The article below contains spoilers for “I Saw You,” the March 17th, 2014 episode of “Girls.”
Toward the end of last season, Hannah (Lena Dunham) made a detour into disaster when the largely unheralded OCD she’d apparently wrestled with when she was younger abruptly returned. But there’s been no suddenness to this season’s gradual downward turn, which we’ve been able to see coming from far off, as various forces — the death of her editor David and subsequent loss of her book, the office day job, Adam’s part in the play, relationship-destroying Tony winners and more — have eroded her sense of confidence and self. Hannah started this year doing so well, and she’s looking to end it having made a complete mess of her personal and professional life — and the worst part about this slow-motion crash is that she seems aware of what’s happening, but can’t stop herself.
That fact gave “I Saw You,” which was directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Dunham and Paul Simms, a can’t-look-away, horror movie-worthy sense of cringing dread in certain scenes. Most notably, there was the awful one in which Hannah finally got fired after taking out her insecurities about her own faltering writing career on her GQ coworkers, abusing each of them in turn while insisting she was the only “truly authentic person” there.
It was a masterfully hard to watch sequence, maybe the character’s least likable of all time (and there’s quite a bit of competition). Hannah turned all of her fears outward onto others, calling everything they were working on “bullshit” and declaring herself too good for something as lowly as a day job — “I want every day to be exciting and scary.” What made it sadder, beyond the fact that everyone at that table had been generally welcoming and kind to her, is that she’d been content there, that the work hadn’t been utterly soul-crushing. Maybe that was the problem.
That toxic spew in the meeting was all about Hannah’s ideas that being an artist demands a certain type of abuse and suffering, ones that have surfaced before. When her mother gave her the talk about Adam (Adam Driver) in “Flo,” about not wanting her daughter to have to spend her life socializing a man who’ll never easily fit in, she managed to touch on an underlying fear of Hannah’s about her own potential normalcy.
Hannah can fit in — she could be normal, could be the equivalent to Patti LuPone’s shunted aside professor husband (played by Reed Birney), who as LuPone blithely observed, “is very far from his passions.” Couples aren’t really limited to having only one creative member, but Hannah’s panic about not getting anywhere with her writing combined with her fears about being left behind by a successful Adam combined to turn her into a real wrecking ball this episode, as well as a pretty lousy girlfriend to Adam.
Adam’s pleas for space to concentrate on the play appear legit — he’s not using the fact that he’s temporarily bunking at Ray’s (Alex Karpovsky) for anything other than more time for running lines. But Hannah can’t leave him alone, making for a scene that’s particularly uncomfortable when she arrived at his doorstep claiming to have just been in the neighborhood.
Hannah once found Adam’s attempts at wooing her back creepy, but now she’s turning into the clingy one at the worst possible time, and threatening to make herself dependent on him when he actually needs the support — not just financially but in terms of the work he’s genuinely invested in. And she discovered Marnie (Allison Williams) and Ray together in bed at a moment when she’s prone to lob that information like a grenade just out of her own personal frustration — her comment, after barging in on the two of them, was a particularly self-centered “You will never judge me again,” while Marnie’s was an even worse “He made me!”
Marnie, at least, learned half a lesson in letting go of her own self-consciousness, after some fruitful collaboration with Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and after watching the couldn’t care less Jessa (Jemima Kirke) get a job with an artist Marnie admired (played by Louise Lasser, star of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”) by telling the woman she didn’t like one of her pieces.
Marnie sounded good on stage at that open mic, even winning over the highly critical likes of Elijah (Andrew Rannells, hilarious in this episode) before having her romantic hopes crushed by the arrival of Desi’s much talked about girlfriend Clementine (“Trophy Wife” actress Natalie Morales). And it was Jessa who got the line of the night, just stealing away that designation from Ray (who exclaimed “This is America!” as a reason for why Hannah shouldn’t barge into his room) — when asked if she’s a junkie or thief, Jessa regretfully noted “No. Not anymore.”