“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,” Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) mother warned her in last week’s “Flo.” At the time it seemed like a cruel remark, but in “Role-Play,” the observation has turned out to be prescient. Adam (Adam Driver) has changed considerably since we first met him in season one as a sexually depraved, alcoholic weirdo with anger issues. It was hard to imagine then that Hannah and Adam would not only stay together, but would become domestic. And by each other’s side, we’ve seen both Hannah and Adam slowly find their adult selves, with emerging careers and taking on greater responsibilities. Undoubtedly, Hannah has been a key factor in Adam smoothing out his rough edges and finding positive ways to channel his roiling emotions. But what happens when that socialized dog is ready to be free?
That’s the central question Hannah faces in “Role-Play,” as she becomes unmoored after the anchor that was Adam dives deep into preparation for his Broadway debut in “Major Barbara.” If this seems surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be. As we’ve seen this season, Hannah has spent less and less time her girls, with Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) largely on the outside perimeter of her life. Her focus has been on her career and Adam, with little time for anything else, but now it seems he has little time for her. And Hannah, facing true loneliness, perhaps for the first time in her adult life, begins to act out.
“Role-Play” kicks off with Hannah getting so shit-faced with her GQ pals, she winds up at Joe’s (Michael Zegen) apartment where she pukes up everything she drank. He has to wash her down in the bathtub and she spends the night recovering. And she sees it almost like a test for Adam. “Were you worried about me? Like I slept at Joe’s house, he’s a guy from my work who’s…you know, a guy…so…” she asks Adam, but he’s more concerned about the jacket he’s breaking in for the play and wearing around the house. But it’s not due to callous indifference to where Hannah is or who she hangs out with, but the foundation of trust has been established, so he has no reason for worry. But when Adam rebuffs Hannah’s sexual overtures a half-hour before he has to leave the house—”I don’t want to get sticky before rehearsal”—she launches a plan to try and reignite a spark in their relationship she feels is missing.
“That romance, that mystery, that thrill, that goes, and you know what you’re left with? Trying to seduce someone who just wants you to leave so they can jerk off and take the bus to rehearsal,” Hannah quips to Elijah (Andrew Rannells). “There’s nothing weird or exciting about our sexual life anymore. He’s treating me like an ottoman with a vagina.” And Hannah strives to do something “to make him remember why we love each other.” And so, as the title of the episode suggests, she stages an elaborate role-playing scenario, meeting Adam in a bar, in character and costume (complete with an accent and blonde wig), as a woman looking to cheat on her husband. Adam is slightly freaked out, but also turned on and goes with it, with the pair winding up in Marnie’s apartment (pre-arranged by Hannah) to live out the sexual fantasy. And things get both awkward and kinky as you might expect… until they don’t when Hannah can’t keep up her own role-playing backstory, and Adam pulls out (literally and otherwise) because it doesn’t make “narrative sense.”
Hannah declares she was just trying to create a sexual experience that Adam would like, one that was dirty and raunchy and weird, but for Adam, that kind of thing is behind him. “You have an old idea of who I am. Sex was the thing that kept me from drinking, that’s why I fucked women I met in bars or whatever,” he explains, adding that the games and scenarios and foul-mouthed come-ons were all part of it. And so it was with Hannah, until things changed. “But then we fell in love, and then I just wanted to have sex with just you, as us. Just fuck and be sweet or whatever.” And this mini-bedroom clash opens up a bigger issue between the pair.
If Hannah hasn’t yet accepted that Adam has changed, and his wants, needs and desires have evolved, he has embraced it. The role in the play has made him actually excited, and it’s a sensation he doesn’t want to let go of. “It feels amazing to finally care about something. It feels amazing and scary and I’ll alway regret it if I don’t give myself a chance to do it, all the way,” he explains. And in order to do that he needs to focus, and tells Hannah he’s going to stay with a friend for a while to “think about the play and not have to deal with all this drama.” It’s a sting to Hannah and almost something that’s a bit of irony; again, did anyone in season one think it would be Hannah causing the drama in the relationship and not Adam? Hannah has socialized the dog, but now dog wants into the dog park, metaphorically speaking. And it’ll be interesting to see if Hannah is able to let go.
Elsewhere in “Role-Play,” the results are less satisfying. Marnie applies for a job at Soojin’s (Greta Lee) gallery that turns out to be an assistant role, and continues her artistic exploration with the cheesy douchebag Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Meanwhile, Shoshanna explodes the coke-fueled relationship between Jessa and Jasper (Richard E. Grant), but pulling a bit of her stunt herself, arranging for him to run into his (allergy-prone) daughter Dottie (a mousy, poorly utilized Felicity Jones). And the father and daughter reconnect, with Dottie promising to take care of Jasper, but only if he dumps Jessa, which he does. “You look like a junkie,” Shoshanna later tells Jessa about her reasons for sabotaging her thing with Jasper. “I am a junkie,” Jessa responds, resigned.
Heading into the last two episodes, “Girls” is positioning for change. With Adam Driver set to spend most of the year working on J.J. Abrams‘ “Star Wars: Episode 7,” it seems clear that he won’t be back for the already-planned fourth season of “Girls,” or will have a diminished role. Adam’s story arc, and the actor’s plans, seem headed that way. But the bigger question is whether or not the girls will continue drifting into their own lives, or come back into each other’s orbit again in a significant way. [B]