Lena Dunham in "Girls"
HBO Lena Dunham in "Girls"
If last week’s episode dealt with body horror (ass splinters! lodged Q-tips!), this week’s episode deals with the horror of finishing things. Hannah struggles -- but not too hard -- with wrapping up her barely inchoate manuscript, while “Girls” struggles with capping off its second season in a coherent, consistent fashion. It fails.

Some combination of Hannah’s OCD and her innate laziness has caused her ebook deal to crash and burn. She’s written practically nothing, and Pumpt Magazine editor David (John Cameron Mitchell), reminding Hannah of her already-received advance hanging in the balance, threatens to sue her if she doesn’t produce a manuscript by the day’s end. Hannah, disconnected from reality, opts to spend her make-or-break moment tending to her ruptured eardrum, flipping through glossies and giving herself a “short n’ gorgeous” haircut that goes awry. Neighbor Laird (Jon Glaser) cleans it up for her, and also gives her the wake-up call that most “Girls” viewers have been waiting for: “You know what, Hannah? You are the most self-involved, presumptuous person I have ever met. Ever.”

Girls Episode 10, Marnie Charlie

This would be a more relish-worthy retort if it didn’t come crammed in the middle of one of the worst episodes in the series’ history. After her slow and soulful rendition of  Kanye West’s “Stronger” followed by desk sex with Charlie in his office, Marnie is still in Crazy Town, and for some reason Charlie is willing to be her escort. Marnie almost has a Booth Jonathan repeat incident, thinking Charlie is sleeping with her casually. But after she shouts at him over brunch, berating him for not wanting to “settle down” at the tender age of 25, he blandly admits his love for her.

This episode suffered from a distinct pressure to wrap up storylines, or at least to have a Big Event occur in each storyline (except for dear Jessa, who is still MIA and only present via her coolly dismissive voicemail greeting). I was intrigued to see Adam and Natalia giving it the old college try after their highly uncomfortable sexual encounter from last week’s episode. Here, Natalia seems willing to work on things with Adam, particularly his romantic/sexual control issues that have come to the fore. “I can like your cock and not be a whore,” she asserts, while he pumps away on top of her.

But, deep down, Adam wants someone to like his cock and accept his male-narrated slut-calling. This is an interesting thread to be gleaned from his ultimate return to Hannah, who as we remember from the first season had (mostly) no problem playing along with his sexual preferences. (She also “acted like [he] was teaching her everything,” as Adam admitted during his AA meeting.) Yet Hannah and Adam’s reunion at this episode’s end plays more like a Ross-and-Rachel sitcom moment, with a dewy and shirtless Adam hightailing it through the streets and subways of Brooklyn to sadsack Hannah, breaking down her door and then cradling her in his arms. What could have been a shrewd comment on Adam and Hannah’s power dynamic instead turns into a forced, glossed-over denouement to a fairly strong season.

Girls Episode 10, Ray

In an attempt to end on a positive note, I will commend Ray and Shoshanna’s scenes. Former SNL alum Colin Quinn makes a funny cameo as the Grumpy’s Café owner who talks Ray down from his Latin Studies PhD cliff and instead convinces him to become the manager at a new Brooklyn Heights location. Alas, this promotion doesn’t impress Shosh, because really it’s Ray’s dark and dismal (or “critical,” take your pick) view of the world that’s not working for her. Their ten-year age gap is showing fatal signs of stress: Ray enjoys being jaded, and Shoshanna, somewhat wisely, realizes she will have plenty of time later on for bitterness, and that her early twenties are about retaining positivity and kissing Adult Male Blonds.

And so the one couple I like from the series breaks up, while two other couples awkwardly and phonily get back together. It will be interesting to see how these developments progress (or devolve) in Season Three. The problem with the series’ recent focus on its strong male characters -- the guys of “Girls” -- is that a narrative obligation arises to keep them in the picture. If only that obligation didn’t manifest in such woefully typical ways.

Bits and pieces:

  • This episode is directed by Lena Dunham, and co-written by Dunham and Judd Apatow.
  • “Sight of the Sun” by fun. plays over the end credits. (fun.’s lead guitarist, Jack Antonoff, is Dunham’s real-life boyfriend.)
  • Best line goes to David, quoting e.e. cummings: “Chloe Sevigny… not even the rain has such small hands.”