Girls Season 3, Episode 9: “Flo”
Written by Bruce Eric Kaplan
Directed by Richard Shepard
Airs Sundays at 10 PM on HBO
In “Flo”, Bruce Eric Kaplan ditches the entire main and supporting cast, except for Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), and decides to show her, her mother (Becky Ann Baker), aunts, and cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele) visiting her dying grandmother Flo (played by Academy Award nominated June Squibb). This episode places the episode’s focus solely on Hannah and her relationship with her family and shows that maybe she isn’t so bad after all. Her behavior at her editor’s funeral pales in comparison to her mother and aunts who are fighting over Flo’s pills and possessions. Kaplan uses Hannah’s various relatives to look at the different sides of her personality. Flo is where she gets her sense of humor and positive attributes from. Some of her negative attributes come from her mother and aunts. And Rebecca is like a darker version of Hannah, who is more serious and doesn’t have someone like Adam to ground her. “Flo” is another episode without much of a plot, but it is an excellent character study and look at how people never really grow up despite getting older.
Kaplan and director Richard Shepard take a big risk by taking Girls out of its New York setting and giving most of the main cast the week off. As a part in a whole, it does grind compelling story arcs, like Ray’s (Alex Karpovsky) breakup with Marnie (Allison Williams) and Jessa’s (Jemima Kirke), to a halt. However, it succeeds in reorienting Hannah’s character and hinting at the motivation for some of her actions. Viewers also get to see her mother’s opinion about Adam, and that Hannah should keep her options about dating. This kind of brutal honesty can be found in Hannah and all her relatives from her aunts telling her mother that she isn’t arguing about her grandmother’s estate because she has a stable marriage to Flo telling Rebecca that Hannah is “loose” behind her back. On a lighter note, it seems like Hannah’s sense of humor comes from her grandmother Flo, who is played with wonderful energy by Squibb despite being on her deathbed. The scenes they share together are cute and funny and make Hannah a much more sympathetic character. On a darker note, Rebecca makes Hannah more sympathetic by managing to be even more self-involved than her. Shepard crafts her character in a single shot of her surrounded by medical tomes and oblivious to the family and pain around her. And Kaplan makes her the most unlikeable character on Girls complete with a monologue about how “writers are the most ridiculous cast of writers.” She lacks the manic energy of Adam’s sister and shows that the main cast of Girls could be much worse.
The main theme of Girls is about people in their twenties trying to make it in life and continuing to fail. “Flo” shows that this failure can extend far into adulthood. Hannah’s mother and aunts have petty arguments when their mother is “naked and dying”. Kaplan gets does some wry humor from their arguments though. (And Shepherd directs a great musical montage of the various family members switching sleeping positions.) This episode acts as a two sided coin for Hannah. She could be like her family and argue and be separate in adulthood, or she could continue to develop her relationship with Adam and her friends and have a happy, successful life. Things could go either way at this point, and that in-between place is where Girls finds its funniest and most poignant moments.