Not to be a broken record here, but a big part of why Girls remains a worthwhile show is that it stays flexible about what genre it is, varying up the tone from week to week. It isn’t shy about occasionally venturing into extremes either. Sometimes the comedy can get too silly and others the drama gets laid on real thick. “Sit-In” goes for both with a simultaneous tackling of absurd and dramatic. And the result is the best episode of the season so far.
Last episode, I rambled at significant length about how it was disappointing though not unexpected that Hannah left Iowa so quickly. However, the utter turmoil that greets her upon her return to NYC is not a bad consolation prize. Coming back to the show’s home base with everything being sunshine and roses would be the show’s manifestation of Hannah’s thought process, i.e., “this is hard so I’m giving up and going back to where everything’s familiar and comfortable.” It’s fine for a character to be a quitter (especially a character like Hannah), but if everything in the show’s universe reverts to the status quo, that’s the writers quitting, which is far less okay. This is why it’s a great idea to have Hannah attempt to return to her comfort zone, only to find that, in just a month, it’s in a nigh-unrecognizable state.
I also personally just adore episodes where no one is getting along. It’s a cheeky thrill to see characters who are normally presented as liking each other (or at least being compatible to some degree) instead at each other’s throats. It’s like a new level of characterization is unlocked and new dynamics between everyone are unearthed. Also, people getting pissed off at each other is a reliable place to go for comedy. This is why (and I know I’m alone in this) the Season 2 premiere of Community, in which all of Jeff’s friends are furious with him, is my favorite episode of that entire series.
In “Sit-In,” Hannah’s the pissed-off one, so it’s her against everyone else. The anger on display is not nearly as extreme as that Community episode, but it still sufficiently scratches my itch for chaos.
Highlights include Hannah hitting Shoshanna in the boob with her foot (twice), Jessa and Hannah smacking each other around a little, and Hannah so wanting to avoid running into Adam or his new girlfriend that, rather than leaving her bedroom to use the bathroom, she chooses to piss in a bucket.
Again, this is, to an extent, a very silly episode, but where a scene like Hannah’s rager with Elijah three episodes ago felt too over-the-top, the goofy stuff works here and I think it’s for two reasons.
One, even the dumbest moments are couched in some level of realism. The brief appearance of Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) and Laird (Jon Glaser) is by far the most surreal and inane part of the episode, but it’s brought down to earth some by how obviously uncomfortable Hannah is. Caroline and Laird making out behind Hannah’s head while keeping her trapped in a three-way hug goes on just a little longer than you’d like it to, to its benefit, as we get to feel some of Hannah’s distress ourselves.
The second reason the absurd nonsense works is it doesn’t dominate the episode and is used as a building block to the final act which is deeply bittersweet and played completely straight. The structure of “Sit-In” feels borderline farcical with Hannah holed up in her bedroom, emerging periodically to find a different character awaiting her in the living room each time. It almost feels like a writing exercise turned TV episode but the idea that everyone gingerly seeks audience with Hannah one person at a time (Caroline and Laird being the exceptions) and each with a different idea of what it is Hannah needs to make her feel better (though tea and food are recurring solutions) is an inherently hilarious premise.
It also works really well that the initial attempts to reach out to Hannah are abject failures, but those who try later in the episode gradually manage to break down her defenses and build her to accepting that she has to let Adam go. And the moments of comedy in the latter, more dramatic acts are still great. The shot of Ray with his hand on Hannah’s face and Hannah with hers on his—but with an oversized, dirty work glove duct-taped to her wrist—cracked me up on repeated viewings.
I also love that Marnie is again clearly defined as Hannah’s best friend. I know a lot of people seem to hate Marnie and she obviously doesn’t know what’s good for her own well-being, but she definitely cares about Hannah and undeniably gives her the best advice out of everyone in the episode. Also, Hannah and Adam’s talk that serves as the final nail in the coffin of their relationship is well-handled; it’s touching but not sappy. Hell, they don’t even hug at the end.
A side note: I love Gillian Jacobs loads and, as Adam’s new girlfriend, she hasn’t been utilized much yet, but I think it’s great that she’s basically the polar opposite of her character on Community. Where Community’s Britta Perry is a hot mess, Girls’ Mimi-Rose Howard is a productive artist who totally has her shit together. Also, Girls has always had fun with giving characters funny names and they hit the jackpot with Mimi-Rose Howard. It’s funny to hear people say it, with or without the last name attached, or when Jessa casually acronymizes it to “MRH.” It’s just a fantastically silly name. As Hannah puts it, “That’s not a name. That’s just a woman’s name and a man’s name with a flower stuck in the middle of it.”
“Sit-In” is a wonderful episode. Girls didn’t do an amazing job with its time in Iowa, but that it followed it up by thrusting everything into abject chaos—and at the end leaving our hero alone and sleeping in a storage unit—is sad, funny, dark, and ballsy. We may be back in a familiar place, but at least that place is falling apart.