For last week’s “Close Up” I called for a the return of the “muddy shitstorm” done best in episodes like “Beach House” and it’s like the writers preemptively read my mind, or rather this episode and the last episode were written by the same person Murray Miller who probably set the arc up this way on purpose. All the false simplicity and order of characters addressing their wants and needs in an artificially linear fashion like the average sitcom with three act breaks gets thrown out the window for an episode that is like a case study on manipulation with little guidance on how to pick out the sincerity. By a turn of fate Hannah and Mimi-Rose get some one-on-one time while Adam gets cornered by Mimi-Rose’s ex, Ace, who is played to outlandish perfection by Zachary Quinto. More than just a gauge on how the whole love triangle is working out, “Ask Me My Name” also delves into Hannah’s sense of self after trading in her life as a writer for a more conventional career as a substitute teacher. The key difference between this and last week is that Hannah’s character development and the narrative progress organically rather than with measured planning, allowing the show to really flex its storytelling muscles.
Although a couple supporting characters make an appearance in this episode, we mostly focus on Hannah being forced to come to terms with her feelings about Mimi-Rose due to a series of strange occurrences. Thankfully cutting out a bunch of silly exposition, we start this episode with Hannah in the middle of teaching a class on Oedipus where much to my surprise she seems to be thriving, albeit as a substitute which she acknowledges doesn’t require all that much effort. We meet a young male teacher named Fran who might be the most normal, accessible person we have seen so far on the show, cracking jokes and asking Hannah out for beers like a regular Joe.
There is a delightful scene before Hannah’s date where she discusses clothing options with Elijah and they joke about how she’s crossing the threshold of maturity, going on dates like “someone who’s 45” which launches them into a bit on the kind of people (adults) who derive fulfillment from commitment and exercising regularly. The not so subtle undercurrent is a sincere fear that if the roommates haven’t quite crossed the threshold where dying alone and finding security are real concerns, that day is certainly on the horizon. Hannah abruptly cuts off the joke, saying she needs to masturbate before the date, but the theme of impending adulthood deftly gets inserted into the plot for later use.
Hannah brings Fran to Mimi-Rose’s art show on their first date, which he soon recognizes as a fairly orchestrated ploy for Adam’s attention causing him to swiftly peace out. Hannah’s use of Fran sets in motion a hard to pin down, but certainly intriguing, cascade of manipulation that only Adam seems to be above. Mimi Rose invites Hannah to her art show after party, which Adam fights tooth and nail engaging Hannah much like the divorced adults Hannah previously mocked. Mimi Rose and Hannah take one taxi while Ace and Adam take another to the same party and here is where the pesky question of “why” starts inserting itself.
Of course, Hannah and Mimi Rose’s taxicab hits an old woman crossing the street and in an appropriate use of comedy, not as a crutch like last week but rather a moment to give dimension to the narrative, the taxi driver tries to blame Hannah for the mishap. As a result Mimi Rose and Hannah wait to give their stories to the police in a nearby convenience store and then a Laundromat, allowing a good chunk of time for Mimi Rose to try and reach out to the recalcitrant Hannah. What’s important is that at the same time Ace, who comes off as the ultimate hipster douchebag, tells Adam that Mimi Rose is a master manipulator – but then takes it back and tells Adam he just wants her back. How much Ace can be trusted is certainly up for discussion, but neither Adam nor the audience gets the comfort of a right answer.
Ace’s comment, however, causes the viewer to read the Mimi Rose and Hannah exchange with a more critical gaze that makes the unfolding of events exciting, and slightly tense, as we wait for the real Mimi Rose to reveal herself. But, of course, there is no “real” Mimi Rose in some sort of Scooby Doo way where she takes off her mask and comes clean about the hijinks. All we have are two people with a lot of complex emotions. As seen last episode Mimi Rose is not one to mince words, even when she probably should which Hannah attributes to Aspergers, though that has yet to be established as anything more than a resentful slight. Mimi Rose ostensibly comes clean about a desire for empathy even when reaching out can be difficult, which does tie back in her relentless need to connect with all the ancillary characters like the cab driver who don’t seem all that interested. At the same time, Mimi Rose offers Adam to Hannah in an eerily well thought out plan to slowly distance herself from him as Hannah edges in.
Hannah doesn’t know what to make of her as Adam’s girlfriend, and frankly neither do I, but professionally Hannah is sure that Mimi Rose captures what it means to be a real artist. Mimi Rose leaves a poem she composes in two minutes in a random person’s washing machine because she’s “always wanted to write a random person a poem” and details the novel she’s writing that took so much time away from her art exhibit. Everywhere they go Mimi Rose spreads her artistic whimsy and to Hannah, whose artistic whimsy seems to have died in Iowa, this compounds the loss of Adam by having his new beau be the funky artist girlfriend that he must have always wanted.
Ultimately Mimi Rose lays out how she feels compelled to produce art because she doesn’t know any other way, but acknowledges her worry that everyone finds her as off-putting as Hannah does. As they mutually share a grass is greener moment, I think Mimi Rose finally gets humanized. Or does she? Is Mimi Rose abruptness due to her true artistic inclinations for complete honesty and self-expression or is she some sort of manipulative mastermind as Ace describes her? The beauty of this episode is that this precarious situation does not get answered this episode and might never fully be answered and that precarious, uncomfortable situation is where we as humans make our home. Not at the end of Scooby Doo.