GIRLS: We All Die Naked or Hannah and Her Mother’s Sisters

GIRLS Lena Dunham

The last two episodes of Girls prominently featured all the main characters and revolved around the shifting dynamics between the four women. But instead of building on that momentum and exploring those evolving relationships further (and, seriously, what is going on with Jessa and can it stop?), we get a capsule episode that essentially stops the season’s in order to concentrate just on Hannah. Girls has done this before (with the infamous Patrick Wilson episode last season, and Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan), but this time it’s a little bit different, because—rather than focus solely on Hannah—Adam is a part of this plot line as well, firmly establishing his importance to both the show and to Hannah. Which, smart move, Girls, because Adam has been one of the most (if not the most) compelling character this season, and, damn, now I’m sort of regretting that there wasn’t just a capsule episode of Adam on his own, at rehearsal, in the apartment by himself. More Adam! But until then, this episode will have to do.

We open on Hannah walking down the street, eating a salad as nobody one does. Hannah is about to receive some bad news from her mother, namely that her grandmother is dying and Hannah had better hurry her ass up to Connecticut to see Grandma Flo before she leaves this world. Or, at least, as Hannah’s mother points out, Hannah had better hurry on up, “if that matters to her.” Which, Hannah insists,”Of course that matters to me!” But we, the viewers, have some reason to doubt that because, well, nothing seems to matter all that much to Hannah. Shhh! Don’t tell, but she’s kind of an emotionally barren narcissist.

Nonetheless, Hannah packs a bag, and Adam laments the fact that he can’t go with her (first week of rehearsals and all), but Hannah seems just fine with going on her own. We learn a little bit more about Adam’s dysfunctional family. (His grandma had “rough skin,” which sounds terrible! Everyone knows grandmas are supposed to have “skin like the inside of a kitten’s ear,” which Hannah’s grandma does. Poor Adam.)

Once in Connecticut, Hannah greets her grandma (and it’s June Squibb!), and talks to her in the voice that so many young people use when talking to the elderly—one of affection and mild condescension—and it’s only the first of Hannah’s familial interactions that rings so true to life (even if not to your life, it still rings true to life life), that it gives me hope for how the less well-developed of the show’s main characters (what’s up, Shoshanna) will be treated for the rest of the season. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that front, but I have renewed hope!

Beyond Grandma Flo, we also meet Hannah’s stridently bitchy aunt Margot, her spinsterish, self-proclaimed martyr aunt Sissy, and her total asshole of a cousin, Rebecca, who was only 6-years-old to Hannah’s 7 when Hannah told her that her father had been arrested for insider trading. Oops. Everyone’s gathered to wait out Grandma Flo’s death and it’s interesting to see this house full of women just pick and pick and pick at each other, each measuring the other’s worth based on their husbands and their children and the most superficial trappings of success. It’s disheartening, of course, but it’s also believable. Families are just a microcosm of society, and in a society that places so much value on winners and losers, degrees obtained and engagement rings received, it’s normal to see issues of status worked out at this level, but it’s still disturbing.

But, well, disturbing makes for good TV,  and such is the case here, especially since it means Hannah’s cousin Rebecca utters such wise and jerky things like “writers are this ridiculous class of people who only think about themselves and they tend to have really strange eating habits” before asking Hannah to meet her later for a drink. (Not that Rebecca drinks, because she’s the worst, she just thought that drinking was the sort of thing someone like Hannah would do.) It’s interesting to see Hannah and Rebecca together, because while Rebecca might seem the more successful to the outside world (med school tends to get a person lots of respect), Hannah has a job too and is also the one with a healthy relationship, whereas Rebecca just has a “boyfriend” who will only see her one night a week because he sees his other girlfriend on the other nights. Rebecca seems to be pretty aware of how fucked up her life is, though, and blames Hannah for ruining it because 7-year-old Hannah convinced Rebecca that they should spend an afternoon touching their, um, “chachis” together. Hannah claims not to remember doing that (although, man, 7-year-old Hannah sounds like she was pretty interesting), and seems to have regretted ever going to a second location with her bitch of a cousin, who is also the kind of jerk who texts and drives. Hannah warns Rebecca not to do that and tries to take her phone, but Rebecca won’t let her (because of Hannah’s “chachi hands”) and promptly crashes their car.

They’re fine, naturally, but it’s enough of a reason for Adam to come zooming up to Connecticut because he was worried about Hannah. He sees she’s ok, and, having already noted that he was being trailed by “a group of mother hens,” is also witness to the petty squabbling of all the women in Hannah’s family, squabbling which culminates in Hannah’s aunt Sissy screaming, “Our mother is upstairs naked and dying!” Adam’s masculinity and taciturn nature is never more apparent than in this scene, hunched as he is in a hospital doorway, seeing for the first time that Hannah comes from as problematic of a place as he does. Although Adam dismisses the fight as being just “like enchilada night at [his] parent’s house,” it obviously affects him, because he decides to go along with a previously denied suggestion of Hannah’s mother (that Hannah and Adam pretend to be engaged, supposedly to make Grandma Flo happy, but more probably to make it seem like Hannah’s mother is better than her sisters).

Even though it’s definitely a faux-engagement, Hannah is clearly happy with Adam and with her life in a way that we haven’t seen before. So, of course, it gets ruined by her mother who warns Hannah about Adam, telling her, “Keep the job, not the guy. Keep yourself open to possibilities. He’s odd. He’s angry. He bounces around from thing to thing. it’s not easy being married to an odd man.” This advice comes on the heels of Hannah’s grandmother telling her, “Someday you will look at him hating him with every fiber of your being, wishing he would die the most violent death possible, but it will pass.” But instead of worrying Hannah, it only seems to confirm for her that the problem isn’t Adam, and it isn’t her choices. Hannah’s life is actually going quite well. She has made something for herself that is all her own. Even if Adam doesn’t end up being the right person for her, Hannah will find that out in her own way. It’s pretty clear from this window into Hannah’s family that Hannah has always been criticized and never considered to be going anywhere good. Well, she’s finally getting there and is told that it’s still not good enough. But Hannah seems to realize the toxicity of the situation and, after it seems like her grandmother will be ok, heads back to New York. Once she exits Grand Central Station, however, she gets a call from her cousin and finds out their grandma died of a heart attack. Rebecca insists Hannah come back to Connecticut, but Hannah doesn’t want to go, saying,  “I‘m already off the train. I’m back in the city.” But unlike the lack of emotion Hannah showed when her editor died earlier in the season, this response of Hannah’s is understandable. Hannah said her goodbyes to Grandma Flo. There’s no reason for her to head back up to her family and wade through their toxic bullshit again. That train has left the station, and Hannah is back where she belongs.


Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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