Monday, March 18, 2013

"Girls" - "Together": See you next fall

     Adam (Adam Driver) saves the day (I guess?) on "Girls".
     Photo Credit: HBO

I recently started watching "My So-Called Life" for the first time and I've been following along with Amelie Gillette's old-ish reviews on The A.V. Club. I haven't been as impressed with them as I have with some other things written for that site, but I do enjoy her reviews especially because she watched "My So-Called Life" when it originally aired on ABC back in 1994, and it provides her with an interesting perspective. Her review of the sixth episode, "The Substitute," notes that her opinion of it had largely changed over the years because upon first watching it as a student of creative writing, she felt it was an inaccurate depiction of the process - "I had an aversion to anything that made writing seem like something anyone could do if given an inspirational teacher and a few candles, as well as anything that reduced good creative writing to something that 'does better than make sense. It makes you feel,'" Gillette wrote.

I mention this because I'd like to highlight what I felt was the sole positive of the season two finale of "Girls" that aired this past Sunday (March 17) before I tear apart what was otherwise a disappointing conclusion to the season.

"Girls" has had its fun with Hannah's writing career this season (can I make one last mention of Murjashiway?) and as something of a writer myself, I can appreciate that the show doesn't attempt to portray it with any kind of glamour - I'm not sure how they would do that, but you get what I mean. I didn't necessarily love the story, but I did find her troubles amusing and thought that Lena Dunham got some Lena Dunham-y lines to read in her Lena Dunham-y delivery that were quite funny, such as telling her father that she was able to self-diagnose her scarlet fever by reading Louisa May Alcott. I would have probably really enjoyed an episode that was just a day in the life of Hannah the writer. Obviously "Girls" isn't the kind of show where she could have buckled down and cranked out her book in that one day, but I think I still would have enjoyed watching her fail at that rather than give up immediately and try to get her parents to bail her out as always (I know it's Hannah, but she should really learn how futile it is to ask them for money at this point).

We couldn't get that episode, however, because it was season finale time. Only this wasn't "She Did". It wasn't "Casino Night". It wasn't "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." Little to none of "Together" felt like it was happening organically, for any reason other than the show was going to be away for awhile and some things needed to be brought to a close. The Shoshanna and Ray breakup we all knew was coming happened, but wasn't brought about by any new developments in this episode. They might as well have broken up in any of the last two or three episodes, because in the interim we saw the same beats of Shoshanna realizing what a crummy relationship that was that we only needed to see once (probably in the Radhika episode where she makes out with the doorman).

I was also extremely disheartened by the end of the Marnie arc this year. Marnie has been making an ass of herself in front of Charlie all year and it's been at times quite painful, and at times quite funny (often both). But that arc doesn't end with her and Charlie together in a happy relationship where she's ready to have his brown babies. It ends with Marnie realizing that Charlie is making her do stupid things that she shouldn't be doing because he's just Charlie and she's not a good or prosperous person when she's around him. I had enjoyed this arc through the preceding nine episodes and was happy that character was given more to do than the first season made Allison Williams seem capable of. I trusted the writers to give her the wake up call she needed by the season's end, and they didn't give it to her. Marnie is just as much a screwup as Hannah in her own right, but she doesn't deserve that kind of shaft. If anything, I'd like to selfishly find some weird way for Christopher Abbott to return to "Enlightened" as a regular for season 3 (which, psh, is totally happening, duh) so that the temptation of Charlie can be eliminated for her altogether.

And while I was slightly amused by Hannah's earlier misadventures in writing, her final scene with Adam left me very confused about that relationship as well and what the show was telling me about them. I get that Adam is the person in Hannah's life who tells her to keep away from the broken glass, but I neither understood nor felt the apparent triumph or heroism that was him running shirtless all the way to her apartment through Facetime. I think the takeaway was supposed to be that in the end, Adam's a good guy and he's the one person she can really count on no matter what she might otherwise feel about him. But to me that's such a bleak statement about their relationship ("At least Hannah has one person she can always count on...oh, but it's...Adam") that I think sells short a lot of their history and the things that make them their most interesting when paired together.

To me, it felt like a strangely sad appropriate capper to a season that's seen higher highs and lower lows than the show saw in 2012. This season gave us some really tremendous episodes like the "Louie"-esque adventures "One Man's Trash" and "Video Games". But as good as those half hour standalones are, they're really detrimental to the overall arc of the season. There were 10 episodes in total, but only seven or eight of them lived within any kind of story continuity, a short amount of time to develop a plot on a television show ("Veep," the former neighbours of "Girls," produced only eight episodes for their first season and wisely opted out of any attempts at a running arc last year). That means when it's time to wrap everything up, it's hard to tie everything up in a nice bow the way a delicate show like "Girls" needs to.

I'm hoping the third season, which will consist of 12 episodes, will let them have their cake and eat it too by writing outstanding standalone episodes that don't cut into time that could be better spent on fleshing out and concluding the 2014 adventures of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna. In the meantime, I'm okay with "Girls" taking a bit of a breather to refocus - if need be, possibly get a whiff of a few candles.