Girls on Girls - Season 2, Episode 5
Who's saying what
Nadine von Cohen
My first reaction to Girls episode five (“One Man’s Trash”) was “OH MY GOD IT’S PATRICK WILSON I LOVED HIM IN THE LOST BOYS BUT NOT IN SPEED 2 CRUISE CONTROL HE LOOKS SO YOUNG AND HOT EVEN THOUGH HE’S LIKE 100 YEARS OLD WHAT’S HIS SECRET?” Then I realised I was thinking of Jason Patric and that the man fucking Lena Dunham on a kitchen bench (and on a ping pong table, and on a bed) was Patrick Wilson. Names are confusing sometimes.
This was not my favourite episode of Girls, not least because there was no Shoshanna in it. That is not to say I hated it, nor even that I disliked it. It just didn’t fill me with the same mix of joy and hope and embarrassment and more joy I usually get from watching the show. I admire Lena Dunham for taking a risk (as is her established wont) in playing with the format and the spirit of the show – which essentially featured only her and Wilson for the episode’s entirety. And I enjoyed the awkwardness, rawness and tingling hotness of the micro-relationship we saw unfold over the course of the episode’s 22 or so minutes. In fact I didn’t just enjoy it – I related to it. We’ve all been there: that one night stand you know will never continue beyond the front door but that feels so real while you’re inside it. We’ve all tried to see how far we could push the other person, how much they’ll tolerate before they suddenly remember they have a dentist appointment at 5am. And we’ve all said too much to someone too quickly. Well, I have at least.
But in the end “One Man’s Trash” just left me a little underwhelmed. I can see what Dunham was trying to do, I just don’t think she quite managed to do it. Perhaps 22 minutes isn’t long enough to portray a relationship, even if it’s just a 24 hour one.
We have now successfully reached the Girls Season Two mid-way mark, and before we embark on a self-projectory* analysis, let’s stop for a minute and pat ourselves on the back for simply sticking to something for this long. Five weeks at anything is no joke – just ask Hannah Hovarth, who, per last night’s episode, absconded obligations to her “hostile work environment” in favour of a one night stand – and as presumed fans of Dunham’s unflattering depiction of the twenty-something condition, if nothing else, we were awarded a falsified sense of progression for merely watching.
Last night Dunham executed her distinct flair for both long and short form storytelling as while the latest Girls episode aptly fits into Hannah’s anthology of recidivist mishaps, focusing on her latest (rather lonely) tryst with a 42-year-old separated doctor (may we all be so lucky) gave watchers a half-hour of space to contemplate the status of Jessa’s/ Marni’s/ Shosh’s (and, of course, Hannah's) journey thus far, without the interfering Konner-Peretz-Apatow hand telling you to contemplate the show’s arc at all.
If anything, the self-inflicted self-destructive behaviour could’ve reached a tired point in last night’s Hannah-only episode, but its Dunham’s self-conscious awareness that leaves every middle-class wannabe-tortured-artist white girl salivating: “Please don’t tell anyone this, but I want to be happy.” To which Jessa would presumably respond, “well where’s the story in that?”
*Not a real word. Taking inspiration from Hannah crafting the word ‘sexit’ in an attempt to sound cooler and smarter.
This season is like tantric sex and Lena, Jenni Konner and the best director of them yet, Jesse Peretz, are the gurus who keep us hanging on.
But like Joshua (pronounced “Josh-wa”) said to Hannah in episode five, “just make me come.”
Seriously Dunham give it up, I want to know why Jessa was so upset about her Thomas-John break up. I want to know what season of “Ally McBeal” Ray and Shosh are watching now they’re accidentally co-habitating. I want to see Marnie taste test Audrey’s mustard. And I want to see more of Elijah, period.
Perhaps just one more game of naked ping-pong with a 42-year-old man – who was tender like rare Porterhouse and refreshing like a glass of lemonade – wouldn’t hurt either.
Is it too much to ask for less neon mesh shirts and further exploration into why you’re scared to be happy?
Think of a story Hannah! Give it up. Peace out.
When Lena Dunham does her thing, as she ably did again, I find myself in a sort of ecstatic deadlock. First, I love her for uttering the things that she does so well. Then, I hate her for uttering the things that she does so well.
In short, I feel about Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath would: at once awe-struck and completely envious that it’s her, not me, saying those things about the world.
A quick look at critique of the Hannah Does the Doctor episode reveals *another* Dunham backlash. Terms like “self-indulgent” and “predictable” and “pointless” have been hurled at a vignette that focused solely on Hannah’s empty-but-touching assignation with an older, much richer dude.
For mine, the moment where our heroine is filled with revulsion at her own very ordinary capacity for pleasure makes it all worthwhile. This is ANOTHER keenly and minutely observed moment of strange intimacy that makes me love-hate Dunham like a brilliant little sister.
In a season that has so far provided only scattered moments of brilliance (most of them Shoshanna-based), last night's episode of Girls – One Man's Trash – was a meditative oasis of exquisite devastation.
As "Joshua, not Josh", Patrick Wilson was the best he's been since distinguishing himself from Watchmen's surrounding dregs as the bruised Dan Dreiberg; what did his separated 42-year-old doctor want from Hannah? Youth? Hopefulness? Or just to clear away the cobwebs of marriage's sexual boredom? Dunham's eloquent embodiment of Hannah's ineloquence – brushing off Joshua's admission of childhood sexual abuse with a glib, "Well I think that's pretty different because you let him", as though nobody's pain is as acute as hers, was the best it's been all season.
In some ways it was a difficult episode to watch; haven't we all had those strange, fleeting moments – nights, days, weekends – of startling intimacy with near-strangers, then struggled with how to emerge from them unscathed? Sure, maybe the whole "bags of trash as emotional baggage" metaphor was a bit too American Beauty, but when the rest of the writing and the performances are that good, who cares?
Last night, sitting in a quiet but not-so-dive bar in the Lower East Side, Girls came up. I suspect in such settings, a stumble across the bridge to the show’s heartland, the topic is irrepressible.
The guy in our group said the show, for him, was like a window into the complexity of a female experience so close to his own context it felt like peeping from one apartment into another. The girl across the table from me supposed that the stories explored in the show are accessible.
She has a point. Girls in its way, has a lot in common with Freaks and Geeks, Degrassi and even Glee. It’s a chronicle of the milestones one only encounters in a state of protracted adolescence. Instead of that single, un-inhaled toke of a joint, it’s your first night out on the bag with your friends. Losing your virginity turns into the awkward cohabitation of economic uncertainty before you even realize it has happened.
Then there was Episode Five, a milestone that is probably unique to cities with high divorce rates, high median incomes, and a lot of young inhabitants. It’s the first time you encounter a life – filled with all the material things – that you have no way of knowing how to build. It’s your parents’ life, if you grew up lucky. Only instead of feeling obligated to it and alienated from it, it’s a life you can touch, taste and, for a day or two, fuck your way into. It’s a life Jessa had for a second, that Hannah finally caught a glimpse of. And the tears were for the fear of never getting it back. Girls gets accused of not knowing its own privilege all the time, but this was a beautiful exercise in class anxiety.