If this wasn’t the best episode yet of the series, it’s damn close. Not only because it often gives us the light-hearted truffle joy we have so desperately earned eight episodes in, but also for its graceful simplicity. It feels like not much happens, yet the slowed pace after last week’s warehouse party led to learning quite a bit about certain characters. In the case of Jessa and Marnie, we probably find out more about who they are in their 10-15 minutes onscreen together than we have in most of the series thus far.
We also get Adam revealed as some Stella Adler School of Acting peak Brando situation, and the oddness of Hannah locked at the knees in quiet awe at his rehearsal. Yet the same scene also articulated why people like Adam can be brutal to date: their visceral joie de vivre sends them into rages. It can be hard finding the balance between rationality and passion. One particularly great line was Hannah’s notion that “People don’t always get it right on the first try: you have to teach them how to please you, or you have to compromise.” Within that single sentence, you have most of the frustrations and joys of being in a committed romance.
Most astonishing of all was my impassioned agreement at Jessa’s assessment of the new, stripped-down Marnie: really gorgeous. Makeup-free, halfway into a downward spiral, stalking her ex on Facebook. And her meltdown, albeit brief, put into perspective that a lot of my vitriol toward Marnie this season has been an overly personal response: my hope that her dumping of the sentimental nerd and her sex-starved attraction to smug douches like Booth Jonathan doesn’t speak for the women of Brooklyn at large. Marnie may have been a difficult character to like until now because she hasn’t revealed her human flaws. But it may also simply be that alpha people who have their shit together can be intimidating. This week was not the first time we’ve heard her express frustrated self-awareness at being “the uptight girl”.
We also get to see Jessa serve her ideal function, as the fun friend who allows the other characters to relax by “getting out of there for a while”, “there” being their own heads. It’s been on the docket since episode one that her and Marnie would arrive at a simpatico place where they would cease to be friends-in-law and become something closer. Spontaneous tongue kissing is a horse of a different color, but always a favorite. I mean that literally: who among us didn’t pick beloved equine Spontaneous Tongue Kissing to win the Kentucky Derby and/or the Preakness?
Chris O’Dowd was inspired casting as the frustrated venture capitalist, and his final monologue encapsulates a very real type of guy you see walking around Williamsburg with increasing frequency, who nevertheless is still utterly maniacal. He is the same guy who drove all the painters under 50 out of lower Manhattan. The same guy who nudged jazz out of Harlem. He embodies that most curious aspect of gentrification: those who drive up rent by moving into crispy new studios that practically come with their own DJ equipment do so because they want to be a big fish in what they perceive to be a small pond. A small pond full of impressionable, bi-curious mermaids. The gentrifier will always chase the prettiest faces, and keep them at a distance in the process. But then, I wonder: weren’t Marnie, Jessa, and Nick Curley all the gentrifier upon their own arrivals? And which pretty faces did we chase away?