Email Roundtable # 15 – Girls

Norman Rockwell - Girl Missing ToothIn this installment of the Email Roundtable we attempt to discuss the new season of Girls and its most recent episodes.

Kerri: I want to start our Roundtable discussion by acknowledging something that, I think, we have all discussed over the last little while when talking about Girls. There seem to be two camps when it comes to the show. In one camp people dislike Girls an awful lot and sometimes this dislike verges on hate (and that isn’t even considering the outright sexism that is at the heart of some of this criticism). On the other side of things we have people who like the show quite a bit but have issues with it that range from the characters, to the writing, to the nudity, etc. I know few people who love the show outright and see nothing to be critical about. BUT I will say that the people who like the show seem to defend it – HARD.

And I feel like the latter camp is where I and (I may be overstepping my bounds here) we all land. Because I don’t think the show is perfect, it is quite often FAR from that, but I think at the moments where it hits the right notes it is close to something like perfection.
The last two episodes have been, for me, illuminating. I didn’t like “Bad Friend” much at all but liked a lot that was going on in “It’s a Shame About Ray”.

Jane: I think I fall into the camp of a person who likes the show quite a bit but I definitely have issues with it. However, I have been known to defend the show pretty hard. In that respect I feel a little like Hannah in “It’s a Shame About Ray” when she is defending Marnie. She’s allowed to be upset with Marnie, but as soon as Charlie says something negative she jumps to Marnie’s defense.

Katie: Girls is so interesting because there is always so much to talk about! I certainly don’t love the show but I will defend it.

Two great line-deliveries from Lena Dunham this week. That moment (when she jumps to the defense of Marnie) and when Shoshanna asks what butt-plugs are. “Showwwwwsh. Plugs for your butt.” Sweet, yet critical of her ignorance.

Kerri: What did you gals think of “Bad Friend”? I felt pretty icky after watching it. Especially the Marnie/Booth Jonathan plot.

Katie: I hate the Booth Jonathan storyline. Anyone who is into art (which Marnie is) knows that Booth Jonathan is a hack and his art is shit. So is Marnie pretending to like his stuff or does she actually? Either way, it’s despicable.

I thought the sequence with Hannah and Elijah was perfectly giddy and fluffy, but I didn’t much care for the rest of the episode. Hannah with her boobs out was quite funny though, I must say.

Kerri: She can rock the shit out of a mesh shirt.

I don’t know that I buy that Marnie would have any tolerance for Booth. I get that she thinks he’s cool because he’s an artist but I can’t believe that she wouldn’t see past that and recognize that he is a horrible person. I found the whole scenario ridiculous and disgusting.

Jane: I’m not a fan of the Booth Jonathan storyline, but what I thought worked well was the Bad Friend speech Hannah gives Marine at end of the episode. She is so pleased to be the good friend, finally. That speech also makes believable Elijah’s exit in the next episode. It may seem far-fetched for Hannah to kick Elijah out but Hannah is playing the Good Friend role. Since Elijah is the bad friend Hannah kicks him out the way Marnie does  her when their roles are reversed.

Katie: And he wasn’t wearing a condom. The writers are doing an excellent job of making us hate Booth Jonathan.

Kerri: I think that is interesting, Jane. I never thought of the fact that the Hannah/Marnie reunion is the payoff for the somewhat horrifying scenes with Booth that come before. I do fear though that Booth isn’t gone. Marnie mentions that she is (uggh) dating him when she talks to Charlie on the roof in “It’s a Shame About Ray”.

And his name is “Booth Jonathan”. That will likely go down as one of the douchiest names ever.

Katie: “Look at the doll.”

How do you ladies feel about the Jessa storyline this week?

Kerri: I wasn’t sure about the Jessa storyline at first but I feel like, with the Marnie story, it found its emotional payoff by episode’s end.

Jane: This is true, but having seen the first season, I believe that Dunham has future episodes well mapped out. Things that bothered me intensely in Season 1 have slowly turned around and paid off in a big way. My favorite example is Jessa.

Jessa has consistently been my least favorite character on the show. “It’s a Shame About Ray” blew all of that away. Her character, while still playing bored brilliantly, shows vulnerability. It was a huge pay off from her slow development in season one and from my least favorite moment on the show, her marriage to Thomas John. For the first time we see her insecurities peaking through her bored exterior when she meets Thomas John’s parents. In this meeting it is clear to me that she wants to make the marriage work. We can see that she is trying at first to make a good impression. When her attempts fail she pushes hard in the other direction, sabotaging the evening in what I believe is a test of Thomas John’s loyalty. When he doesn’t give her what she wants everything explodes in an ending to the relationship I didn’t see coming. I thought Jemima Kirke was brilliant in the fall out of that scene and in the bathtub scene with Hannah.

When I think about my disgust for Booth Jonathan, I can’t help but consider my disgust for Adam Driver in the early episodes of Girls. I hated him at first. I didn’t believe that Hannah would be so hung up on him and he is now one of my favorite characters.

Kerri: I think Jessa is a problematic character in a lot of ways. I think, first of all, she is so removed from the rest of the group. You don’t know her that well in relation to the rest of the “girls”. I also think bored is an incredibly difficult emotion to play in an interesting way (though I do think she does it well). But I will say that I liked her more in this episode than I ever have. She might actually have a more interesting arc than I could have ever imagined. I think that your faith in Dunham is paying off, Jane. And with Jessa it might be the most apparent.

Katie: I’m on the opposite fence, Jane. I think Jessa, the person, not the actor, is a great actor. I feel much the same about the character as Thomas John does – that she is simply bored and playing out stories with her life.

Because I felt that way, the bathtub scene did not read any emotion for me. I don’t know if it was a script thing or a Jemima Kirke thing. But I just didn’t buy that Jessa feels all that bad. Or that she’ll change. That isn’t a bad thing though in terms of the show itself. I mean, we always want characters to grow and change, but I just don’t see it with Jessa… yet…?

Jane: I disagree completely! She may not love Thomas John in the purest way but I think her hurt is pretty palpable in the fight as well as the bathtub scene. She may have married him for the story but I believe she cares for him and the end of their relationship hurt her deeply.

Kerri: I disagree, Katie. I think that Jessa is changing. Because, what Thomas John says about her, however mean, is ultimately true. And I think that she is realizing it in the bathtub. Before, Jessa would never be able to have a self-realization like that.

Katie: But she does have a self-realization like that — when the mother she is babysitting for tells her exactly that. And she goes and marries Thomas John!

Sorry, I don’t mean to harp on the point. I do think that the Jessa storyline is fascinating and will go very interesting places. I just don’t see it the same as you two.

Kerri: Maybe…but, in essence she’s just collecting experiences and not really living like Thomas John says. She’s just repeating that over and over again.

Jane: I don’t think it is a realization as much as she takes the accusation as a dare. She’ll show that mother that she can do important things. I truly think she was trying in that horrible dinner with Thomas John’s snobby parents. If she didn’t care she would have wrecked the situation right away.

Katie: No Adam these past two episodes? Is he gone or lying in wait?

Kerri: Yeah…where the heck is Adam? Apparently, there is an episode coming up called “Boys” which I am very much looking forward too!

Speaking of boys, how amazing was that scene between Ray and Shoshanna? I loved it more than I think I’ve loved anything else on the show.

Katie: It was ADORABLE! I loved Ray’s turn from “this is way too soon to say that” to “I fucking love you so much.”

Kerri: Those two characters and what they are allowed to do on the show is consistently surprising to me. I’m so glad that they exist and I get to watch them.

Jane: I think we needed the Jessa/Thomas John explosion to pave the way for the amazing tone of this scene. It is my favorite scene of the show so far. It melted my heart, in an amazing shift away from what I thought was going to be a crushing break up. You can’t get much more honest than these two actors.

Katie: Shoshanna is so refreshing! She immediately says what is on her mind, even if it might hurt her. Adam is the same way. And now after being with Shosh, Ray is allowing himself to be more vulnerable. So touching to watch.

Jane: That is a great point. Most of the characters on the show are so busy trying to represent themselves as something else. Shoshanna is always herself and I think that is why Ray is so drawn to her.

Kerri: You’re both so right. And especially in this episode. Much has been made about everyone pretending to be an adult. Shoshanna isn’t. She is firmly who she is.

I think there was much to love in the construction of the episode. Completely washed the bad taste of “Bad Friend” from my mouth.

There is so much more to say about Girls but we are limited by time. Perhaps we can have a season-ender Girls Roundtable as well.

Katie: Always lots to talk about! I feel like I’m getting desensitized to boobies and I think that’s a good thing.

We could play the game “who will be Hannah’s next roommate?”My money is on Jessa.

Kerri: Shoshanna would be hilarious. It is a revolving door of roommates, isn’t it?

Jane: Hmmm…I think any Hannah pairing will be interesting in the beginning. Hannah is always adapting herself to her surroundings. Her and Shosh might be fun, if only to give more screen time to the brilliant Zosia Mamet.

Katie: Shoshanna can’t! She’s living with a man.

Kerri: Wait…are they LIVING together?

Any final shout outs before we end things?

Katie: Since I just caught up on the series over the past week, I’d like to give a shout out to a moment from Season 1: the brilliant bit of physical comedy that was the parents having sex in the shower and the subsequent wet aftermath.

Jane: Love the actress who plays Charlie’s girlfriend. She plays such a great bitch!

I love how the show is giving the other characters more to do. It is becoming a really terrific ensemble.

That reminds me, more of Hannah’s parents PLEASE!!!

Kerri: Speaking of parents, I would like to give a shout out to the incomparable Griffin Dunne who played Thomas John’s dad in the last episode.

Jane: He was great! How easy would it be to play the role as overtly flirtatious. He shows brilliant restraint and is at once hilarious and creepy in his obvious attraction to Jessa, while trying to hide it from his wife.

Katie: Shout out to Hannah for treating her friends to some pad Thai even though she is as broke as shit.

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