Girls Season 2, Episode 9 ‘On All Fours’
Directed by Lena Dunham
Written by Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner
airs Sunday nights at 9pm ET on HBO
(Note: I usually write about Girls on my website, Processed Media – but this week, I’m filling in for the normal Girls reviewers over here with my thoughts on ‘On All Fours’).
Like last week’s episode, ‘On All Fours’ is worth watching mostly because of Adam – since the pilot, he’s been the best, most consistently written character on the show, making him the easiest to connect to and understand. Unfortunately, he’s the lone highlight – an episode about trying to make things fit where they clearly don’t (with cringe-inducing results), ‘On All Fours’ is a mirror image of ‘It’s Back’, continuing the same threads, and encountering the same issues.
The most easiest of plots to decipher is Hannah’s: her q-tip is representative of her e-book writing, in that her editor is trying to take what comes naturally and force Hannah to look deeper, into damaged places Hannah isn’t ready to explore. He even encourages her to make it up, to focus on “the semen and sadness” instead of writing about her friends or other boring Jane Austen-types. Her cartoonish editor suggests she fake it (“have you regrown her hymen”), to force out material about the pudgy girl who gets used by the men in her life. After he suggests she title her book My Life on My Back, she leaves the office, anxious and counting. She then shoves a q-tip far enough into her ear to make her head bleed – a visual device that leaks its way into the other plots of the episode.
Marnie’s q-tip is her microphone, which she tries to shove in the eardrums of everyone that Charlie works with, in an embarrassing rendition of Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ – arguably the most awkward, painful scene to watch in the entire series. Although she’s rained on everyone’s parade (congratulating them on their “premature success” after ruining their party), Charlie still wants to have sex with her, for no apparent reason. It literally makes no sense: he’s just finished talking about what a mess she is (and she’s yelled about how its “her journey”), and he grabs her and then has sex with her on the desk (Note: this is all after he forgets they had plans to have lunch together).
If season 2 has done anything, it’s worn out Marnie as a character. Now she’s become an echo of Hannah, a selfish girl on a her own journey that no one will influence, even if she knows its a distraction that’s only making her life worse. And like Hannah, Marnie’s character is drawing on the actress’s real life experiences (Lena Dunham had OCD, Allison Williams was in glee club at Yale), which makes them feel even more lifeless and one-dimensional.
The episode partly redeems itself with more fantastic Adam material. His dream relationship comes crashing down halfway through the episode when he sees Hannah outside an engagement party he’s at (which is followed by a scene of him and Nat dancing, bathed in red light, which suggests things are about to get ugly). She’s on her way home from the hospital, and the moment of realization we knew she’d eventually make comes over her face, as Adam physically shies away from her. The damage she’s done to him is powerful in the few scenes they’ve shared together this season, and it makes Adam’s reflexive reaction to her appearance that much sadder to watch.
It gets worse when he brings his new girlfriend back to his apartment: Nat basically insults his apartment and way of living, and Adam tries to scare her away by exposing her to one of his demeaning sexual quirks (“I really didn’t like that” she says afterwards). When Adam sits back and asks “are you done with me?”, its a sad moment: Hannah’s done some serious damage to him internally, and even he realizes he can’t fix it all with a new girlfriend, so he tries to push her away.
The events of ‘On All Fours’ seem to set the table for the inevitable reunion of Adam and Hannah (will it cure her OCD?), which will probably happen around the same time Shosh and Ray break up, and Marnie and Charlie have an argument and vow never to have sex again (or decide to get married). But the events of the episode undermine much of its character consistency in favor of relationship-related dramatics, less about the journeys of these young women, and more about how the various men in their lives are affecting and influencing them.
– why are professional types always such caricatures?
– Ray: “I’m going to go get a shitty beer, do you want one?”
– in a way, the cum ‘shot’ was an interesting way to “give the people what they want” (attractive, naked females). You want nice breasts? How would you like it if there was semen splashed over them? It actually kind of works in two different ways: it drives home the grotesqueness of the sex scene, and represents Lena’s middle finger to the people who complain about her being naked and not other characters. At least we don’t see Hannah drenched in man fluid (… at least not yet).
– Adam drinks – I hope this doesn’t become a big thing next season.
– Adam: “Sandra Bullock or whatever… she’s very charming, I only wish the best for her.”
– Adam again, after someone expresses anger at missing ‘the game’ : “ohyeah – fuck.”
– Nat has a very weird approach to initiating intercourse: “I’m ready to have sex now.”