Though it can sometimes meander and disappoint, there are also those lovely times where I feel like Girls has a strong handle on this whole “being a solid TV show” thing. “Close-Up” is great in that it’s a really well-constructed episode as well as one that functions perfectly as a follow-up to the installment preceding it.
Where last week’s “Sit-In” was all Hannah all the time, “Close-Up” mostly fades her into the background to evenly divide its time among the other principals. It’s also thematically about rebuilding, which makes sense as the last episode was about collapse and acceptance.
The reason it’s such a good episode on its own is how neatly divided up all the storylines are. Nearly every character gets a decent chunk of the episode to have a crash (one major, the rest minor), followed by a brief recoup, and finishing with a realization leading them toward the next step in their lives.
Also great is that, in the Girls universe, rebuilding can be a negative and spiteful thing, as it is in Marnie and Shoshanna’s cases. After all the buildup to get to this point with Desi, Marnie turns on a dime and decides he’s an asshole based on an argument over whether their musical duo is or is not like She & Him (Desi is an asshole, but in fairness to him, no one should want to sound like She & Him). I don’t think badly of Marnie for this. It’s perfectly normal (if irrational) to enjoy the pursuit of something far more than the getting of it. It also demonstrates the show hasn’t forgotten who she is. She was introduced to us all the way back in the pilot as a person in a loving relationship that she was totally stifled by. (This storyline also features the wonderfully awful glimpse of Marnie and Desi doing it to their own music.)
Shoshanna is still going on job interviews and is getting sick of it. This makes for one of the best Shosh scenes ever in which she deliberately, aggressively sabotages her interview with an instant ramen company, referring to the product as “old rice that smells like budussy” (that’s butt, dick, and pussy for those unfamiliar). This is a brilliant little scene: Shosh tanks the interview but gets a date with the interviewer (one of the guys who started the company), who must see something appealing in Shosh’s fiery nature. This leads to Shosh’s decision to never get a job, instead living out her days as the wife of the CEO of an instant noodle empire.
Ray’s plot feels a bit incidental at first: he just goes to a community board meeting to address the traffic light outside his apartment. It’s a basic storyline, but it too features a nice little payoff of Ray finding the community board such a mess that he figures he might as well run for chairperson himself (this plot also features Marc Maron!). I’m warming up to this story for Ray. I sort of like how his natural progression is to join the boring, adult world.
Though she isn’t in this too much, Hannah has some small epiphanies, mostly in a scene heralding the return of Bob Balaban as her shrink (who claims to not have Googled Mimi-Rose Howard after Hannah mentioned her but seems to have a really solid concept of what she looks like). Hannah discovers that all along she’s wanted to help people. The scene with her friends where she realizes she can become a teacher is great. When Hannah announces she wants a job that will help people, Shosh reacts, “Ew, like a non-for-profit job?” and Marnie brings up the tidbit that when they lived together, Hannah kept the fire extinguisher in her room so she could get to it first. I also love how Jessa attempts to be insulting by parroting the “those who can’t do, teach” line, but Hannah, undeterred, replies, “Yeah, and I can’t do, so I’m gonna teach!”
Interestingly, the leading plot here is focused on Adam and his new girlfriend, Mimi-Rose Howard (again, played by Gillian Jacobs, who is kind of the best). Mimi-Rose is a really awesome addition to the Girls world. The show has always been something of an inverted version of the stoner comedies of Judd Apatow and co., with the women being in shambles and their male counterparts the more stable ones. MRH shakes things up by having her shit far more together than Adam, something which freaks him out as he feels unneeded.
Their plot together is surprisingly sweet considering it’s about how Mimi-Rose got an abortion, neglecting to inform Adam till after it was over and done with. I like watching these two develop together although I’ll admit it still seems a touch unbelievable that a grounded person like MRH would be with a weirdo like Adam. Then again, she’s a bit weird too—she comes across as almost too logical, making her often seem cold.
The only unfortunate aspects of this episode is it furthering the sense the show doesn’t much know what to do with Jessa or Elijah. The plot about Jessa and Adam’s blossoming friendship that revealed Jessa as lonely and vulnerable has been all but abandoned; she’s just here in one scene to make a few quips. Elijah has reappeared more unceremoniously in NYC than he did in Iowa, continuing the trend of him as an absurd, pseudo-magical presence, not that he isn’t funny. His recap of his time in Iowa is hilarious: he was practically running the JCPenney, was dating a mayoral candidate, and had just put a bid on 16 acres.
Those niggles aside, “Close-Up” is a solid, funny, emotional episode that sets up some really great stuff for the future.