There’s nothing particularly wrong with this week’s episode of Girls. In fact, the run of episodes ever since Hannah got back from Iowa have had a great momentum to them, with lots of big dramatic and comedic moments littered all over. “Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz” continues this trend, and is another very solid episode. The only thing that brings it down when compared to the episodes that led us here is that a good chunk of it is spent with Hannah’s parents.
I like Hannah’s parents quite a lot, but the bulk of their storyline is spent at a dinner party celebrating Hannah’s mom, Loreen, getting tenure, and I frankly just find the new adult characters we’re introduced to a bit dull. I love Tad and Loreen (or at least Tad; Loreen is a meanie), but I think the dinner party scenes at Avi (Fred Melamad) and Shanaz’s (Jackie Hoffman) house slow things down a tad.
Not that the subject matter here isn’t effectively dramatic as the big reveal is that Hannah’s dad is gay! One could view this plot development as an unfair way to introduce drama and while that could certainly be argued, I’m inclined to think that Girls has had this story in mind for some time now. After all, way back in the third episode of the first season, Elijah told Hannah he thought her father was gay.
There have been smaller clues sprinkled about, too. This is an interesting storytelling technique that Girls has employed in the past, inserting sporadic, seemingly insignificant moments throughout the course of a season or two, and then suddenly revealing that they add up to be a big deal. For example, there was Hannah’s OCD in the second season, which was foreshadowed by a line from Marnie in the first season about a time during which Hannah felt she had to masturbate eight times a night.
Hannah also exhibited small ticks over season two that completely went over my head, but I saw people with OCD commenting that they found them clear indicators of the disorder.
I’m going to assume there have been more hints of Hannah’s dad’s homosexuality, but the only one I recall right now is in episode four when he comes to visit her in Iowa. There was an odd moment, right after he and Hannah parted ways, where Tad did a dejected sort of swipe at the air. It stuck out to me because it seemed to not be tied to anything else. Now it’s clear that it was his initial intent to visit Hannah in Iowa to tell her he was gay but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. I think it’s debatable whether these tiny suggestions of plot that abruptly reveal themselves as something greater are a valid storytelling device or just a bullshit way to employ a twist. I’m personally not totally decided either way, but I do think they’re unique and another feature of Girls that makes it feel more authentic to how life actually works.
Not nearly as subtle, but still built interestingly, is the plot of Jessa trying to romantically ensnare Mimi-Rose Howard’s ex-boyfriend, Ace. We learned last episode that Jessa introduced Adam to MRH in the first place in an effort to get closer to Ace, meaning that Hannah’s heartbreak has actually been part of Jessa’s Machiavellian machinations all along. Speaking of, I’ve seen people dubbing Jessa outright evil for doing this. I guess she’s got very little friend loyalty, yes, and that’s pretty fucked up. But, beyond that, I thought she didn’t do anything too horrible, especially considering Hannah and Adam’s relationship wasn’t exactly going fantastically anyway. And, motives aside, she still brought together two people who enjoy each other’s company, right?
Of course, Jessa’s much more openly evil in this episode, bragging to Shoshanna that her power over men is so absolute that a few guys have attempted suicide over her. But, I don’t know; I don’t take Jessa that seriously. She’s something of a sociopath, that much is true, but we’ve seen she’s more vulnerable than she lets on and, whether these suicide attempts happened or not, I doubt she handled them as cavalierly as she’s able to talk about them now.
Regarding Shosh, we get a lot of amazing stuff here. I mean, the first time she shows up in this episode, she’s trimming her pubes, for gosh sakes. Other than that, she’s helping Ray with his campaign to be chairperson of his district community board, and she goes on a date with the instant ramen CEO she had an interview with two episodes ago. All of this makes for good Shosh material, like when she claims, “I’m a renegade. Like, things get crazy for me.” Or her sudden, failed attempt at dirty talk, which is an incredible mouthful featuring the phrase “my slimy vagina.”
We’ve also got Marnie and Desi getting into a big fight over him spending their entire advance from the music company on some German pedals. So, being a dumbshit like he is, Desi does what people generally do when a relationship is going terribly: he escalates it. He proposes to Marnie who, being someone who wants to believe in a “Prince Charming will come to save me” kind of happiness, accepts. Not a lot of time is spent with these two, but it’s a believable development that’s bound to result in some colossal clusterfuckery in the future.
Finally, as predicted, Hannah’s young and hip approach to teaching is already turning more than a bit wrong. She’s definitely a bit too familiar with one student, Cleo (played by Judd Apatow’s daughter, Maude; your prayers have been answered, idiots who still accuse this show of nepotism!). It’s a fantastic train wreck to watch Hannah share way too much with a girl several years her junior and then let her peer pressure her into getting a piercing (that Hannah ultimately backs out of). And, oh my Christ, the scene where Cleo gets her frenulum pierced is drawn-out and brilliantly horrific. It probably even beats out the Q-tip scene from season two.
All in all, there are a lot of wonderful scenes and lines in “Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz.” I may have done the episode some disservice by not focusing on what’s ostensibly the A-plot, Hannah’s dad coming out, but I’m more interested to see how Hannah will deal with this news, and she only finds out right at the end. As it is, the dinner party scenes are a little dull and sometimes feel like they’re out of a cheesier, more badly written drama than Girls (Fred Melamad is partially to blame; he’s not a bad actor, but the guy speaks so articulately and with such bombast he makes everything melodramatic, sometimes clashing with the less over-the-top characters).
Make no mistake, a lot of the parents’ storyline is great, like Tad’s evidence that he’s gay, “In truth, I watch a lot of gay pornography” or the other couple at the dinner party admitting their daughter smoked meth, but it could be worse. “How could it be worse?” asks Avi.
Overall, a solid, if occasionally a bit disengaging, episode continuing the trend of good stuff we’ve had for four episodes now. And it sets up a lot of major plot threads I’m excited to watch pay off.