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Review: Ambition Fractures Friendship In ‘Girls’

Review: Ambition Fractures Friendship In 'Girls'

Episode 1, Season 9: “Leave Me Alone”

There has already been much to admire about Lena Dunham‘s “Girls,” one of the most satisfying and purely entertaining new shows on television. Sharp, funny writing, a knowing ability to find true character moments even in life’s most awkward or humiliating circumstances and an honest, observational style has made the program one with a surprising amount of heart and depth. This has all contributed to a show that isn’t just an amusing trifle, but one with a broader scope than the other female-driven programs on TV (“New Girl,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Veep“) just don’t have. But if you need even more evidence of just how well-conceived “Girls” really is, tonight’s episode truly raises the bar. “Leave Me Alone” takes two seemingly minor and throwaway plot strands from earlier in the season and expands them into integral storylines that once again finds “Girls” moving in unexpected directions.

Let’s start with Jessa (Jemima Kirke), who last time we saw her was escorting Marnie (Allison Williams) for a night on the town that ended with an aborted threeway. Along with Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), Jessa has mostly been put to the side in “Girls,” one of our minor complaints about the show so far. But it looks like her storyline is just beginning. To recap, she briefly found a job babysitting the children of Brooklyn couple, Jeff (James LeGros) and Katherine (Kathryn Hahn), before the misguided advances of the former put that to an end. Thus, it’s truly a surprise when Katherine shows up at the door Jessa’s apartment.

Arriving to seek closure on what happened, as well as her own confirmation that nothing really did go on between Jessa and Jeff for her piece of mind, Katherine offers Jessa her old job back. They both know that’s not going to happen, but Katherine’s also there with an ulterior motive. She tells Jessa that she senses that the young woman is often at the center of these kinds of dramas, and is perhaps doing it with a subconscious intent. “You’re doing it to distract yourself from becoming the person you’re meant to be,” Katherine says, a statement that blunts the usually quippy Jessa into a moment of introspection. This may seem a bit out of left field, but remember, Katherine is a documentary filmmaker and likely has a keen insight into people and their motivations. But more excitingly, it now gives Jessa greater dimension and purpose within the show that we really hope blossoms as “Girls” heads into the finale, and gets prepared for season two.

But the more intriguing thread that gets expanded had the seeds planted last week when prior to their outing, Jessa and Marnie shared their complaints about Hannah, particularly when it comes to her selfishness and unreliability. The scene seemed innocuous in the moment, and it wouldn’t be the first time friends have complained about their mutual pals, but it seems a deep resentment has been brewing. The show opens with all the girls attending the book launch of a former classmate and arch enemy of Hannah’s, and she is not short of complaints and insults for the writer. But while she’s there, she meets an old college professor (a nice guest spot by Michael Imperioli), who was — and still is — a champion of Hannah’s, and he invites her to participate in a weekly reading he puts together wtih a group of writers.

Overcoming her kneejerk reflex to avoid attending the reading — mainly because they are usually awful — Hannah decides to do it, initially choosing to read a story she wrote about an ex-boyfriend who was also a hoarder. She tells Marnie her plan, and she’s almost acidically dismissive, shrugging off Hannah’s story choice and not saying much about her decision to give in and try something she normally wouldn’t do. When Hannah asks for a bit more support, Marnie turns on her, pointing out that she supports her financially. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. When Hannah returns from the disastrous reading — due to a lack of confidence, she ditched the hoarder story which her professor loved for something she wrote on the subway there — she wants to talk to Marnie all about what happened, but she’s plainly not interested and more than a little pissed off (which was probably not helped by Hannah giving her key to the apartment to Adam who now comes and goes as he pleases).

The result? A knockdown, drag out argument. Marnie accuses Hannah of only being interested in discussing her problems and being plagued by a lack of ambition or a clear idea of what she wants. Hannah counters by offering that Marnie’s focus on landing a rich boyfriend, wanting to be surrounded by people of accomplishment, and her neurosis in the wake of her breakup with Charlie has made her unbearable. But it’s Hannah who seals her own fate, and perhaps that of her relationship with Marnie, whose main contention is that she’s simply not being a good friend. “Maybe that’s not what’s important to me right now. I don’t really give a shit about being a good friend, I have bigger concerns,” Hannah says in what is a pretty eye-opening and not particularly admirable moment for her. But it’s a definitive declaration that her own life goals trump everything else at the moment and oddly, it brings Marnie a sense of relief. It confirms what she’s long believed, and with that, she says she no longer wants to live with Hannah.

This is all the kind of stuff you would expect in a season finale, but with one episode to go, we’re intrigued to see where Dunham and co. take these arcs before season two. And no, we haven’t forgotten about Shoshanna either, who returns, inspired by the book written by Hannah’s frenemy saying, “I did something kind of crazy…I made an Internet dating profile.” We can’t wait to see how that unfolds for the virginal Shosanna. Meanwhile, bonus points for Alex Karpovsky who kills it again as Ray, dropping the best line of the show. When Hannah shows up in a nice white dress for her shift at Grumpy’s, the coffee shop where he works, he’s galled by her choice of clothing and tells her to go home and change. “This isn’t a consumptive women’s hospital, we don’t wear aprons…And don’t do some shit where you come back wearing gray flannel sweatpants and a Taylor Swift t-shirt to be a dick,” he tells her.

Yes, it’s another excellent outing from “Girls” and there’s no need to recap everything we said in paragraph one except to say: if you’re still not watching this show, you’re doing it wrong. [A]

Songs in this episode: Dragonette “Stupid Grin”; House De Rackett “Roman”; Dananananakroyd “Once Chance”; Siouxsie & The Banshees “Hong Kong Garden”; Big Harp “Goodbye Crazy City”; Lia Ices “Love Is Won”

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