Girls, Ep. 2.06, “Boys” is about unhappiness and delusion

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Girls, Season 2, Episode 6: “Boys”
Written by Murray Miller & Lena Dunham
Directed by Claudia Weil
Original Air date: 17 Feb 2013

A compelling follow-up to one of the more contentious episodes of the series, we move forward from Hannah’s realization that she wants the white picket fence to a cluster-fuck of characters in full-on delusion about their own unhappiness. Hannah takes a bit of a back-seat in this episode, in part because she has lost her sense of confidence in face of the daunting task of writing an e-book in the span of a month. All the other characters we have come to know and love also make appearances, each confronted with the idea that their life is not as perfect as it seems.

Adam makes a welcome re-appearance on the show, and Lena Dunham allows him to be the voice of reason. Though his sanity fluctuates from one episode to the next, his consistency and dare I say – attractiveness, peers through with a huge amount of tenderness in this episode. He seems to be a bit further on the Joseph Campbell cycle than everyone else, and has already moved past the illusions that maintained his relationship with Hannah. However, he has no need or desire to trash her or what they had. Their relationship was honest in its own way, and he seems to understand and appreciate the peculiarities of Hannah’s world view better than anyone else. He is quick to defend her from a disparaging Ray, whose tough exterior gets totally ravished in this episode.

The most interesting conversation of the episode takes place between them, as both of them discuss the merits of dating younger and older women, more or less dismissing the entire female cast of the show. Even Shoshanna criminally fits the bill of the awful twenty year old; by seemingly expecting too much of Ray and his hard knock life. Her only advantage is her sexual inexperience which allows her to be more vulnerable than women who have already had their hearts broken. This is a tricky dynamic, offering compelling insight into both Ray and Adam. The desire they have to be involved with vulnerable women, does not seem to be a desire to assert masculinity, but part of their desire to be honest and real. The enormous expectations they feel are thrust upon them in relationships puts their insecurities on high alert.  They are less lost in the confusion of what should be, as they are in what is, and all they really want is to be happy and comfortable with no real worry about what the future holds.

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Marnie’s life, on the other hand, continues to be a train-wreck as she still seems to be struggling from losing identity defining relationship with Charlie. Her initial assertiveness in needing to find meaning and direction in life has been lost with one failure after the next. Marnie believes she is Booth’s girlfriend, but he seems to have other ideas… and well, things get awkward. As the “pretty” girl, Marnie seems unusually pre-occupied with appearances and the realization that looking like a Sears catalogue model won’t actually bring you happiness is having awful effects on her conception of reality. Without a doubt, most audiences saw the big revelation coming a mile away… but that’s all part of the game. Horror is not always about the shock, but sometimes about expecting the blood and guts when the naive teenagers “split up to cover more ground”. Predictability is not a sign of weak writing, and in this case, it only exasperates the discomfort of the storyline.

At the heart of this episode is the idea that many of these characters don’t even know what happiness feels like. Their delusions are so intricate and self-sustaining, that it seems impossible to return to a level of purity where authenticity can still peak through. There is this creeping insinuation that even if you can find someone to bare your soul to, who will love and understand you, it doesn’t really matter in the end because we all die alone.

Justine Smith

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2 Comments
  1. David Fiore says

    very nice assessment of a fine episode — love the horror film analogy… and the show certainly DID cover more ground this week, didn’t it? (much to the Staten Island chamber of commerce’s chagrin, if such a thing exists)

    1. Justine S. says

      It did, I like the diversity in form though. Sometimes focusing on just a single character and a single narrative in contrast with more traditional TV formats like this one. It makes things more dynamic, and I think makes the show richer. It is a testament to the talents of the people involved that the show can still feel so absolutely cohesive considering how it utilizes such different styles and personalities into the direction on a weekly basis.

      The Staten Island segment was awesome, and I wish I were better equipped to discuss it but I have never been and my familiarity with New York City is mostly what I have gathered from TV and movies — which is incomplete to say the least. I really liked how the whole situation reversed on Ray’s perception and how this teenage girl totally fucked with his mind in such a crude, unexpected and biting way. It was a perfect way of punctuating his character’s crisis, because it was unexpected and exactly what they needed.

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