This Girls review contains spoilers.
Girls Season 5 Episode 3
Girls is not just a sitcom. It’s a dramedy, I suppose, but that word feels reductive for what this show can accomplish when at its best. It’s a show that isn’t (or at least wasn’t) afraid to wildly change tone and the darkness it sometimes indulges in when it’s not being funny. That is what initially drew me to the show and made it a regularly exciting watch.
“Old Loves” isn’t all that exciting, really. A good chunk of it is devoted—like much of this season has been—to hokey sitcom premises that really get under my skin. However, as the episode goes on, the overall tone takes a nosedive (in a good way) into the sad and uncomfortable, which redeems it somewhat and makes it easily the best episode of the season so far.
But to begin with the hokey sitcom stuff, there’s a scene with Ray and Elijah in Ray’s café in which Ray talks about how he’s still mad about the rival café that’s opened across the street and Elijah mentions he’s going on a date with famous newscaster guy Dill Harcourt (who we met two episodes ago). There are some funny lines in this scene, like Elijah mentioning that Dill texts with famous people, including Amanda Knox. “Didn’t she kill someone?” asks Ray. “No,” says Elijah. “Maybe.”
However, the scene is terribly unambitious. It doesn’t actually progress anything; it just reminds us of existing plots. Ray’s still mad about the coffee shop and Elijah’s going to date this famous newscaster. Okay, yes, last time he got his phone number and this time he has an actual date, but we didn’t actually need that information explicitly laid out. We could’ve just cut to Elijah already on the date and filled in the blanks. In other words, this scene is just filling time and that makes it feel unnatural. Characters blatantly delivering exposition is the stuff of labored sitcoms.
Worse is Hannah and Fran’s deteriorating relationship. They’re both teachers at the same school, so they’re fighting over grading practices. Hannah, whose behavior in the school has been inappropriate from the get-go, ropes a poor kid from her class into the fight while on school grounds and then Fran ends up acting just as insane as Hannah in the middle of a school hallway in front of this student. The whole thing feels totally manufactured and unreal. At one point Hannah tells the student, who’s just trying to get out of there, “Oh, you’re not goin’ anywhere, missy. You started this and you’ll finish it.” I mean, really? Hannah is immature and oblivious, but even she knows this argument is nothing to do with the student herself.
At least “Old Loves” only improves from there. We see Hannah, Marnie, and Jessa all hanging out in the same room which is a nice surprise, since we rarely see any of the girls together much at all anymore. And there’s a funny exchange where Marnie tells Hannah to hold onto Fran or else she’ll end up alone “like Cher.” “Can’t I end up alone but not like Cher?” asks Hannah. “You’re already like Cher,” says Jessa.
Marnie is back from her honeymoon and Desi is already proving to be the nightmare we know he is, fucking up massively, but with great confidence, and then blubbering like a moron when Marnie gets upset. I don’t have a ton to say about this plot. Marnie’s continued acceptance of Desi’s bullshit is truly infuriating, but I don’t think that’s undeliberate.
The best stuff is to do with Jessa. She obviously wants to be with Adam and, seeing her friendship with Hannah as the obstacle to this, she bristles at everything Hannah says, everything coming to a head in a gourmet rice pudding eatery (this is a real thing in NYC, by the way, for people who don’t live in or around cities that have far too much cash to burn). The possibility is entertained that maybe—though they’ve known each other since they were kids—Hannah and Jessa aren’t meant to be friends forever, which is the most truthful and interesting notion Girls has yet presented this season.
I also like that Jessa and Adam hook up and it’s sort of presented like maybe this was meant to be all along (even though they have bad sex). It’s got that nice synchronicity that Girls often does well of a victory that’s actually a really horrible thing to happen. Jessa and Adam got what they wanted, but at the expense of Hannah and Jessa’s relationship.
I’m sort of lukewarm on the final bit of plot here: Elijah’s date with the famous Dill. Dill’s kind of a weird character and it’s hard to get a read on him. He and Elijah also get an odd, happy montage (not entirely unlike the one Jessa and Adam had two episodes ago). It’s weird because the way it’s shot it looks like a bunch of people form a circle around them to watch them make out (Dill is famous and keeps getting recognized but this is still a somewhat surreal moment). Furthermore, they appear to be having fun in Times Square. Girls usually demonstrates a real understanding of NYC so you’d think they’d realize that showing New Yorkers having fun in NYC is hugely unrealistic. I do have to give kudos for the super-graphic gay sex scene that shows up later. I must admit it took me quite by surprise!
“Old Loves” is another flawed season five episode, but it’s a cut above what we’ve gotten so far, largely because of how it handles the decay of Jessa’s relationship with Hannah and the beginnings of her relationship with Adam. Here’s to more of that.