Girls: Japan review

Girls is getting funnier but is slipping into sitcom plotting territory.

This Girls review contains spoilers.

Girls Season 5 Episode 3

Look, it could be I’m talking crap here with my issues about this season embracing its sitcom side more than it ever has before. Maybe last season was basically like this too? But it feels to me like I felt this sitcom sensation sporadically throughout previous seasons whereas now every episode has at least one quickly-disposable conflict. And, if it’s not that, everything is just hammier than I’m comfortable with.

This time we get a look into Shoshanna’s life in Japan and, holy heck, at the start this plot is just one big, fat ol’ ham hock. Shosh has a sort of absurdist cartoon lifestyle in Japan, living in a garish, multicolored apartment building with a façade that looks like something out of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. She also works a joyous dream job in an especially modern-looking office. That’d all be fine enough except she has a superior named Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima) with whom some incredibly painful-to-watch flirtation takes place. I think part of it is the awkwardness of the actors interacting. Mizushima has only starred in Japanese productions prior to this and maybe the international divide is making it harder for the actors to connect as there is some majorly bad, over-the-top, lovey-dovey mugging between Zosia Mamet and Mizushima.

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However, even if that weren’t an issue, there are scenes here that are just lame on their own. There’s this corny bit in a candy shop where Shosh glides through the place making eyes at Yoshi, who’s eating ice cream, while she scarfs down some cotton candy. It sounds dumb just typing it out. Also terribly cornball is Shosh at a bathhouse talking about her crush on Yoshi with her Japanese girlfriends followed by a cut to Yoshi doing the same thing with his guy friends in a male bathhouse. This setup is so rom-com it hurts. In fact, it reminds me of a horrid scene that was doing the rounds on the web from that horrid American Idol movie, From Justin to Kelly. Yes, I’m saying something in Girls called to mind From Justin to Kelly. If I ever say anything worse about this show in the future, it’ll mean we’re in very dire straits indeed.

The other plot takes place back in the US and is about Hannah getting pissed off after finding naked pics of ex-girlfriends on her boyfriend Fran’s phone that he admits to masturbating to. That’s effectively the whole plot right there. See what I mean about it feeling like a throwaway sitcom conflict?

However, I’m not being entirely fair here. Both of these plots gradually venture into darker, decidedly un-sitcom territory more befitting of what I expect from Girls. Yes, Hannah’s plot is kind of fluff and essentially amounts to scenes of her asking all her friends whether or not she’s overreacting (one of the funniest moments of the episode is when she calls Marnie, who’s still on her honeymoon in Ecuador and who’s taken to pronouncing it “Eh-hwa-dor”). But Hannah’s plot culminates in more of a dissolution than a resolution as she ultimately decides she can’t accept Fran’s naked girlfriend pics and stealth-deletes them all from his phone while he sleeps.

Shosh’s plot also gets dark as she loses her job and everything wraps up (bizarrely) at an S&M club. I wouldn’t say the plot progression exactly works; the S&M stuff kind of comes out of nowhere. But, hey, it certainly takes this story out of the sitcom comfort zone. On that note, there is a LOT of nudity in this episode and I guess you don’t get that on CBS, now do you?

Oh, Adam and Jessa’s ongoing whatever-it-is gets a brief check-in as Adam kisses Jessa again. She pulls away and storms out, name-checking a sitcom trope as she does so: “I’m not doing this ‘will they, won’t they shit.” Actually, you kind of already are, Girls. But I’d like to think you’re better than that. 

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2.5 out of 5