If the third season of “Girls” has thus far been dedicated to anything, it’s underscoring Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) selfishness. Until now, things have seemingly been on track for Hannah, with her relationship with Adam (Adam Driver) now solidified and her career as a writer starting to take shape. But her ambition has only been matched by a tunnel-vision that seems to keep the concerns of everyone else to the side. Her lack of empathy following the death of her editor David was the central focus on last week’s “Dead Inside,” and even her trip to pick up Jessa (Jemima Kirke) from rehab at the start of season doubled as an opportunity to hopefully get a story out of the road trip. But could Hannah’s self-centeredness simply stem from the fact that she’s an only child? Indeed, the title of tonight’s episode puts that fact in central view.
But could Hannah’s lack of siblings to look after (or be looked after by) really explain her continued boorish behavior? Attending David’s funeral, she’s first shocked to learn that her flamboyant former editor was actually married, with Hannah meeting his wife, Annalise (Jennifer Westfeldt). Their conversations soon reveal that all of David’s projects at Mill Street Publishing have been dropped, including one being written by his Annalise. And Hannah, without a sense of decorum or awareness of where she is, immediately asks her to recommend another publisher where she might be able to take her work. Annalise is naturally offended, and counters by asking Hannah if she were to give her the name of a publisher, would she then leave? Hannah takes the deal.
On the one hand, it’s understandable why Hannah would immediately be concerned about the future of her work, but her transparent lack of caring is rightfully off-putting to those that encounter it. But, to her credit, Hannah did get the name of a new publisher, and a phone call later, she’s having a meeting that’s not just going well, it brings her good news. Not only does her new potential editor love her work (“You’re like a Mindy Kaling…but she holds back. She’ll go there, but she doesn’t go all the way there”), they want to put Hannah’s book in print, and scrap the e-book idea. Hannah is undoubtedly thrilled, but a problem soon arises that could see all of her hard work sidelined.
Elsewhere, the rest of the “Girls” gang are trying to get on with their lives. After being faced with the harsh truth of a former friend faking their death to free themselves from the influence of Jessa, she’s being kicked in the butt by Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), who is tired of her sitting around the apartment watching “Forensic Files.” And so, while out walking around the city, Jessa decides to go for a job in a kids’ clothing store—because, as she says, she needs something “innocent.” But as always, it’s Shoshanna who says what we’re all thinking: “Are you sure that’s the kind of job you should have, like being near things that children are near?”
Also deciding to “take responsibility for what has happened in my life,” Marnie (Allison Williams) is trying to better herself. She’s working out, just bought a kitten from a guy selling them out of a backpack and decides to visit her former boss Ray (Alex Karpovsky) to get the straight truth about what he perceives her problems to be. And Ray being Ray, he doesn’t hold back, calling her judgmental, uptight and someone who uses people and then holds grudges against them. In short: “You’re a huge fat, fucking phony.” But that said, Ray does think there’s hope for Marnie still, because “Behind it all, I think you mean well.” Ray feels a bit bad digging into Marnie so hard, and they hug…which turns into a kiss…which turns into them fucking.
If the development feels inorganic, and perhaps a play towards easy drama later in the season, the decisions make sense in the context of these characters. As his relationship with Shoshanna shows, Ray has sometimes chosen women who are completely wrong for him, while Marnie is desperate and wounded enough to want the temporary companionship. But when it’s all over, as Ray tentatively advises that perhaps they should keep it between each other, it’s Marnie who sees the entire situation for what it is. “Go fuck yourself. Like I’d advertise this,” she declares.
Meanwhile, Hannah’s brief moment of elation over the new home for her book is quickly crushed. A phone call to her father (Peter Scolari)—recovering from a “procedure,” though Hannah can’t be bothered to inquire what for—reveals that Mill Street owns the rights to her work for three years, regardless if they’re using it or not. Once she started getting paid, the clause went into effect. It’s Hannah’s cousin Rudy who discovered this fine print detail, and when Hannah confirms it herself, she’s devastated. It’s a loss of everything she’s been building toward and she has no idea what to do next, but she knows who to take it out on.
Caroline (Gaby Hoffman), trying to offer some sympathy—with a pretty hilarious story about trying out for the role of Alicia in “Independence Day” (trivia: the part was played by Lisa Jakub)—is thrown out of the apartment. Granted, she did take things too far by trying to draw the absent Adam, with whom she had been viciously fighting earlier (with Hannah mediating), into the situation. “When times are sunny, there’s Adam. When the great seesaw of life throws your cunt in the sandbox, he’s a ghost, nowhere to be found. This is what he does,” Caroline exclaims. But Hannah isn’t having it and the emotionally unstable Caroline is out the door.
When Adam returns to the darkened apartment, Hannah curled up on the couch and Caroline gone, he receives only this explanation: “She was ruining our lives and I thought it would make you happy, finally.” But even for all their vicious fighting and Adam’s insults about her lack of direction and drive, he cares about Caroline, and has to take care of her when she’s in need. Why? “She’s my sister.” It’s the sort of love Hannah, an only child, doesn’t seem to grasp, that sort of familial bond that stays strengthened even during the worst of times.
“Only Child” continues the seasonal approach of looking more deeply at Hannah’s flaws, which in turn also makes her a much more real character than if “Girls” were simply about the superficial adventures of young women in New York City. It’s an episode that shows Lena Dunham unafraid to look at the uglier aspects of characters—but after two weeks of this, a little sunshine would be nice too. [B]
Songs in this episode: Emilie Mover “Ride With The Tide”; Lucy Schwartz “Boomerang”; Matt Costa “Good Times”