Girls Season 2 Episode 2
Written by Lena Dunham & Jennifer Konner
Directed by Lena Dunham
Original Air Date: January 20 2013
In this episode of Girls we move into the consequences and effects of the season opener: Ray and Shoshanna get all cutesy, Marnie gets a pretty person job, Jessa is perfectly happy and Hannah calls the police. The episode is not nearly as empowering as the previous one, as Hannah must deal with the consequences of being( apparently) more self-assured. The show hinges so crucially on the ups and downs of the characters and how quickly everything can turn on its head. It creates an uncomfortable ambiguity, where the characters are at the mercy of chaos, unable to really control their internal or external lives.
As a writer-creator, Lena Dunham deals with criticism levelled at the show meta-textually through one of the most uncomfortable scenes the show has yet to present. As the show opens up, Hannah seems quite comfortable with the fact that her new boyfriend, Sandy (Donald Glover), is a republican. She is grown up and mature enough to be in a relationship with someone who has different views then she does – until they actually come up. The apparent strength that Hannah displays now and again is really tested in this episode as she can’t seem to handle the fact that Sandy does not like her writing. He avoids the issue at first, but eventually confesses that her essay was “well-written” but essentially all the fluff that most people filter out as unimportant. This spurs an argument about his political beliefs and fuels their break-up. The discussion seems to be a conversation that Dunham is having with the world, one where she is both victim and aggressor, as her own vision of NYC is relatively short-sighted but nonetheless representative of her personal experience. It’s a rare thing indeed that we see popular media engaging intelligently as a form of criticism and it is pulled off with uncomfortable grace and an admirable air of self-deprecation. Elijah’s throw-a-way comment about Hannah being “thin-skinned” in the episode has added resonance as her self-worth and new confidence is tested again and again. Throughout the rest of the episode, Hannah is basically called ugly and is nearly aggressed by potentially crazy ex-boyfriend Adam: overall, not a good week for her.
Things are going better for her friends. Shoshanna and Ray are back together and represent the most sincere and heart-warming aspects of the show. As unlikely a match they seem to be on paper, there is a gentleness that feels so tender and real. The brief scene they have in bed talking about pigs and camp is totally precious, brimming with love, affection and curiosity. Though these kinds of moments are often fleeting and rarely representative of long-term viability, they suggest an ideal that none of the characters seem to have ever achieved. There is no loathing or unhappiness here, at least not yet, and makes you wonder if embracing the weird will actually make you an overall happier person. Overthinking seems to be the bane of this universes’ existence, but then again… there is Jessa.
I don’t understand Jessa, and I don’t understand people like her. For me, she represents a weak part of the show, not because she isn’t real, but because people like her are elusive, enigmatic and frustrating Compared to Shoshanna’s neurotic compulsions that nonetheless brim with honesty and truth, Jessa’s existence always strikes me as self-fabricated and unreal. Her emotions are always difficult to navigate as she seems to accept quite readily any situation she encounters with an old-world charm and seductive air. She is like a contemporary Greta Garbo, but without the tragedy. Nonetheless, I am compelled and I genuinely want to see what her marriage holds, if it holds at all.
As for Marnie, her identity crisis continues as her job interview goes badly when the interviewer tells her that she is not meant to work in the art world. After some soul-searching and advice from Shoshanna, Marnie does the most self-assertive thing in weeks and embraces the fact that she is extra pretty. As the episodes winds to an end, she finally gets a new job, as a hostess at some downtown club. Her outfit is silly, revealing and just a wee-bit humiliating but she sucks it up, defending her choice while putting down the fact that Hannah could not get a pretty-person job like she does. This underlying difference between pretty and not-pretty never fails to sting, as Hannah (and Lena Dunham) fights an uphill battle over physical appearance and its association with value and virtue. As strong and powerful as Hannah might seem on a good day, she can always be taken down by her appearance and it’s this precarious undertone that colour most of her social and romantic interactions.
Though not nearly as transcendent as the season opener, this episode deals with some darker truths and consequences as the show seems to fight for the right to exist. The apparently in-consequentialities these characters deal with on a daily basis providing a cathartic truth for many, and representing a nightmarish dystopian vision for the future for just about everyone else. The episode also brings up interesting questions about bisexuality and the art-world, both of which I hope are visited again throughout the season.
– Justine Smith