Girls: Role-Play, review

With only two episodes left in season 3, HBO's Girls has a hot night, role-playing in the city. Here's Joe's review...

There are only two more episodes of Girls third season and I think we’re all expecting some kind of spectacular crash. Season 1 ended on a major down note and Season 2’s finale was shockingly positive (although arguably with an undercurrent of deeply dark stuff running through it). In Season 3, while there’s been a lot of negativity going on around them, Hannah and Adam have kept their relationship pretty solid (some admittedly pretty significant speed bumps aside). Their being together has been the most consistent aspect of the season, giving it an overall positive air. The previous seasons went out with bangs—first super-negative, then ultra-positive—and with things going as well as they have up till this point, it’s my belief that the pendulum will swing back the other way at season close.

“Role-Play” seems to be heralding the coming of the badness, opening with Hannah out with her coworkers, getting way, way, way too drunk—like so drunk it’s uncomfortable to watch. The rest of the episode barely addresses this behavior of Hannah’s, so it doesn’t initiate an obvious plot thread for us to follow, but rather serves to color the episode and how we feel about Hannah during it. What is going on with her that she wants to get so horribly, fall-down shitfaced? She says herself that she’s never gotten drunk like that, like, ever.

The core plotline of the episode is about how Hannah is beginning to feel distant from Adam, partially because of his recent need to focus on the Broadway play he’s landed a part in. But she’s also just having misgivings about how things, like their sex life, are going in general. The issue about Adam turning into a jerk obsessed with the play was foreshadowed in Episode 8, “Incidentals,” but it hinted more at Hannah’s growing obsession with the concept (once it was put into her head by the devious Patti LuPone) rather than with Adam actually living up to the prediction.

As someone who totally sides with creatives and mostly sees actors as strange, empty animals who do what creatives tell them to, I can’t really get behind Adam’s need to focus on his acting; it’s all a bit, well, dramatic. However, as is often the case with this show (and I’m certainly not the first to take notice of it), the men frequently come off as the voices of reason, with the females flailing about confusedly and I know I felt, by episode’s end, that Adam was being basically sensible without being petty or cruel with his decision to stay with Ray until rehearsals are over. He isn’t really getting wrapped up in the vibe or the scene or whatever, as Patti LuPone thought he might. He’s just trying to take the part seriously and that might be easier without being around Hannah freaking out and over-worrying, which, yeah, she tends to do.

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It makes for some good character development for Adam, too. It really is nice to hear him say “It feels amazing to finally care about something.” And it’s put into perspective what a long way we’ve come with him when he explains that the sex-crazed weirdo Hannah remembers him as was a messed-up guy getting over his alcoholism (“You have an old idea of who I am.”) It is actually a little weird to see him briefly become that sexually aggressive guy again in this episode, since he’s largely just been busy being a good boyfriend.

Not that all this character development and dark sex business comes at the cost of comedy because all of the scenes with Hannah trying to seduce Adam here are so goddamned funny (although to some extent genuinely quite nuts). Her opening sexy line to Adam is “Hot night. Summer in the city,” which is so stupid and great. And can we just note how insanely fearless Lena Dunham continues to be with all of Hannah’s deliberately awkward displays of sexuality? The moment when she crawls on the bed, knocking over champagne glasses, and delivers the bizarre line, “Do you want me to eat all the foods?” made me laugh the hardest I’ve ever laughed at this show.

The other stuff going on in “Role-Play” isn’t terrible, but manages to highlight how Jessa and Marnie feel like they’ve been reduced more than a bit. Marnie is still, this late in the season, getting repeatedly knocked down, first being offered a job she’s overqualified for as an assistant for Soojin, who’s younger than her and is opening her new art gallery with her daddy’s funds. Following that, her (deliberately?) awful, clichéd relationship (or whatever it is) with Desi continues to develop, with them writing really awful songs and him alternately encouraging her talent and brazenly flirting with her, then reminding her he has a girlfriend. As of right now, it feels like it’d be a bigger twist to discover that this is actually Desi being authentic, because it’s really coming off like a guy following the steps of some horrible pick-up artist routine.

Although it’s unfortunate that Jessa’s just become a loose-cannon junkie again, I’m glad it hasn’t been too drawn out. She basically got back into coke with her rehab buddy Jasper two episodes ago and she’s already reaching a crashing, stark realization here. It also introduces an interesting notion about her personality by not just being about her addiction, but about how she’s really just a dark, sad, alone person. It’s great how Shoshanna forces Jasper to meet up with his estranged daughter and, instead of it being a terrible idea, it actually goes really well, almost cheesily well, like it’s straight out of an after-school special or something. The scene seems to be saying that sometimes there really are these happy, corny endings to dark stories. Jasper actually is joyously reunited with his daughter, something Jessa, whose father has thus far proven to be an irredeemable shit, can only regard with cynical scorn.

The main plot with Adam and Hannah is what made “Role-Play” so good and so funny and Jessa’s story (featuring Shosh) landed decently too. Marnie, unfortunately, still felt shunted to the side and wasn’t given much of interest to do. I truly don’t even know how to feel about her situation with Desi as I can’t at all tell yet where Girls is going with it.

Only two episodes left in Season 3. I’d be surprised if anything goes well for anybody.

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4 out of 5