If you’ve become disenfranchised with Lena Dunham’s Girls over the course of the HBO series’ past two seasons, this week’s episode (the third of the third season, intriguingly titled “She Said OK”) just might be the one to get you reinvested in the show. On a surface level, the episode employs some classic television tricks and twists – it introduces a lightning rod new character (Gaby Hoffmann, kicking off a long arc as Adam’s sister Caroline) and it throws the rest of its cast together in a party situation – but the episode also cannily addresses some of its continued criticism in a few nifty (and often just kind of meta) ways and explores new territory for old characters.
It’s Hannah’s (Dunham) twenty-fifth birthday, and she’s celebrating with a party at a local Brooklyn bar, as thrown by Marnie (Allison Williams, who goes for the MVP title in this episode and just barely loses it to Hoffmann) and the Horvath parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari, returning as guest stars). As excited as Hannah is for the celebration, the day has already been a strange one, thanks to the arrival of Adam’s (Adam Driver) sister Caroline, who embodies all of the worst bits of the Girls girls in one staggeringly scary package. Adam’s compassion for Caroline only goes so far, and he’s warned Hannah that she’s “mean-hearted” and will only ruin things for everyone. Elsewhere, Ray (Alex Karpovsky) encounters his ex Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) at the party and has a very bad reaction to said encounter, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) lingers on the outskirts of everything, editor Daivd (John Cameron Mitchell) tries to install Grindr on Hannah’s phone (not a joke), and Marnie deals with the fallout of a YouTube video that will make you rethink almost everything you remember about the nineties. It’s “She Said OK.” And Rob Hunter and I are here to talk about it.
Kate: First of all, I loved this episode. I loved every single thing about it.
Despite my desire to dissect every bit of it, I think we have to start off by talking about what’s clearly the big takeaway from it – the introduction of Caroline, Adam’s sister, as masterfully played by Gaby Hoffmann.
Caroline seems to be a response to the show’s critics and detractors (either as a conscious decision by the show’s team or an unconscious one), because she appears to be a combination of all the worst traits of Hannah and Jessa, all pumped up by critical perception. She’s unhinged, crazy, mean, psychotic, strange, inappropriate, and oddly naked at one point. She’s everything that people say about Hannah and Jessa that’s not exactly true, or at least wildly exaggerated, crammed into one dynamic package. I am terrified of her. I cannot wait to see what she does next.
Rob: Eesh. The only thing I love here is your interpretation of Caroline’s character as an intentional response. I don’t agree that those adjectives aren’t accurate for Hannah or Jessa, but this is clearly a more exaggerated display of these less than desirable traits.
But yeah, I am curious if Gaby Hoffman’s return to acting was delayed because her contract stipulated that she would always get to show off her crystal hairy.Kate: You’ve been waiting to use that for a long time, haven’t you?
I’m still on board with Caroline, even if she’s just there to mix things up, but I understand your views on her. However, what do you think about the very interesting development that we meet Caroline (the meta Girls girl, by my approximation) during the same episode in which Marnie becomes an unwitting YouTube star, leading her to offhandedly say “I don’t read the comments” when pressed by the other ladies to watch the whole thing again? For me, this episode was a giant meta mishmash that I loved – “here is what you think of us, and here is what we think of you” (i.e. hate watchers think they are all crazy, but the team behind the show doesn’t care about your hate-fed commentary) – what are your thoughts on that?
And, yes, I think we need to spend a smidge more time talking about Marnie’s “music video” for Edie Brickell’s “What I Am,” which she apparently shot with Charlie some time in the last five years, but which is the most gloriously nineties thing I’ve seen in months. Also, why would Charlie release this thing?
Rob: I can’t take credit for it, but yes, it was my first thought upon seeing her in the bathroom.
Again, your interpretation is solid, but is this really the kind of show that should be going meta? I think that’s a bit beyond its purview, and I’m not all that sure it fits. I also don’t think they even need to respond to critical commenters, so hopefully that’s the end of it.
As for Marnie, well, she just can’t catch a break. The video…that glorious yet terrible video…should be enough to sink her, but stranger things have happened. Maybe she’ll go the Rebecca “Friday” Black route to become a short-lived internet sensation? Either way I expect her to be hurt by it. More wah-wah time is most definitely on its way from poor Marnie.
Kate: As much as I enjoyed the perceived meta-ness of this episode, I also don’t want to see that expand beyond just this episode. I don’t want that thing to become a THING.
As horrifying as Marnie’s video is, she does seem to be enjoying the spotlight, at least a bit – after all, she does jump on stage to belt out more show tunes. Also – did you find that to be kind of sweet? I really enjoyed Marnie’s affection for Hannah in this episode, and while singing Rent songs in the middle of a hipster party is obviously embarrassing and Marnie is still grappling with her singing dreams, I think it also came from a place of love.
Rob: Agreed, mostly, on Marnie’s motivations at the party. She clearly loves Hannah, and even when they fight she can’t hide that they’re best friends. But I do think her barely concealed ego fuels her time on the stage as much as anything else does. My favorite part of the party though were the riffs on David’s appearance… Ed Norton? Poor man’s Anderson Cooper?
Unsurprisingly though, the episode’s wisest words come from Shosh when she points out how little the others have accomplished in their lives.
Kate: Should we be worried about Shosh? I feel like we should be. She’s still spouting off weird half-truths (sort of like Adam), but her own life is becoming messier by the moment.
And that run in with Ray. Ouch. Wait – should we be worried about RAY?
Rob: For all of Shosh’s wisdom, her meticulously structured life is bound to derail at some point, so I won’t be surprised to see it happen soon.
Ray, by contrast, seems to on track to making something of himself. His love life is obviously still a non-starter since Shosh, but he’s handling things in the right order… you won’t be good with someone else until you’re good with yourself. If he can pull it off it’ll be a good lesson for just about every other character here.
I know I’m a broken record on this topic by now, but the guys on the show (Adam and Ray) continue to be the most well-written, well-rounded, and engaging. The girls are fun and occasionally interesting, but Adam and Ray have more complex things to say than simple observations or snipes at each other.
Kate: As much as I am salivating over the “meta” stuff here, I also thought this epsiode was particularly great for the dudes. It was nice to see Ray fall apart a bit, just as he’s getting himself back together, because that’s real and sweet and relatable (and I wish Marnie would take a hint from him and just get in some drunk bar fight instead of belting things out on stage and yelling at YouTube people).
While this episode helped remind me that Marnie does love Hannah, it also helped convince me that Adam really does love Hannah, too – something I’ve been cagey and dismissive of. He gave her a tooth. No matter what Caroline throws at them, there is real love here, but I just worry that now that I’ve softened on it, it’s going to get screwed up once again.
Rob: Oh, the Hannah/Adam relationship is most definitely going to get screwed up again. I have no doubts about that, but I will be perturbed if it’s somehow due to Caroline’s obnoxious meddling. It’s been clear (to me at least) that he loves Hannah, but it’s a love with very clear rules, standards, and principles. I can easily see her crossing a line that he can no longer abide and forcing him to walk away.
And I do think Marnie’s heading for a bit of a stumble, but of the four girls I also think she’s the one with the best chance of happiness, success, and contentment. Jessa just doesn’t care enough, Hannah constantly creates her own issues, and Shosh is just funny in the head.
I’ll end with my weekly call for a Boys spinoff featuring Adam and Ray moving to Portland and sharing an apartment together. Oh, the hijinks and verbal smackdowns they would share!
Kate: And I’ll end with a call to let Gaby Hoffmann continue to do whatever the hell she wants AND the inevitable reveal of more terrible Marnie YouTube videos.