I'm having a hard time moving on from last week's groundbreaking, brilliant bottle episode of Girls, "One Man's Trash". Not only did it mark the best episode of the series to date, but it got an interesting, if not long overdue conversation started that girls who look like Hannah/Lena Dunham can and do have sex with guys who look like Joshua/Patrick Wilson. That the the played-out sitcom trope of the fat husband and the hot wife deserved to be turned on its head and our society's standards of beauty are continuing to evolve, whether small-minded people like it or not.
When thirty minutes of television can spark an Internet frenzy that ranges from insipid (no, it wasn't a dream and no, Hannah's body type does not need to meet your specifications) to inspired (calling out the lame, shallow criticisms of the episode and asking who exactly someone like Hannah "deserves") whatever follows it is bound to feel like a letdown, right?
Sadly, right. Last night's not-so-groundbreaking, not-so-brilliant episode of Girls called, interestingly enough, "Boys", was a sub par episode in and of itself, but felt even more so as the follow-up act to the thoughtful "One Man's Trash." While "One Man's Trash" was a beautiful, yet truthful glimpse into life on the other end of the class system, "Boys" was an ugly way to thrust viewers back into the often grim reality of Hannah and her friends.
But "Boys" didn't start off that way. Instead we found a made-up, adorable-looking Hannah (take that, haters) having lunch with one of her writer idols, played by none other than Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell. (More of him in the weeks to come, please!) He told her he's been reading her work and that it's "complex, sweet, naive, and infuriating" and after having a pretentious conversation that would make even the brunching Brooklynites roll their eyes, offered her a deal to write an e-book…in a months time. Still, go Hannah, she seemed to be finally finding her voice, moving on with her life without Adam, and making it happen in her career all at the same time. That is, until she puked in the bushes as soon as the lunch ended. (Hannah, I presume, even when she gets it together, will always do things like puke in bushes and browse on the Internet when she should be writing an e-book instead. I hope that part of her never does change, honestly).
Over in a far more obnoxious afternoon rendezvous elsewhere in Brooklyn, Marnie was in bed with Booth (Jorma Taccone) where a post-coital conversation with his assistant Soojin about "fridge stocked with probiotic goat milk" and the fact that she took a bite of his rose water ice cream ended with her getting fired. (Or, quitting to join her boyfriend on the road with Carly Rae Jepsen's tour. Either way, it's annoying.) Booth then asked Marnie to hostess a party he was throwing later in the evening for another art goon and she inexplicably, blissfully obliged. Hannah may be the poster child for twenty something screw-ups, but Marnie is card-carrying member.
Speaking of quitters, Hannah returned to the scene of last week's crime, Cafe Grumpy, where Ray and Shoshanna weren't exactly seeing eye to eye. She suggested he go to an inspirational work seminar where he could learn how to be a happy entrepreneur, but Ray has no aspirations to be either of things. No aspirations to be anything, for that matter. Ray is someone who thinks he's a Marmie in a Little Women world (as Hannah fired back, "You're probably the dad who died from influenza in the war) and suggested the only reason most people become writers is to, and I quote "eat and masturbate."
After asking Hannah for his Little Women back, she revealed that she left it at Adam's house. Since she had no intention of going over there and Shoshanna said it was his "duty as a man", Ray went over to the terrifying Casa de Adam himself. The scene was familiar: Adam (who was actually wearing a shirt), working on some sort of woodworking project and making an even louder racket about himself.
Looking even more distraught and lost post-arrest (as he griped to Ray, he spent "a night in a cell with a f**king yoga teacher") Adam revealed that he'd stolen a dog after he saw its owner being mean to it and he felt like the dog wanted him to rescue him. Ray, showing his rare moment of being a decent, relatable human being told Adam he had to give the dog back, that what he'd done was wrong. When Adam asked Ray to come along as a muscle man in case he needed backup, an obviously flattered Ray went along for the trip. Which just so happened to take both of the boys (they aren't men yet, so I'll continue to use that word) to Staten Island.
On their trip on the Staten Island Ferry — which Ray made sure to point out wasn't "an amusement park, it's the gates of hell and note that he once turned down a three way with attractive girls because it required him to go to the despised borough — they bonded. In a way that only two "kinda weird looking" guys who say whatever tumbles through their heads could. Adam made wild theories that only younger women and much older women are worth dating, that all the ages in between, the very age he is, are too difficult to deal with. (Not, you know, them).
When they arrived in Staten Island — with the kidnapped dog in a homemade muzzle in tow — which Ray once again bitched was just a metaphor for staring at the real island of New York from a comfortable distance, their bond quickly switched gears. Not soon after Ray called Adam a "poet" for comparing Hannah to a rigged carnival game ("You walk away and you realize you didn't even want the crappy prize to begin with") and Ray revealed that Shoshanna is his longest relationship (which puts a little bit of a whole in the Girls timeline, considering we were under the impression that the two had a relationship over the summer, not just sleep together that one time). Whether you love or hate Ray and/or Adam, two were just as fascinating and frustrating to listen to as their female counterparts on the show.
The only difference is, when these two deeply troubled boys don't get along, there's no passive aggressive bullsh**t that happens with the girls, theirs results in verbal and physical altercations. When Ray began to speak unkindly of Hannah (at this point, he probably safely assumed that he and Adam had become quick pals and could take his side), Adam went on the defense and got Ray to the core about his relationship with Shoshanna. "You don't know s**t about love," he said. "She's just some kid you feel safe with because you know it won't work out….you're babies holding hands. She clearly doesn't like you." Woof.
Now, it must be noted, once again, that Adam is a certified sociopath, so the sight of him spouting those hurtful (if not remarkably spot-on) words at Ray and abandoning him with the dog that he stole in the first place is no surprise. If anything, it's just a helpful reminder that Hannah is so much better off without him.
NEXT: Ray goes to the dogs and Marnie and Hannah continue to drift apart.
As if Ray's day couldn't get worse, when he arrived at the dog's owners house he was accosted by a trashy girl who told him to keep the dog and she even had a few choice horrific, racist names for him. Even in scenes like this, I've always had a hard time empathizing with Ray. For someone who shows the occasional signs of being human, is too often nasty to the rest of the human race. But when Ray had a breakdown, looking out at the city with this equally sad sack dog by his side, and said out loud that he's nothing, I started to understand Ray again.
Much like I did when he admitted to Shoshanna that he's a homeless loser, I understood that the reason Ray pushes so hard against everyone is because the world has pushed just as hard against him. It's the survival instincts of someone who wonders why they're even trying to survive in the first place. It's still incredibly hard to like Ray, but I'm starting to get who he is more and more.
That's more than I can say about Marnie, whose identity seems to be wrapped up in having a boyfriend. Back at Booth's terrible party filled with terrible people named Hopper and Strider and Sketch, Marnie was all dolled up in a dress that literally put her on display, Yet, she seemed to be enjoying every minute of it, which was abundantly obvious to Hannah, who showed up dressed in an outfit that put her on display for different reasons. The two friends' lives are moving in such opposite directions, Hannah with her e-book (which was mocked by one of the party's terrible guests) and Marnie with her search to find a boyfriend.
Later, in Booth's wine cellar, it was revealed that Booth not only asked Marnie to hostess not as a girlfriend, but as hired help, but that he'd done the same thing with Soojin. Marnie cried that she fell in love with the idea of him and Booth cried that no one likes him (not going to argue with that) and that he hates all of his friends back. The problem with scenes and characters like this on Girls isn't just that there's lack of compassion for either of these two, but even when it's played for laughs ("Hopper straightened his hair, f**king a**hole!") they are just as irritating. I know I'm supposed to be laughing at someone like Booth, but mostly I just want him to go away.
Since, presumably, no one was sad to see Booth go, her breakup with him didn't bring up any emotions. Her phone call from Hannah, however, was a different story. This friendship has been deteriorating ever since Marnie moved out and it's only gotten worse. Marnie told Booth earlier in the episode that she only maintains the friendship because it is so deeply ingrained in her. During their brief, awkward call, both of the girls lie to each other, in every sense of the world. Hannah claimed she left the party to go home and write when really she was just uncomfortable there, and Marnie claimed she was still having a good time at Booth's place, when really she was sad and alone on a subway platform. When they said "talk soon" it carried no weight, it was an obligation, a pleasantry. Both friends realized it, in their own way, Marnie cried again, and Hannah was mad, slamming her phone to the bed. (Not unlike Ray and Adam's parting of ways, where Adam got mad and Ray got sad).
If "Boys" was meant to show how boys and girls' friendships can be so alike in many ways (Adam and Ray talked about their relationships, in their own unique way) and so different (Hannah and Marnie let the tension continue to build by not saying whats really on their minds), they certainly pulled it off. But after a week when we learned so much about men and women, it was an adjustment to going back to be invested in the fascinating, if not trivial, problems of boys and girls.
[Photo credit: Jessica Miglio/HBO]
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