Season 2, Episode 9: “On All Fours”
How do you solve a problem like Marnie? If you’re a writer for “Girls,” it’s currently a difficult one to puzzle out. The idea of having her and Hannah switch roles, with Marnie’s life falling apart while her (former) best friend begins to have a taste of success, is a great one. And bringing to light some of the unsavory and unlikeable aspects of her personality to add a little of grime to the pretty face and fabulous dresses, is a nice touch too. But outside of that, Lena Dunham and co. haven’t really figured out what to do with Marnie this season. Allison Williams has been more than game to follow her character on a downward spiral, from her brief drunken sexual encounter with Elijah to her misguided relationship with Booth. But at some point, this on again/off again thing with ex-boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott) has got to end.
Last week, we saw Marnie immediately come sniffing around Charlie once again when she got wind of his recent success and new tech job. At the time, he was able to see right through her, but this week all of that wisdom has seemingly vanished. In what is becoming the Jim-and-Pam storyline of the show, their continued on-and-off romance is beginning the strain the boundaries of credulity. Of course, people are doomed to repeat past mistakes, particularly those who have been in rocky relationships where the feelings are still there but reside alongside other hurts and grudges. But even in those complex circumstances, there are flickers of lessons learned and an honest attempt to shake past habits. But once again, Charlie and Marnie fall into familiar roles.
After forgetting a lunch date with her, Charlie invites Marnie to a party at the office that evening where they are celebrating reaching a new milestone with his Forbid app. Marnie, of course, sees this as the opportunity to not only hang out with Charlie, but also show off her pipes in a first step toward a singing career. Stopping the party dead in its tracks, she sings — accompanied by a thin GarageBand beat that Ray (Alex Karpovsky) helped put together for her — a slowed down version of Kanye West‘s “Stronger.” While she doesn’t totally humiliate herself, it is slightly embarrassing, and afterward, Charlie pulls Marnie into an office and tells her to get her shit together…and they they proceed to fuck on a desk… We suppose the season is nearing an end, and having them back together again opens up possibilities for the third season (shooting this spring), but frankly, we’d like to see both of these characters move on.
Speaking of which, Adam gets the second spotlight in this week’s episode. The show opens with the somewhat (comparatively) prim and proper Natalia announcing she’s ready to have sex with Adam. They’ve been dating for a week, he’s proven be nice, and hell, they even went to see a Sandra Bullock movie. She has a number of rules though, among them that she doesn’t like to be on top, and even though she’s on the pill, she’d prefer if he came outside of her just in case. He agrees, and their relationship is by all appearances is going quite swimmingly, even if Adam is navigating a world (of regular people) that he’s not used to. But things soon come apart at the seams thanks to a familiar face….
….which is of course Hannah, whose life continues to move up and down like a yoyo. After a meeting with her editor (John Cameron Mitchell), her little memoir-style e-book is now being turned into a novel. Partially it’s because her confessional material isn’t resonating with him, but clearly, he knows she has experiences to draw on (including having sex with a teenager in a graveyard, which she shares) and so things are looking up. But her OCD is still in full swing, and it leads to some odd consequences. After shifting her butt on the wood floor of her apartment, she gets a splinter in her ass cheek (and yes, it’s more of Dunham that you get to see) and this is followed by getting a Q-tip stuck in her after obsessively trying to clean the wound.
After a trip to the hospital to get the Q-tip removed, she runs into Adam outside of a bar where he’s with Natalia, celebrating the engagement of a friend of hers. He’s standoffish while Hannah tries to be friendly, but their meeting is appropriately awkward and uncertain. Adam retreats back to the bar, where he ditches his new sobriety and orders a drink. Natalia joins him and soon they’re back at his place, a weird apartment by any measure to show anyone, particularly a girl you’ve just started seeing. But Natalia is considerate and understanding — something Adam is still getting used to — so he decides to push things a little further. He orders her to get all on fours and crawl to his bedroom. Once there, he declares he’s going to fuck her from behind, and he does, and he quickly finishes by unloading on her breasts (of which the audience gets a full view of the aftermath, a TV rarity). But Natalia has been somewhat uncomfortable throughout the entire experience — reluctant isn’t quite right, and to call this an assault would be a stretch (though we’re sure there will plenty of discussions). But she makes it clear: “I really didn’t like that.” Adam challenges her: “Is this it? Are you done with me?”
Seeing Hannah has clearly pushed his own sense of what he deserves, and it’s a blatant act of self-sabotage, as if to prove he can’t be in a normal, healthy relationship. We can’t imagine Natalia would stick around, especially given this happens so early on in their relationship, but it will be interesting to see if Adam — who is generally pretty clear-eyed about this own neuroses — can own up to what he did and try and salvage what could have been a good thing, even if its long term viability was a likely question mark anyway.
But unfortunately, only Adam’s arc had any real resonance in an otherwise subpar outing. Charlie and Marnie spun their wheels, while Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) inched forward ever so slightly. Ray confronts her about her odd behavior, but Shoshanna only admits to holding the doorman’s hand. But the guilt is slowly eating away at her. Meanwhile, Hannah’s butt splinter and Q-tip fiasco probably got more time than they really deserved — in situations like this, we’d love to see Dunham have the stones to take herself out of an episode if there really isn’t anything to say, particularly when supporting arcs could use some more room. [B-]
Songs in this episode: Classics IV “Spooky”; Passion Pit “Take A Walk”; Angel Haze “Werkin’ Girls”; Yelle “Comme Un Enfant”; Cass McCombs “Bobby, King Of Boystown”; Fiona Apple “Valentine”; Santigold “Girls”; Rye Rye “Boom Boom”; Daniel Johnston “Life In Vain”