A Guy on Girls: Inline Skates, Mystery Dates, and Counting to Eights! (S2/E8, “It’s Back”)

“It’s Back” is an episode about the internalized manifesting itself, and feeling a loss of control in the wake of others’ actions. Shoshanna runs into the arms of a man whose job isn’t much better than Ray’s, but who seems to be enjoying it more. Marnie yearns to sing Norah Jones style smooth jazz and ends up belting it out with abandon, a dream so buried that it’s been unknown to us to this point. Adam hasn’t had a drop to drink since he was seventeen, but is back attending AA meetings because he feels things spiraling out of control. Literally spiraling down the street in rhythms of eight swerves at a time is Hannah, whose lifelong obsessive-compulsive disorder – harbored around completing octets of repeated actions – is rearing its head to you, the Girls viewer, for the first time. In classic TV formatting, as our season finale approaches, certain monsters are emerging from certain caves.

Throughout this season we’ve seen men as dogs, or at least seen men and dogs hang out together. In Adam, fiercely lonely and prone to accidentally drinking sour milk – we see the ugly side of a hound’s loyalty: he cannot accept the idea that he has been put out to pasture by Hannah for behaving badly. And of course he gets this, being human and all. But there is knowing something internally, and then there’s saying it aloud to others.

On the flipside of this breakup, Hannah has taken the number eight – in this season’s eighth episode – as a kind of providence. She has to look over her shoulder eight times to see if Adam is about while walking through her neighborhood. Slam her own door eight times before entering her home. Lay out eight Utz chips before consuming them consecutively in an act of crunched healing, or shame, or both.  More on this momentarily.

During Adam’s spiel at AA, I particularly enjoyed the oddly beautiful way he flails his arms when speaking. “She changed her mind about me, and it was that fast,” he says with a snap of the fingers and preceding tornado of limbs. There’s also resonance to his notion that we carry a preset idea of what love looks like in our idealized, imaginary “unlived” life as that other Adam (Phillips) calls it. Or perhaps it’s that he stands at 6’3′, “a very respectable height”, according to a middle-aged Mom in the program (Carol Kane!), who sets him up with her daughter Natalya, a meet-cute from out of some bygone era that speaks to Adam’s jumbled ideas of chivalry, manhood, and romance. The immediate attraction between Adam and Natalya – paired reactions of “Holy shit” and “I love my mom” as their eyes meet is quite nice.

This week we see the double-edged sword of being newly single: the odd nurturing of the dating life and the odd release from a prior relationship. Charlie had such trouble getting over Marnie that he started wearing tailored shirts and found eleven models dressed as social media developers to work under him.  The sort who let him refer to them as a “good little employee”. He’s also designed Forbid, an app that requires you to pay $10.00 to call your ex. The 21st century sculpting clay of breakup art perhaps, but not exactly Annie Hall or cutting one’s ear off in terms of great art produced from Splitsville. There’s something odd about this new web-pimp version of Charlie: it’s The Social Network lite, yet it feels relatively true to what we know of him. Still, within the show’s context, he remains defined by Marnie’s impressions of him: a tool to teach her lessons about herself.  And there’s a bit of disdain coming from Dunham toward App Life here, and perhaps toward the modern office at large.

I quite liked Dunham’s neuroses rearing its head with her folks during a Judy Collins show at the Carlyle. It’s the dark side of her She-Woody: Hannah and Her Parents. The scared sweetness of Peter Scolari and the intriguing, played-against-type vitriol of Becky Ann Baker make them fine scene partners. Mom’s disregard for Hannah’s disorder – “We’re still married, we never raised a hand to you, this is not our fault!” and Hannah’s response that “It’s genetic, which is kind of the ultimate Your Fault,” were some solid uppercuts, and it feels like a brave choice to have Dunham and Baker as a daughter and mother who bicker constantly under a strained relationship.  Knowing nothing about OCD beyond what film and television has taught me, I can’t speak to how accurately it’s portrayed here. More sympathetic than Donald Trump’s germ phobia, less off the wall than Lady Macbeth? But in short order, it does raise the stakes on Hannah’s recent droplets of career success.  Like Charlie’s move to Zuckerbergia, it’s new intel about a character that’s in step with what we already know of her. Her explanation of childhood renderings of this behavior (namely more masturbation than she bargained for) to Bob Balaban was really great – vividly drawn details of what it’s like to be a kid and not have the capacity to grasp your own behavior. Casting Bob Balaban as a therapist is so on-the-nose that it shouldn’t have been as superb as it was, but sometimes the obvious works out great. Obviously.

Funniest moment of the episode was Shoshanna’s tirade at the party of Ridica (a name invoking either the ridiculous or the will to rise and uplift) – “the richest Hindi I know” – a place where your ironically Rollerblading hostess sits beside a multi-tier gold serving tray of White Castle, of which she takes one bite before tossing it on the floor and refilling your champagne.  Asking aloud “When is it Shosh time?” with regard to the many people in her life whom she feels responsible for while lacking reciprocal support – from wet blanket Ray to Marnie to her Aunt Eileen – is a wake-up call for the character in this show who most deserves more than what they presently have. If that “more” turns out to be a goateed doorman who enjoys clubbing, then perhaps it still takes all kinds.  Live and let love.

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