A Girl on Girls: Sometimes He Uses Me as the Decoy (S2/E8 “It’s Back”)

This week’s episode of Girls could have easily been titled “Left Turn” instead of “It’s Back,” considering all the curve balls that get thrown at the audience.  I don’t want to be a sour Sally, but I may or may not have said that this episode seemed to include a potentially jumping shark.  All I’m saying is that if you’re going to make Marnie a singer, Charlie a successful startup guy (which felt like wish fulfillment and a revenge fantasy combined), and Hannah suffer from OCD, you could have at least had SOME set up.  Any set up.  I would accept any set up.

Trust me—reviewing this show every week means I have taken very thorough notes.  I’m not missing anything.  [EDIT:  I read on Twitter that during the fight between Marnie and Hannah in “Leave Me Alone” in season 1, Marnie mentions that Hannah used to have to masturbate eight times a day.  I’m not saying this constitutes great character development, but I suppose it satisfies my plea for “any set up.” So I guess I missed something.  Oops!]  Marnie has never even so much as glanced at a piece of music.  I didn’t know Charlie even knew how to code! Hannah’s OCD is a more sensitive subject.  I know that it’s inappropriate for me to say that she hasn’t had “symptoms,” or shown any signs, because mental illness doesn’t work that way.  You generally can’t point to somebody and say they have X or Y, because illness is a product of social and cultural factors on top of also being a component of a biomedical condition.  But what I’m really saying is, that I can’t say they didn’t really set it up properly, but I also can’t write this review without feeling like they didn’t set it up properly.  I think that a television series that relies on its characters to drive the plot ought to be consistent, at the very least, and though I can kind of (barely) see Marnie secretly wanting to be the center of attention, I find it very hard to believe that the self-sabotaging Hannah we’ve all gotten to know and sort of dislike is also experiencing a relapse of some sorts.

I also take issue with a comedy suddenly taking up the issue of mental illness?  Potentially because they have really created an external world, where actions and practices make up the majority of the show’s meaty good stuff.  So for us to suddenly look inwards at Hannah’s emotional health is cheap somehow, or in bad taste.  Either way, I can’t help but think it is being played for shock value.  Or maybe to excuse some of her prior bad behavior, because, hey! Now Hannah has “depth,” because she is a person with a mental illness.

I guess I’m just disappointed, since I was totally on board with the season so far.   I feel like we’d grown, together, as a happy family of Brooklynites with disappointed parents, toward a better understanding of ourselves and the meaning of real change versus superficial change.

Despite my problems with these two developments, there are some good things about “It’s Back,” namely the return of Adam, played brilliantly by our friend Adam Driver.   I mean, the man’s comedic timing gets better every episode.  His delivery is a delight.  And he even keeps pace with this week’s guest megastar, Carol Kane, best known for her work as Munch’s ex-wife on Law & Order SVU.  The fact that he knows he is a creep when he says that he is a creep while on the phone with Natalia is especially well-played, since we’ve all been that person knowingly saying creepy things (well, I have) on the phone, especially as we become more removed from the act of actually speaking on the phone.  Another nice touch is the fact that Natalia has a landline—I mean, who has a landline?  Hospitals?  Your grandmother?  It’s definitely a funny realization on Adam’s part.

If losing Jessa means we get more of Adam, I can live with Jemima Kirke’s absence.  His overgrown hands and crooked weird beard are just so endearing!  I was also glad to see Shiri Appleby playing Natalia, which I really, really hope came about because Lena Dunham was a huge fan of Roswell.

Anyway, I’m almost too shocked to produce any real enlightening take on this week’s episode!  I’m probably as surprised as you are.  If anything, I am left wondering if the show can pull off such huge revelations—and if so, how the hell they’re going to do it without completely shifting the trajectory of Hannah’s journey through life thus far.  I mean, it’s been Hannah against the world since day one.  But now it’s Hannah against herself, or Hannah against an illness that has nothing to do with whether she is shallow or self involved, which kind of brings us into an orbit where we do have to be morally accountable or at least take multivitamins on a regular basis.

I’d be interested to hear what you all thought.  Leave your reactions in the comments!

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