The sophist philosopher Protagorus said “man is the measure of all things,” or basically what might be hot for one person can be icy cold for the next. There is no one truth and by extension, no one ‘right’ way of reacting to a situation. I say that to say Girls works best when the characters are all clawing at what they want without any idea of the right way to get it, or if they should even be wanting it in the first place. Desi’s relegation of Marnie to the role of not-mistress-mistress echoes the position Hannah was in with Adam way back in the pilot, though I don’t think she would stand for such degradation now. As for Jessa I’m sure every relationship she has been in has consisted of similar power struggles. The point is everyone can offer advice, but “Female Author” allows us to laugh at these characters plodding through uncertainty in search of their own personal victories.
Every member of the principle cast made an appearance in this episode, which means unlike last week’s “Triggering”, we’re not watching the Hannah Horvath show. When Marnie seeks advice from Ray on how to handle her relationship/affair with Desi, Ray rightly calls him a Svengali who manipulates Marnie’s tragically devalued sense of self. Marnie is so in need of emotional support she makes out with Ray just for offering up a few obvious reasons why Desi is bad news for treating her like a mistress without the integrity to even acknowledge that’s what she is to him. At this point it is hard to tell how much of Marnie’s current situation is from her choosing the precarious singer songwriter life and how much is just a fundamental fact of her personality.
Hannah’s breaking point in being Adam’s girl-on-the-side came after contracting HPV and receiving an accidental dick pic, but Marnie has reached hers after an awkward meeting with abnormally young record execs who somehow love Desi and Marnie’s wispy folk songs. Hope is still alive for a record deal, but afterwards Marnie gives Desi an ultimatum: leave Clem or we stop the “intimacy”. Arguably any woman with self respect would not beg to date a man who would cheat on his girlfriend, but Marnie’s line in the sand had to be drawn somewhere and this is it.
Hannah too has reached a breaking point of a different sort, though how she will move on from here is anyone’s guess. While Elijah just arrived in Iowa City and yet already knows everyone poet in town, Hannah feels guilty about watching too many Teen Nick marathons. She has neglected the writing that brought her to Iowa City in the first place. The way she targets the effect, i.e. not wanting to write anymore, without understanding the nature of the cause feels very true to the twentysomething experience of trying a bunch of different jobs and hobbies until one feels right, or at least right-ish.
Hannah quietly proposed that maybe she has just been writing because she has been telling herself she’s a writer, and then goes a step further and levies criticism against the rest of her classmates for making writing so unpleasant. If Hannah has to be 50 Shades of Grey knock-off girl due to all the blowjobs in her stories, she gets to tell them a thing or two about their recurring problems. Hannah putting each of her classmates on the hot seat is the funniest part of this season so far, but the sincerity with which she tries to solve her writing problem sets up a strong trajectory for her to explore what she really wants during the rest of the season.
Hannah can’t seem to get any updates on Adam, but lucky for us the writer of this week’s episode, Sarah Heyman, shows us why Adam has been flying under the radar. He has no tolerance for the small talk required in a long distance relationship and has seemingly gotten swallowed up in Jessa’s electrifying persona. Adam and Jessa share impulsive personalities with dependency problems to boot so their flirting over talk of sober birthdays doesn’t just feel like an artificial plot point to get two more Girls’ characters to hook up. Still when Jessa gets them both arrested because she was peeing in the street, Adam puts his foot down on what he will accept from her. He will only the new and improved Jessa we have seen come about this season. This relationship is ostensibly a friendship, but ultimately could result in a mutual support or a dark descent into any number of their vices.
This episode’s strengths were in developing every character without feeling like the narratives served any other purpose than entertaining the viewers. Every character took a step forward while keeping us interested to see if next episode will be their two steps back. Funny and as sincere as Girls can be, “Female Author” is the most compelling episode so far.