‘Girls’ Season 4 Episode 9 Recap: “Daddy Issues”

Every once in a long, long while, Girls likes to put its characters in perspective. The show, and its viewership, is well aware how Hannah Horvath would fare in the real world, but her narcissism—and her friends’—is exceptional even by the standards of Girls’ exaggerated Brooklyn. Reminders of this usually come in the context of Hannah’s workplace, where she has no choice but to a) submit to somebody else’s rules or face the consequences and b) interact with other, much better-socialized human beings. See her disastrous Mike Birbiglia interview, or her ill-fated tenure at GQ‘s sponsored content wing. St. Justine’s, it turns out, is no exception.

My favorite scene of “Daddy Issues” is the principal’s patient, well-intentioned explanation of “boundaries” to a woman who’s gone 25 years without internalizing the concept. My favorite moment, however, is Fran’s brief appearance, in which he has the reaction any normal person should to a teacher calling out a student for being kind of a bitch on Instagram: brief horror, followed by a brisk walk away. Through personal experience, Fran knows what the principal doesn’t—that not even telling Hannah exactly what’s wrong with her will puncture her bubble. (Tellingly, Hannah’s boss tells her to stop acting like a kid by…treating her like a kid, i.e. calling her into his office and patiently explaining what she did wrong.)

Ironically, all this happens just as Hannah is acting with surprising maturity in the face of her father’s decision to come out. Sure, she may not take her wallet to lunch on the assumption that he’s footing the bill, but she does note that this isn’t really about her, a first for Hannah Horvath. And even though she’s squeamish about her dad’s newfound status as a “daddy,” her explanation that pretty much anything about her dad’s sex life, homosexual or otherwise, squicks her out is pretty believable. It all falls under the umbrella of normal twenty-something self-absorption, or at least it does until Hannah plays the “boundaries” card she’s incapable of applying to herself. Do as she says, overly helpful Elijah, not as she does.

Perhaps the only character this season whose behavior is more bizarrely inappropriate than Hannah’s is her romantic rival Mimi Rose Howard’s. It’s fitting, then, that Jessa—perhaps the least qualified person to judge, given her motivations for setting Mimi-Rose and Adam up in the first place—basically pulls a Fran on Ace and MRH’s mating dance. “I’m not gonna be a pawn in your game. I fucking RUN game!” she spits, dragging Adam out the door of Mimi-Rose’s Bushwick live-work space and never looking back. Jessa may be a sociopath, too, but at least she’s a sociopath we know, so I’m firmly Team Johansson on this one.

Thus ends Gillian Jacobs’ entertaining tenure on this show as a woman whose radical honesty proved too good to be true. (Sometimes honesty is good, like when it gets Hannah to be open about her resentment; sometimes honesty is bad, like when you tell your ex you want him back in front of your current live-in boyfriend.) Still reeling, Adam opts out of Ray’s victory party, where Marc Maron is drinking himself into oblivion and Marnie is gloating about her engagement.

Adam hints that he’s not entirely over Hannah, and makes the wise decision to stay away before he makes any impulsive, rebound-type decisions. Ray makes it abundantly clear he’s not over Marnie, and proceeds to make a very impulsive victory speech that’s a not-so-veiled declaration of love. His meaning’s so obvious that even Marnie herself seems to get it, and even though marrying an asshole like Desi is exactly what Marnie deserves after thanking Ray for helping her “see [sleeping with her taken bandmate] through to its logical conclusion,” the seeds of a finale reunion are planted.

There’s not much Shoshanna this week, apart from saving the victory party from disasters like a cake that looks more like Moammar Qadaffi than Ray Ploshansky. Instead, we get a melancholy episode without resolutions for anyone—especially Hannah, who’s going to be processing her dad’s sexuality and what it means for years to come. Caught in between her parents, both of whom she wants to support and neither of whom has a clue what they’re doing, Hannah doesn’t have any other option but to simply fake it. It’s not the most satisfying note on which to enter the finale, but it’s one that feels true to Hannah’s situation.