This is one of the season’s best episodes for a few reasons. One, it involves all the principle characters and they all get something meaningful to do (well, okay, except for Shoshanna). Two, all the characters go through some major ups and downs in the span of thirty minutes that restructure hugely the hierarchy of who’s had their shit together and who hasn’t over the course of the season. Third, in keeping with Girls’ realistic tone, it’s not totally clear how negative the negative stuff is or, for that matter, how positive the positives are.
And that last thing is cool because the sitcom format has trained me to view moments as climactic that, in real life, might be less so. For example, in most shows, if a member of the core cast has a big falling out with a less integral character, it’s sensible enough to conclude that we’ll never see that lesser character again. But, in real life, relationships can really take a pounding and it usually takes a lot more to completely decimate them. Girls has demonstrated that it understands that; it’s why Elijah is now hanging out with Hannah again regularly (and even outright addresses their rocky relationship here: “I’ve given you like thirty-three chances to be in my life, okay? So cut me some slack.”)
A lot of stuff goes down in this episode and, though much of it is seemingly bad, as mentioned before, the handling of it makes it less obviously so. I’ve said in the past that Girls picks a tone for each episode and hammers it home, but actually, in “I Saw You,” the initial tone gets turned on its head in a really surprising and fun way. The opening minutes are bleak as hell. Hannah is worried Adam is slowly leaving her, while Marnie’s got her new job as an assistant at Soojin’s art gallery where an artist Marnie has long-respected named Bedelia (Beedee for short) is explaining to her how you just become a shell of yourself as you get older.
However, by the end of the episode, some good stuff has happened, some bad shit has gone down, but, more importantly, it just gets really, really funny. It’s an episode that does Girls at its most tragic, but also at its most unabashedly comedic and it’s a wonderful balance.
Plus, again, who can say how negative everything that happens actually is? Hannah quits/gets fired her job, which is almost definitely a horrible idea, but she seems (understandably) liberated about it, so it’s unclear if we should feel badly for her. (As an aside, does anyone else find it funny that Patti LuPone has been used twice as a catalyst for Hannah behaving brashly?) When she drops the information that she got fired in front of Adam and his theatre friends, it seems so awkward and pathetic that surely this solidifies what a bad decision she’s made. But at the same time, the scene is so hilarious it kind of downplays how unfortunate it is.
This is also the best Marnie episode there’s been all season. She finally manages to write a decent-sounding song with Desi, which they perform at an open mic and it’s pretty well-received. But we can’t have Marnie not getting beaten down at least a little bit, so there’s also the scene in which she watches as Jessa effortlessly snags a job with Beedee, whose name Jessa can’t even pronounce properly. Jessa is back to trying to kick her coke habit again and it’s fun to see her do so well so quickly. And though there’s been no shortage of Marnie losing out over the past two seasons, the anguished face she makes during this scene is the best ever.
Finally, there’s the ending, where we learn that apparently Desi genuinely is very much in love with his girlfriend Clementine and has no thoughts of romance with Marnie. As a result, hopped up on adrenaline and sexual frustration after the open mic performance, Marnie heads back to Ray’s for sex, which again shows us how Girls knows what a lot of other TV doesn’t know: just because one person claims it’s over, doesn’t mean it’s over.
We can probably all agree that the near-future outlook doesn’t look so good for Hannah and Adam though. He actually does seem to like his theatre friends (even though they’re presented as awfully intolerable) and he’s beginning to remember how much he loved his old apartment (now Ray’s), which, more to the point, means he’s missing his freedom.
But even the gravity of this is downplayed by the final moments of “I Saw You,” in which Hannah deliberately walks in on Marnie and Ray after brilliantly declaring: “Everything is my business.” And then there’s Marnie’s poor attempt to salvage the situation by meekly and unconvincingly uttering, “He made me.”
This episode ends in a wondrous, hilarious clusterfuck and then, to take us out, Salt-n-Pepa’s “None of Your Business” plays over the credits.