“Leave Me Alone” is one of the clumsier episodes of this first season of Girls, but I guess it accomplishes what it needs to, which is get all of the characters (except for Shoshanna) in a place where they’re questioning what it is they want and what it is they’re going to do next. The season’s been building toward Marnie and Hannah having a giant fight for several episodes now, and when it finally comes, it’s the best scene of the episode. It really does feel like one of those fights you have with a good friend or loved one that seemingly comes out of nowhere but is a fight you’ve been having with that person for ages and ages in your head. I’d be equally unsurprised by the two roommates moving out next week as I would be by them making up. It conveyed the feeling of that situation very well.
The rest of the episode was hit or miss. I’ve really come around on Jessa in these last few episodes, but I’m not entirely sure what was up with having her old boss come by to tell her that she needs to stop being so aloof and care about things. I can get that the writers probably thought Jessa needed to hear that, but there surely must have been more organic ways to get that across than having a character come in and tell her it’s okay to feel serious about certain things. (That said, I really enjoyed watching Jemima Kirke’s facial expressions during this segment, as she went from angry to troubled to mildly curious, as if wondering just what it was that prompted this woman to come and give her this unsolicited advice.) One of the reasons the show has had trouble doing things with Jessa, I think, is because she’s such a reactive character, sitting back and watching everything pass by. This might have been an attempt to shake her out of that role.
I also appreciated the episode for getting us involved in Hannah’s writing career again in earnest. I’ve been thankful that the show hasn’t featured long sequences of Hannah searching for just the right phrasing for one of her essays. Sequences like that are almost always torturous, and showing her obsessing over a tweet in episode three is probably a better way of giving us a window into her creative process anyway. But if this is going to be a show about how Hannah grows up and accomplishes her dreams—how Hannah becomes more like Lena Dunham—then we need to see her make some fumbling steps toward actually pursuing a writing career. The first step every writer needs to overcome—and the hardest one of all, often—is finding someone to listen to your work and offer feedback, and she takes tentative steps toward doing so here, even if she mostly messes them up.
When the episode begins, the characters are at the book release party of a girl named Talia. Hannah knows her from college, and she refers to her as her arch-nemesis, despite the fact that Talia doesn’t seem to participate in this rivalry at all. (Then again, she’s the one who’s had a book published, so she can afford to be magnanimous.) Jealous, petty Hannah is one of the character’s most unappealing sides, but I like that the series depicts her exactly as nasty as she can be when she feels like life has screwed her over. Just about anyone can relate to seeing someone they consider beneath them enjoying great success, and I found the moments where Hannah complained about how “lucky” Talia had been to have a boyfriend who killed himself darkly funny. Jenny Slate was a little over-the-top as Talia, but she was in so little of the episode that this wasn’t a huge flaw.
I liked the bits where Hannah put herself out there to read her stuff at her professor’s reading even more. As I said above, showing your stuff to other people is a crucial and difficult time in the development of any writer, and it’s a time when everything can get destroyed if you don’t have a thick enough skin. Hannah makes the mistake of switching from a personal essay about a hoarder she had a crush on in college to something about a guy she knew on the Internet who died. It’s a piece she wrote on the subway over (and she took her time because they were stopped at Canal Street for forever), and right away, the scene lays in the cringe-y moments, as it becomes evident that whatever Hannah’s written here, it’s not very good, and the audience isn’t going to go with it (other than a couple of old people whose thoughts triggered by it have nothing to do with what she wrote). Hannah runs from the reading in embarrassment, her professor having made her realize that her essay wasn’t as good as the one she initially submitted. It’s tough to realize as a writer that you can’t write what you think the world wants but, rather, what speaks to you, and I suspect this is a lesson Hannah won’t entirely learn for several seasons yet.
I liked most of these individual pieces, but I didn’t really feel as if they fit together in the same episode. The whole thing felt weirdly disjointed, and it’s hard to tell if that was something that happened at the script stage—which attempted to force all of this into the same episode, the better to be prepared for next week’s finale—or if it was in the direction, which often fell into predictable rhythms of cutting between mid-shots. Girls works as well as it does when it does because it finds some interesting and beautiful images to accompany the scripts, and when it doesn’t, it’s too easy for it to just feel like a banal story of young people in the big city. Tonight skirted a bit too close to that: Everybody learned a lesson in the end.
Yet that fight at the end pulled everything back together. Hannah and Marnie have had so few good times this season that it’s almost easier to think of them as two people who grudgingly live together than the “best friends” they say they are. When their friendship dissolves in a spate of shouting angry things at each other and hurling a toothbrush back and forth, it feels completely real and honest, as if these two people really are burning all of the bridges that remain between them. And yet as I watched it, I started to really believe in the two women as friends, as well. Nobody would shout this angrily at someone they didn’t care about. Girls just might end up being a love story, of sorts, but a love story between four women who learn how to be better friends.
- Shoshanna is kind of shoehorned into this episode, with her rambling about her day-date, which Jessa could not care one way or the other about. I sometimes feel like the show uses Shosh a little too quickly for comedic relief, but that could just be me.
- Michael Imperioli, eh? That seemed like a weird casting decision, but I think it worked on the whole. He really did feel like he was half trying to encourage Hannah and half trying to sleep with her.
- Because you’ll ask: The closing song is “Love Is Won” by Lia Ices.
- I’ve come to really enjoy Ray. He’s an asshole, he knows it, and he’s not above just telling everybody exactly what he thinks. His rant to Hannah about what she should wear to work at the coffee shop was mean but also funny.
- In all of the controversy and constant debate about the show, it’s easy to forget just how few people actually watch it, at least first-run. Last week’s episode was the first to break one million viewers! Hooray!