The article below contains spoilers for “Flo,” the March 2nd, 2014 episode of “Girls.”
“Flo” marks the second visit death has paid to “Girls” this season, and this time it’s not in a way that’s going to leave Hannah (Lena Dunham) blithely emotionally unaffected. Directed by Richard Shepard (“Dom Hemingway”), who also helmed last week’s episode “Incidentals,” and written by cartoonist and “Six Feet Under” alum Bruce Eric Kaplan, “Flo” brought Hannah to the hospital to unite with her mother Loreen (Becky Ann Baker), her aunts Margo (Deirdre Lovejoy, from “The Wire”) and Sissy (Amy Morton) and her cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele) at the deathbed of the grandmother of the title, played by the wonderful “Nebraska” Oscar nominee June Squibb.
That’s one hell of a collection of actresses, and Kaplan, who scripted the season two’s far less successful Jessa-centric family visit episode “Video Games,” gave them plenty to work with in this snippy but emotionally resonant — why save all the bickering just for the show’s central foursome? Loreen and her sisters performed their own lo-fi rendition of “August: Osage County” when reluctantly brought together by the impending passing of their parent, with whom Loreen still had some beef, blaming her for ruining “Margo and Sissy’s lives — they’re very misshapen people.” Margo’s the high-strung one whose husband went to jail for insider trading, Sissy’s the martyr, and soon they’re digging up old resentments and fighting over who gets what in the estate while dividing up their mother’s medication amongst themselves (a sly touch).
Hannah doesn’t get along any better with Rebecca, an uptight medical student who oozes hostility toward her cousin (she calls writers “this ridiculous class of people who make everything about themselves”) and whose relationship with Hannah seems to have been primed by her mother to be adversarial. Adam (Adam Driver), who dramatically rushed to Hannah’s side just in time for the family’s biggest fight, which he calmly described as “like enchilada night at my parents house,” may have been unruffled by the bile, but Hannah was clearly unsettled by this display of her family members acting like squabbling children. Her handclasp with Rebecca was one of several unforced moments of warmth in an episode filled with stress expressing itself in all sorts of aggression, passive aggression and moments of brutal honesty.
As effectively abrasive as the familial clashes were, they also represented the comedy in an episode that introduced more doubt into Hannah and Adam’s relationship — and of a more lasting kind than Hannah’s insecurity about Adam suddenly being out of her league as a Broadway actor. Hannah and Adam have weathered communication problems, being broke and having his crazy sister live with them, and they’ve been happy, but talking about the future suddenly makes them look shaky. “This is a conversation that I never, ever wanted to have and it might seem like I was angling to have it but I really was not and it’s making me extremely stressed and a little angry for reason I don’t understand so I actually have to go now — bye!” Hannah yelled into the phone when a conversation about pretending to be married for the sake of Grandma Flo became a more dangerous one about whether they were going to get engaged for real.
Neither Adam nor Hannah feels particularly attached to the idea of wanting to get married (Hannah has vowed not to wed until she has a “swimming pool in my living room”), but that doesn’t mean Hannah liked the indirect suggestion that Adam wasn’t thinking about being with her in any longterm sense, that he wouldn’t be willing to marry her if they did feel like doing so. Adam was incredibly sweet to her in his own odd way in this episode in ways that underlined his commitment, leaving rehearsals to dash to her side after hearing about the minor car crash and participating in the “we’re getting married” lie despite being uncomfortable with it. But in the most loving way possible, Loreen managed to disrupt Hannah’s sense of their relationship by making some painfully accurate observations about her fake soon-to-be-son-in-law — namely, that being with him meant managing him in many ways, and that’s not something she wished on her daughter. “I don’t want you to spend your whole life socializing him like he’s a stray dog, making the world a friendlier place for him”
If her mother had objected to Adam’s lack of regular employment until recently or any of the usual daughter’s boyfriend complaints, Hannah could have shrugged it off, but what Loreen said was an indisputable truth — Hannah and Adam are weird together, but despite her awkwardness, Hannah is growing up into someone who can blend into, say, office life. Adam can’t fit himself into normalcy so easy, and that’s something that will be a part of their relationship forever, something Hannah hasn’t really given thought to until this point. All the angst Hannah unexpectedly felt at the hint that she might not be someone Adam wanted to commit to forever was suddenly turned around, and she was visibly disturbed as she headed on. “People aren’t always right,” Flo consoled Hannah regarding the doctors when she didn’t die of pneumonia after all — then she died of a heart attack.