One of the things I’ve admired about this season of “Girls” is that it has no obligation to regularly check in with each of the four “leads” of the show. Instead, certain characters are more central in certain episodes, in an organic way, while supporting characters are given a surprising amount of interiority.
Ray (Alex Karpovsky), usually used in the show for a sort of neo-Woody Allen curmudgeonly humor (and not always successfully), has had more dramatic material in recent episodes, and it’s paying off. Indeed, one of the central themes of this episode is ego, and we see this most sharply through Ray’s character. As we know from the fourth episode, Ray considers himself a loser unworthy of his girlfriend Shoshanna. So when Adam (Adam Driver) suggests that he might need “back-up” when returning a stolen dog to its Staten Island meathead owner, Ray’s eyes light up. Back-up sounds so masculine!
Of course the reason Ray tracked down Adam was to reclaim his copy of “Little Women,” but never mind. The two make a pilgrimage with dog in tow out to Staten Island, a relatively short ferry ride but culturally lands away from their beanies-and-brunch version of Brooklyn. The women wear trucker hats, and aren’t afraid to belt things at the pasty white boys like “CONTROL yuh animal!” or “I gotta pistol in my purse… Go back to yogurt town, kike!”
This second unsavory barb is hurtled at Ray by the dog owner’s daughter. By this point, he and Adam have split ways over a petty argument about Hannah, and Ray is left to deposit the poor animal without getting his teeth kicked in. He manages to have his ego kicked in by the daughter, a foul-mouthed high schooler operating on a narrative level as his realized inner demon. She spits at him that he probably lives with his mom (not quite true -- he lives with Shoshanna by virtue of having nowhere else to live), calls him an “old man” and “fucking loser” with no job (again, not true, but this grates on his feelings of directionlessness) and, as above, that he’s a “kike.” Ray humorously points out that isn’t true either – “I’m Greek orthodox!” -- but as he existentially bemoans to the dog in the episode’s final scene, “You think I’m a kike? I’m not even that.” Ray only thinks of himself in terms of negatives -- a perpetual state of “isn’t” or “not enough.”
Meanwhile, Marnie also suffers an ego bruising. She learns the score of her and Booth’s relationship, which is probably a good thing, because she acts like a conceited snot while fancying herself his girlfriend. Booth (Jorma Taccone) asks her to host one of his parties, which she excitedly agrees to, buying herself what could be described as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Dress for the occasion. When she discovers that Booth wants to pay her for the night, and that her hosting is in fact a gig and not further proof of Booth’s undying love, she bursts into tears.
Marnie’s infatuation with Booth is pretty common -- an obsession with the idea of someone and all their social trappings as opposed to a genuine affection for that person. Booth, a whiny, ridiculous blowhard, knows this all too well, and reveals some self-esteem issues of his own: “This is exactly why I can’t hang out with anyone, because everyone just uses me for what I represent to them.”
Hannah, who’s been offered an ebook deal by the Pumped Magazine editor and her idol (John Cameron Mitchell), faces a similar reality check. She must turn in a manuscript within the month (ack!), which will involve a lot of writing -- something we never see her do on the show. Suddenly the romantic idea of a being a writer is in her lap, staring back at her with a mercilessly blank page on her MacBook Pro. Both Hannah and Marnie’s fantastic illusions of the lives they wanted are whipped aside, revealing that the man behind the curtain -- whoever or whatever that may be -- ain’t no wizard. In the strongest scene of the episode, the two must lie to each other to keep up appearances, and in doing so realize their strained and irrevocably changed friendship.
Bits and pieces:
- This episode, titled “Boys,” is directed by Claudia Weill, marking the first woman to direct an episode of “Girls” outside of Lena Dunham. It is written by Dunham and Murray Miller.
- Best line goes to Hannah’s book manuscript: “Chapter 1: Room for Cream?”