Girls: Good Man review
The latest episode of HBO's Girls is funny, which is good, but it's not the kind of funny that's right for the show.
This Girls review contains spoilers.
Girls Season 5 Episode 2
This a better episode than the premiere because it’s funnier. Multiple jokes made me laugh out loud within the first few minutes. But I can’t say I’m exactly in love with what’s going on with the plot here.
There was the occasional bit of cartoonishness in Girls present from series’ inception. Chris O’Dowd throwing a tantrum over wine spilling on his carpet is a first season scene that comes to mind. And Shoshanna has always kind of been a cartoon character (something Jessa voiced in the previous episode).
But now the goofiness feels turned up in a way I don’t know that I like. Don’t get me wrong, goofiness is perfectly permissible when you contextualize it. I recall, for example, very much enjoying Hannah and Elijah’s season two coked-up night out. But there’s stuff in “Good Man” that feels to me like it came out of a different show.
I believe in Adam and Jessa’s attraction to each other. The show has been teasing us to this point for a good long while now and the two do have in common a colossal weird streak, as well as a weakness for self-medicating. Still, I don’t believe either of them is willfully ignorant enough to pull this mutual masturbation nonsense where they both jerk off on the same couch, claiming it’s not unfair to Hannah so long as they don’t touch each other.
I’m not saying they actually think what they’re doing isn’t fucked up; they know full well it is and they’re also surely aware they’re sliding into some manner of relationshippy… thing. I’m saying I don’t believe either of them would even be dumb enough to pretend to entertain the façade. It’s bullshit and it’s just too obvious it’s bullshit. It’s like a scene out of a hokey Hollywood sex comedy (either that Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher one or the Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake one, neither of which I’ve actually seen, in truth, but they appear to be the same film).
In fact, all of Jessa and Adam’s stuff feels a bit too unreal for Girls. Other than this jerk-off scene, they get a too-positive montage at an amusement park. It’s all just a bit too rom-com-esque. Though I do like that a carny owes Jessa $30 for reasons never explained.
More cartoonish junk comes from Ray’s plot about a hipper café opening across the street from his. The place is too cool to provide lids for their cups, so people are heading to Ray’s to steal his. Not a lot happens here except Ray confronts the people working at this café and gets shout-shamed out of the place. These characters, one of whom identifies as a “they” and the other who shouts “white man” at Ray until he leaves, come off like a bunch of Tumblr clichés lazily cobbled together.
Hannah’s stuff is the best of the episode. Again, I laughed quite a bit at the opening minutes, like when she unwisely says in front of Fran (Jake Lacy)’s crazy roommate, “I get what’s going on, he’s crazy” as well as the comedy surrounding Hannah’s bush. Hannah’s still working at the private school from last season, somehow not yet fired even though she continues to be inappropriate at every turn. Now she’s having her young students read Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus, a novel so inappropriate for them that one of them says as much. She gets another talking-to from the school principal, who seems like he might be on the brink of firing her, but Hannah rambles obliviously over his misgivings and then dashes out. I do love the absurd dynamic between Hannah and this guy—Hannah constantly offending him and him trying to be firm yet not aggressive—so I’m cool with this scene.
Additionally, Hannah having to shelter her newly out dad (Peter Scolari), now that her mom has kicked him out, strikes me as the most promising plot started here. The scenes where Hannah has to converse with the shoe salesman her dad hooked up with are funny, tragic, and sweet all at once—easily the best stuff in “Good Man.”
Oh, and I suppose because Andrew Rannell’s role on the show has been steadily increasing, we get the beginning of a plot that’s all Elijah’s, not tied to any of the other characters, for a change. It seems a famous newscaster named (new ridiculous name alert!) Dill Harcourt (Corey Stoll) has a romantic interest in Elijah. Not much to say about this plot because very little has happened with it so far, but it’s theoretically cool to see a gay male character getting his own storyline. Such a thing still feels rare (at least since Looking went off the air because it was boring and nobody watched it).
All told, an improvement upon the premiere, but some broadly drawn characters and unbelievable plot beginnings are still making this season feel more conventionally like a sitcom than I’m used to with Girls and I can’t say I much care for that.