TV Review: GIRLS, ‘Incidentals’

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After last week’s high-stress, North Fork adventure, we return this week to NYC for a traditional Girls romp that allows the whole cast to shine in a variety of ways. At its best, Girls deftly delivers moments that are delicate, raw, awkward and funny over the course of a single half-hour, and this episode shows how seamless it can be.

It is entitled “Incidentals”, and while this most literally refers to the expenses associated with Hannah’s job, the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines incidentals as things “occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation.” This episode is simply loaded with explicit examples of such occurrences. Let’s get into it.

ADAM GETS THE PART AND INCIDENTALLY MAKES A FRIEND

While it’s been clear for awhile that Adam Driver is an exceptional actor (and perhaps the most consistently compelling character of the cast), it turns out Adam Sackler is also a legitimately skilled thespian. He goes in for his call back – reading for a part in a revival of Shaw’s Major Barbara – and moments after leaving the audition room, the casting director asks him back inside to let him know he got the part. He is as thrilled as we’ve ever seen him before. And in an excellent scene, we share a private moment with Adam standing in front of a bathroom mirror, initially confused as he stuffs a wad of paper towel into his mouth as if possessed by some strange compulsion before he lets out two carefully muffled screams of ecstatic joy. Looks like he wanted this a bit more than he let on. Congrats!

Another important development at the call back, however, is the meeting of Adam and fellow actor Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). The two of them are of equal height and similar build, both exuding an odd charm. After Desi politely warns Adam about being on his cell phone, a potentially awkward situation between two hopeful actors becomes instantly comfortable when Desi let’s him know he’s reading for a different role. Phew! Adam – who famously has no friends to speak of besides Hannah – leaves Manhattan with the part and a new friend in Desi (who also got the part he was after). A bond is formed. They’re headed to Broadway together! But what might this mean for Hannah? Adam has never had to split his relatively ample free time between her and anyone else. But as we soon learn, Desi might be the least of Hannah’s worries.

HANNAH CONDUCTS AN INTERVIEW AND INCIDENTALLY GETS REALLY RATTLED

On assignment for GQ, Hannah meets Patty LuPone for a softball interview that also will double as an advertisement for a bone density drug. In this scene, we get to see precisely how “creatively and morally bankrupt” this particular assignment is, as LuPone first admits she doesn’t even have osteoporosis, and then the two of them proceed to casually collaborate on a bunch of fictitious details for the story to fit the expressed purposes of the advertiser. It seems Hannah has fully gotten over any qualms she may have had about selling out. Whatevs. Hannah’s selfish idealism was getting old anyway.

But in the middle of the interview, Hannah gets a call from Adam, and – in classic Hannah fashion – temporarily halts the interview to take it. Adam shares his good news about the part, and Hannah, thrilled, shares the news with LuPone, who then plants several fast-growing seeds of anxiety in Hannah’s impressionable mind.

LuPone – a famous actress of the stage and screen for over 40 years – tells Hannah that Adam’s impending career on Broadway will surely spell various levels of misery and strife for their relationship. He will become an asshole. He will be forming intimate relationships with the cast and likely sleeping around with many of them. He will have adoring fans. Although Hannah adorably protests at this last suggestion, informing her that Adam is in fact “so funny looking,” LuPone lets her know that even the Elephant Man got laid a lot.

Back at GQ, Hannah shares the news about Adam with her boss Janice. She quickly responds: “Broadway, huh? Have fun.” Hannah’s anxiety mounts. What type of a response is that? Was she sincerely wishing her a fun time of it? Or, as Hannah asks her co-worker Karen, does she actually mean, “Have fun because Broadway is the most seductive of mistresses?”

“I think she means ‘have fun,’ ” Karen says. Personally, I’m not so sure. Janice is an odd caricature of metropolitan pretentiousness and little emotion. Her response seems to be on par with her standard quality of communication. But even I detected a warning in there.

Hannah is then off to a research a new assignment, “16 Reasons to Stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel.” On GQ’s dime, of course, Hannah checks in at the legendary hotel, and also takes the opportunity to invite Adam (and just about every other member of the cast) to join her, in celebration of his landing the role. Adam arrives with Desi, and soon Desi has the room under his control, as he shares some story about a personal adventure. Adam, Elijah and Shosh are rapt. But Hannah is not having it. Observing Desi’s seductive power over this group of strangers lends uncomfortable credence to LuPone’s dire warnings.

MARNIE ATTEMPTS A LOW-RISK / LOW-RETURN RELATIONSHIP WITH RAY AND INCIDENTALLY GETS HURT ANYWAY

(Okay. These titles are getting a bit ungainly. But you see the point, don’t you?)

Marnie has been seeing Ray for awhile, and she’s seemingly been enjoying the low pressure nature of their dynamic. They clearly aren’t soulmates, but they’ve been becoming friends. Additionally, from a purely physical perspective, Marnie – the classic beauty – is in the power position. As opposed to the soul-crushing rejection she suffered at the hands of Charlie, Ray is safe. She doesn’t love him, so there is no threat of heartbreak. Or so she thinks. But as we observed last episode when Marnie casually dropped the fact she’s been hanging out with Ray, he’s obviously had an impact on her.

This week, after running into Booth Jonathan’s ex-assistant Soojin, Marnie is surprised to find out Soojin is on the cusp of opening up her very own gallery in NOHO. Soojin is thoroughly obnoxious and clearly receiving ample financial assistance from her parents. (Perhaps a bit disoriented, Marnie caps their encounter with one of the most epically awkward hug fails ever committed to film.) Feeling low, Marnie grabs a pizza and heads to Ray’s apartment for a venting session. Unfortunately for Marnie, she’s unwittingly walked into an ambush, as Ray proceeds to let her know he cannot go on with her. He wants a real relationship. He wants to be invested. He wants someone who’s invested in him. Reasonable things for anyone to want. Marnie, however, is incredulous, and gets ego-defensive very quickly. She proclaims she doesn’t care about the relationship so his rejection is meaningless. She grabs her pizza and storms out. And although she may not have realized it in that moment, Marnie did, in fact, care. And she is, in fact, hurt by Ray’s rejection. And recognizing this fact likely adds insult to her injury. She let herself get vulnerable again.

Later on, showing up at Adam’s surprise celebratory party, Hannah immediately senses something is up with Marnie. Following her into the bathroom, Hannah asks her what’s wrong, but Marnie only says, “I can’t tell you,” clearly beginning to crumble. Hannah doesn’t press her for the info and instead simply embraces her friend who softly cries into her shoulder. This was a beautiful moment between friends and precisely the type of affecting realness that makes Girls special. I guess they got over all that drama in North Fork.

Rejoining the party, Marnie hears the sound of Desi singing and playing guitar for everyone. She spontaneously joins in with a beautiful vocal harmony to finish the song. It’s kinda magical and moving. (Hannah, seduced against her own will, desperately exclaims, “Are they fucking kidding me?” with tears in her eyes. Fucking Broadway!.) The two singers share a moment. But this is more than a welcome distraction for Marnie. This could be the beginning of something wonderful. But after exchanging e-mails, Desi announces his departure, and casually mentions the woman waiting for him at home. Marnie graciously keeps her composure as she dies just a little bit inside. I’m not sure about Marnie’s next move. Will she attempt a seduction of her own? We shall see.

JESSA HAS A REALLY, REALLY BORING DAY AT THE BOUTIQUE AND INCIDENTALLY STARTS DOING DRUGS AGAIN

It wasn’t quite that simple, of course. But sort of. We see Jessa suffer through a dreadfully boring day at the children’s boutique without a single customer to distract her. We see her desperately trying to entertain herself. She hangs a mannequin in the window by the throat. She spanks a mannequin. She poses in the window herself. She begs the UPS man to stay and talk. But then, an unexpected visitor arrives. It’s Jasper from rehab! And he’s as coked-up as ever! And although Jessa is initially horrified by his sudden appearance, he wears her down, claiming to know her true nature. She’s lying to herself! She cannot be tamed! And apparently they go off together, showing up much later at Adam’s party, very high.

When the coke runs out, Jessa admits she’s out of money, but then announces she knows where to find some more. And so they return to the boutique in the middle of the night where Jessa, in a reckless, criminal turn, lets herself in, disarms the alarm, and steals a wad of cash for drugs. The two of them proceed to do lines into the morning. It’s pathetic, and it could and should spell dire consequences for Jessa, and at the very least land her back in a rehab facility.

SHOSH SOBERED UP AND INCIDENTALLY REVERTED BACK TO HER EXHAUSTING, BORING BULLSHIT

Ouch. I know I’m hard on Shosh every week, but it’s just so easy. Last week’s drunken tirade in North Fork – while entertaining – turned out to be some inexplainable anomaly in Shosh’s brainwaves, because she’s back to doing what she does best: speaking with unnatural speed, and offering unfiltered commentary without consequence. In a mildly funny scene, the coked-up Jasper engages Shosh in a lightning-fast conversation, where he assumes she’s also on cocaine and asks if she has any more. She confesses that many people make that same mistake.What we’re not mistaking her for, however, is a character with any depth. There are four episodes remaining in this season, and I hope we are spared from any Shosh-centric story lines. I don’t even thing a Shosh/Ray reunion could get me on board at this point.

ADAM AND HANNAH TAKE A BATH AND INCIDENTALLY WARM MY HEART

The episode closes with Adam and Hannah in the fancy hotel tub. Alone at last. Hannah opens up to Adam, explaining how she’s afraid Broadway might outshine the life they’ve been building together. “Are you upset I’m doing the play?” Adam asks. “No,” she says vehemently. “I’m so happy you’re doing what makes you happy because I love you. You’re the only person I’ve ever loved, and you’re the only person I ever want to love.”

“Well, ditto,” he responds, simply, reassuringly, and beautifully.

Sufficiently calmed, she asks him to do his lines. He doesn’t want to at first, but then jumps into them. And Hannah is instantly knocked out by his performance and overcome with pure excitement. Her fears dissolve in the bathwater. “It’s so good,” she tells him in a hushed tone, like the keeper of a great secret that will soon be told to the world. They embrace.

A wonderful end to another great episode.

Tune in again next week for more witty commentary and expert analysis.

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