to trust him and stand with his decision. So Hannah lets her down, but does, however, invite her to her 25th birthday party, much to Adam’s door-slamming chagrin.
As an actress, Hoffman is a pro, and her portrayal of Caroline is delightfully twisted. The back and forth between her and Adam is equal parts hysterical and uncomfortable. And once Caroline is let loose at the party, she’s on fire. From kissing Hannah’s father on the mouth to her epically failed attempt to seduce Ray on the dance floor, it’s clear that she is going to bring an element of drama and disaster to Adam and Hannah’s lives. And as funny as that may be to watch, it’s also a bummer, as Adam and Hannah are the emotional center of the show. Damn it.
MARNIE IS A SUPERVILLIAN
Moving away from the emotional center of the show, we have Marnie Michaels, who after oh-so-briefly dipping her toes into sympathetic waters, is now back into psycho mode. Every moment she’s on screen in this episode provides another example of her horrid behavior. As the proud planner and organizer of Hannah’s big party, Marnie’s intentions are shamelessly self-serving, and she more or less tells this to Hannah, explaining how it’s been the perfect distraction from her personal heartbreak and how it will also provide her with many pictures to Instagram, as she’s confident Charlie checks her profile. This extreme lack of self-awareness could play as comic relief for someone else, but Allison Williams’ Marnie comes off as callous and hollow, a foil to Hannah’s happiness, the villain of the series. When Hannah arrives to the party dressed up with her hair and makeup done, Hannah’s father tells her how wonderful she looks, only to be cut off by Marnie who says, “I keep telling her she could look like this everyday if she wanted.” BITCH! And then, after the birthday girl EXPLICITLY tells her she does not want to get on stage and sing a song from Rent with her, Marnie goes ahead and pulls her on stage only to force her into it. Was it an ill-conceived plan for her try and relive a happy memory with her “best” friend? Only was it only an excuse to get behind the mic and showcase her vocal skills? I’m personally leaning towards the latter, but either way, she sucks. Things will likely boil to head between the two of them this season.
And let’s take a moment to reflect upon the leaked video of Marnie’s cover of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am.” Marnie’s greatest success as a character is how believably clueless she is as an aspiring pop star. The video is a perfect ode to the countless videos out there of folks who genuinely believe in their own talent, and also incidentally suck. What makes this element of Marnie’s character particularly excruciating is the fact that she actually can sing, but there is a hollow quality in her voice (like her personality) that makes every note fall flat. Once again, we have an angle that could be very funny, but instead comes off as another unlikable element of our villain.
RAY BREAKS EVEN
This was kind of a big episode for Ray. First we see him have a heart to heart with Grumpy’s owner Hermie (Colin Quinn), expressing his trepidation at actually being the boss at the new location. After some sage advice (“Don’t hit anyone. Don’t shtup anyone.”), Ray is feeling confident. We then see him at Hannah’s party, quietly watching a band, whereupon he is accosted by a very aggressive Caroline looking to dance. He successfully thwarts her come on, explaining he’s only just got out of a relationship. She bites his arm. He keeps his cool. That’s a win. Ray then meets a kindred spirit at the bar who turns out to be Shoshanna’s date. He keeps his cool. Another win. He sees Shosh out the window to the street, smoking a cigarette and texting. He goes out to speak with her, and starts to engage in small talk, updating her on his life in an attempt to impress her, before suddenly seeing her for what she is and realizing he’s no longer interested. He tells her so, and before he leaves, he’s all “cool cigarette.” Big win. Then, after a few beers, Ray gets drunk and completely overreacts when Hannah’s editor David asks the DJ to preemptively cut off a song he was really feeling. After some yelling, Ray takes a wild swing at David, and gets himself thrown onto a table, cutting his hand and his head open. Dummy. Forget what I said. Ray loses. This is not the proper behavior for the general manager of a hipster cafe!
SHOSH SAYS SOMETHING DUMB AND INSENSITIVE
No surprise here unfortunately. But it is kind of a doozy, even by her standards. The four girls see each other at the party, Shosh tells Hannah she looks “amaze,” and then looks at her friends and proclaims (as if it were an innocuous observation and not a provocation), “It’s really amazing that all of you have accomplished so little in the four years since college.” Duh.
CAROLINE ACTUALLY FRIGHTENS ME
So after the party, Adam gives Hannah a present: A necklace with a baby tooth as the charm. It’s either his or Caroline’s, as his mother kept their teeth together in the same box. Either way, she’ll be wearing something with his genetic code in it. She loves it, and the two of them head back to the apartment, where the plan is to get naked ASAP. At this point, I’m thinking to myself, “Well, it’s fucking obvious that Caroline is going to surprise us with her presence so lets get on with it.” But even I was shocked when Hannah opens the door to the bathroom to reveal an insane looking Caroline standing there without pants, revealing a very hairy bush, clutching a glass which she promptly breaks with her bare hand, making a bloody, horrifying mess. Bravo! You got me. After the traumatic experience, even the ever-horny Adam is not in the mood to have sex anymore. A first.
In conclusion this week’s episode seems to have laid a good amount of groundwork for future drama and discord. Will Caroline drive Adam and Hannah apart? Will Ray begin a reckless pattern of bar fighting? Will Marnie continue her reign of terror? Will Shosh start making even a bit of goddamned sense? Will things get continue to get more intense and less funny? Come back next week for more witty commentary and expert analysis.