Accused by some of whitewashing Brooklyn and beloved by others for depicting the harsh truth of post-college New York life for over-educated women in their 20s, Girls may well be TV’s most talked-about comedy. Considering that most of those conversations hinge on how realistic the show is or isn’t, this season we’re recapping Girls by asking three writers who should know — our interns, Chloe Pantazi, Alison Herman, and Julia Pugachevsky — how real each episode felt. Read their responses to last night’s episode, in which Hannah got a book deal and Ray and Adam went to Staten Island, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Chloe Pantazi: Ever wonder what boys talk about when girls aren’t around? You know, besides Call of Duty and football and Scarlett Johansson’s breasts? Well, if Ray and Adam’s conversations in last night’s Girls are anything to go by, subjects may include Louisa May Alcott, missing childhood pets, and what it’s like to fuck a flexible 54 year old.
In quest tangentially related to locating his copy of Little Women, Ray finds himself on a soul-searching trip to Staten Island with Adam, where the boys return a stolen dog to its owners. Confessing that he didn’t “get” Adam and Hannah together, Ray offends Adam. This seemed somewhat unrealistic; knowing how volatile Adam is, especially when it comes to Hannah, I doubt a real-life Ray would provoke Adam by bringing her up. (Speaking of Hannah, she’s accepted an offer to write an e-book, but has just a month to do so and a pesky case of writer’s block. Now this, I – and the many blank Word docs I’ve stared down – can attest to!) Sure enough, Adam stalks off, leaving Ray to face an unpleasant altercation with the dog owner’s daughter, after which Ray winds up at the waterfront. “You think I’m pathetic, don’t you?” he says to the dog, before crumpling into tears.
Across the river, at a hip art party, another boy’s self-pitying for less legitimate reasons, as Booth Jonathan bemoans the fact his fake friends don’t really like him, but rather what he represents. While this might be true, one would sympathize if, moments before, Booth hadn’t been so reprehensible by offering to pay Marnie for hosting his party – which she did, she thought, as his girlfriend. But Booth doesn’t think of Marnie as his girlfriend, and considers paying her no different to paying his former assistant, who he’d also slept with – a humble-brag I feel like I’ve heard before.
Envious of Marnie’s seemingly fabulous romance, Shoshanna pines for more than the four-dollar taco she’s grown to expect from a date with Ray. Having been on a few too many four-dollar-taco-style dates before, like Shosh, when there’s a proper dinner (and hell, a bit of candlelight), I’m swooning. Still, as Marnie discovers, the wining-and-dining kind by no means has it together. Booth and Ray are surely in similar places – one’s just much less successful, and less of a douche, than the other. (Yes, I have hope for Ray: he reads Little Women!)
Julia Pugachevsky: To match the absurdity of a few episodes back, when entirely untested Hannah gets a flat rate of $200 for one vaguely conceived online article, this time, Hannah, a largely unknown 20-something writer with a handful of good essays, has scored a book deal. OK, well, it’s a deal to write an e-book about, apparently, anything she wants, to be completed in a month. It’s moments like these when it seems that Lena Dunham can’t decide whether to embrace or poke fun at Carrie Bradshaw, bringing to our attention the unrealistically lavish lifestyles writers are portrayed as having on TV (even in a show that’s marketed to be more real.)
Dreamy as it is, this is a good introduction to the episode’s various themes, one of which is jobs. The topic comes up when Shoshanna wants Ray to go to a Donald Trump event in the hopes that he will find an interest that he can convert into a well-paying job, a notion he immediately rejects. It comes up again when Marnie witnesses Booth fire his assistant for eating a scoop of his ice cream, all in the midst of their post-coital cuddle, resembling no real person but entertaining us regardless. Booth asks Marnie to host his event, which she interprets as a step up in their relationship. Eventually, she learns that this was not the case and has her feelings thrown back in her face when Booth twists the situation and has a breakdown about the shallowness of his career, finally providing a glimpse into his soul beyond being an artist cliché.
Essentially, this is what the episode is all about: people seeking approval and fulfillment and failing on all ends. Ray breaks down after a young girl in Staten Island picks up on the lack of centeredness in his life, and Adam is going equally insane trying to rescue a dog for the sake of regaining a sense of purpose after his breakup with Hannah. His monologue about Hannah, in which he aptly describes her as a stuffed Tweety Bird at a carnival that you fight to win but realize you don’t want when you have to carry it around all day, just about covers the aimlessness of so many of these characters, who are trying to establish themselves when they may not be even going after the things that are actually important.
Alison Herman: “Boys,” in many ways, was the polar opposite of last week’s excellent “One Man’s Trash.” Where the latter was unconventional, experimental, and uncomfortable, “Boys” cemented one of the most worrying trends of Girls’ second season: a steady backslide into transparent, predictable sitcom humor. None of tonight’s plotlines struck me as especially novel, and none of the writing felt as delightfully strange and distinctive as it can be — except, of course, for that perfect post-brunch vomit Hannah shamelessly let loose in front of a dozen horrified Brooklynites.
Virtually every scene of “Boys” had the unsettling feeling of going through the motions to get to various outcomes the audience could see coming from a mile away. Marnie acts self-absorbed and pretentious, only to lose it when she realizes Booth Jonathan is just the petulant asshole he seems to be. Hannah basks in the flattery of a would-be mentor, only to run headfirst into writers’ block before she puts a single sentence to (virtual) paper. Only Adam and Ray’s Staten Island adventure felt fresh and free of clichés, but even that led to a dud ending: Ray pensively looking back at Manhattan, feeling all the self-loathing of a 33-year-old with no day job.
There ultimately isn’t much to say about “Boys,” mostly because it’s devoid of the bizarre scenes begging to be analyzed a thousand different ways that make the show such an inexhaustible topic of conversation. Granted, this may be because the episode wasn’t actually written by Lena Dunham. But episodes like “One Man’s Trash” raise the bar for the shows they’re a part of; episodes like “Boys” leave the bar even lower than where it started.