Season 2, Episode 6: "Boys"
If last week's episode of "Girls" is still being talked about as an outstanding outlier in the series thus far, an almost self-contained, Euro-flavored short film, this week the show returns to more familiar territor but still retains a melancholic air. Once again pitching focus, as the title suggests, we spend much more time with the guys as Adam (Adam Driver) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) take center stage, while we also visit Marnie (Allison Williams), who continues her relationship with Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone). But before we get there, we kick things off with Hannah (Lena Dunham).
Though encountering a few bumps along the way, Hannah's career and life continue on an upward trajectory and as the show opens, she's having drinks with none other than John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig & The Angry Inch," "Shortbus"). Known for his own sexually provocative and boundary pushing material, this is probably the most symbiotic guest apperance the show has ever had. Anyway, he plays a publisher of sorts who signs up Hannah to write an e-book. In a month. Undoubtedly, she's thrilled, calling it "the best thing that's ever happened to me." However, Hannah being Hannah, the nerves get to her almost immediately as after the meeting, she pukes onto a tree outside the restaurant.
Things seem to be on an equally exciting and perhaps nerve-wracking trajectory for Marnie, who wakes up in bed with Booth. But their brief moment of domestic bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Sujin, Booth's assistant, who runs down his day as he remains naked and fully on display in bed. And while that may seem odd, it's perhaps even more strange that she winds up being fired for taking a bite out of the rosewater ice cream she picked up for him. Left without a hostess for a party he's throwing in the evening, Booth asks Hannah if she would mind filling the role, which she gladly accepts, thinking it's a step forward in their relationship.
Meanwhile, the naive but still-too-good-for-him Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) tries to convince Ray to attend a workshop on entrepreneurship at The Learning Annex that will include a talk by Donald Trump. Naturally, he's not interested, and more pressing on his mind is getting back his copy of "Little Women" from Hannah. Why? His godmother "writes notes in the back of books explaining how they relate to my shit" and while he's unsure how exactly the novel reflects his own life – Shoshanna posits he's a Marmee, while Hannah says he's probably Father March – the bottom line is Adam has it, and Hannah refuses to go over there. So Ray decides to retrieve it himself.
Unsurprisingly, when Ray shows up on Adam's doorstep, he's immediately standoff-ish, wanting nothing to do with anything that might be another emotional scheme by Hannah. But when Ray assures him he's just there to get his book, he's let into Adam's apartment (which is looking more and more like a Ron Swanson horror film, almost frighteningly bursting with tools and odd bits of lumber and metal) to get it from the bathroom. Simple enough, except there's an angry dog in there that Adam stole when he found it wrapped up in its own leash, tied up outside a coffee shop by a "bulldick who was calling him a shitdick and such." Ray chastises him for basically "kidnapping a baby" and the two embark on a journey to Staten Island to give the dog (which Adam has named Dog) back to its owner (the address is on the collar).
Spending so much time together, the two form a quick bond over their shared belief that the best relationships come from dating women who are either much younger or much older than they are. And for all their convoluted logic about how the "inbetweens" are a hassle because they have actual expectations of where they want their lives to go, rather than being too vulnerable or simply content with where they are, Ray hits at the essence of things. "It's hard to tell someone so young that things don't always turn out the way you thought they would be," he says of Shoshanna, though his idea that things are "great" between them appears to be something of a delusion. He later notes he feels "like her father" for taking her virginity, and also comments that his witty jokes are often met with a blank expression from Shoshanna.
And as the conversation between Ray and Adam continues, they begin fraying when it comes to the subject of Hannah. Adam, with his always unusual metaphors, describes her as "a giant Tweety doll I would've been stuck carrying around the carnival all night" or as a prize from a game that's almost impossible to win. But when Ray tries to push the idea that Hannah is a bad person, Adam somewhat nobly bristles. Even though he's just out of a brief stint in jail thanks to her, he still recognizes that she kept up her end of the bargain for dealing with his "brand of difficult." The argument between the two gets ugly, with Adam accusing Ray of wanting to sleep with Hannah before simply storming off, leaving Ray to return Dog himself.
Back in Manhattan, the party is in full swing at Booth's and Marnie couldn't be happier among the high brow and creative artist community in attendance and OH HEY LOOK ITS EZRA KOENING FROM VAMPIRE WEEKEND. Hannah arrives and is made to feel immediately out of place, not only for how she's dressed – fairly dowdy, as per usual – but also by Marnie, who is seemingly swept up in a brand new life that's far beyond the bubble of existence Hannah knows, and she doesn't have much time to talk to her as a result. Hannah leaves the party early, but Marnie's own bubble is burst. Retreating to the wine cellar with Booth to grab some more bottles, she's surprised when he offers to pay her $500 for the night. It's only then she realizes that Booth was actually hiring her not as a girlfriend, but as a worker. She's absolutely mortified she misread everything that has gone on between them, while Booth not incorrectly accuses her of enjoying being around his lifestyle, but not particularly him.
Ashamed and embarrassed she leaves the party, but it appears Booth isn't the only thing she's losing. The continental drift with Hannah continues, as when she calls, she keeps up the facade that she's having a great night with Booth and his artist friends. And over on Hannah's end, she lies about the progress of her book as she tries to make the 30-day deadline. But most heartbreaking about this scene is that not only do Marnie and Hannah both know they're holding back, they know the other person is doing so as well, and they're unable to bridge that gap. It's a tough moment in many close friendships, and the sequence strikes that tone just right.
Finally, Ray's effort to return Dog doesn't quite work out when the owner's daughter refuses to take him, insulting him with a tirade that includes calling him a "faggot" and "pathetic." And while it's not personal, and more just your average, foul-mouthed Staten Island tough girl fronting, Ray finds himself sitting on a park bench with Dog, weeping over his own state affairs. It's perhaps a realization that for all the projections he places on others, it's merely deflection from examining his own life. But whether or not he can live up to the kind of man Shoshanna wants or expects, or be someone he can respect when he looks himself in the mirror, remains to be seen. [B]
Songs in this episode: The Oh Sees "Sugars Boat"; No Age "Fever Dreaming"; Yoko Ono ft. Peaches "Kiss Kiss Kiss"; Tegan & Sara "Fool To Cry"