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TV Recap: GIRLS, “Vagina Panic”

Following last week’s premiere episode, the Internet was abuzz with Girls backlash, attacking the show for seemingly every plausible reason. Some blasted it for being a pasty-white depiction of the most diverse city in the world. Others claimed Dunham and company have a sense of entitlement, as each of the four leads have show-business connections in their immediate families. Even more cannot get past that the protagonist has been largely an unlikeable brat so far.

The show certainly isn’t for everyone, and to an extent all the naysayers have a solid leg to stand on. But in the Girls universe, they are not running from any of these flaws. The mistakes these girls make continue to pile up, and watching how they wade through the shit-storm is what the show is all about. The characters may technically be adults, but there’s a reason it’s not called Women or Ladies.

Tonight’s installment follows suit with the show’s intended course, giving the ensemble pretty much every dark consequence of horrible sex you could ask for, which only further separates itself from the cutesy, light-hearted hipster New York comedy many people think the show to be. The episode opens with a pair of sex scenes between Hannah and Adam and Marnie and Charlie, both of which crank the awkward tension all the way up. Marnie’s terrible sex life with a boyfriend she is repulsed by is intriguing, and her inability to pinpoint exactly why she’s feeling this way is an interesting arc for the show’s most grounded character, but the focus is soon shifted to Hannah when she is concerned that she may have contracted an STD.

As if a potential venereal disease wasn’t a big enough issue to tackle in this episode, we are reminded still that there is perhaps an even bigger consequence of sex by learning that Jessa plans to take care of her unwanted pregnancy with an abortion. Being a supportive friend, Marnie brings everyone to the clinic for an “abortion party,” and being Jessa, she fails to show up, instead opting for a few afternoon drinks and random fling with a stranger, who’s only purpose is to (rather grossly) inform the audience that Jessa got her period, and thus, is not pregnant after all.

It seems like a strange reveal, but it somehow fits in perfectly well with Jessa’s character. She doesn’t like anyone telling her what to do, how to do it or when to do it. She lives moment-to-moment and has no idea how to look at the big picture, but while her behavior is irrational, she still remains the show’s most confident and self-aware character, which is more telling of everyone else than a compliment on her behalf.

Within all the craziness, we get to learn a little more about Shoshanna, who’s affected by sex in a different way because she’s still a virgin. She’s so wrapped up in the idea of having sex that she thinks Hannah getting tested is cool simply because it’s proof that she got some. Shoshanna is clearly immature when it comes to most things (her use of “totes” and “obvy” just one example), but in her surprisingly sweet confession to Marnie, we get a better idea of why. She’s so desperate to become one of the ‘ladies’, as her self-help book Listen Ladies proclaims, but she feels stilted by her lack of sexual prowess.

While Jessa never arrives at the clinic, Hannah takes advantage of her surroundings by getting examined for her feared STD, and what transpired is what makes Girls stand out from most other shows on TV right now. Following the typical doctor-patient conversation, Hannah just keeps talking, and as proven earlier with her failed job interview, this verbal diarrhea is her fatal flaw. She goes on a rant explaining her current situation, how things have made a turn for the worse professionally and personally (#FirstWorldProblems) and how maybe having AIDS would somehow make her life better. The doctor isn’t falling for this, basically telling Hannah that she’s an idiot for even thinking that to be the case.

Girls is never afraid to call out its characters. Just as the doctor points out Hannah’s misguided thoughts, Hannah confronts Marnie, refusing to believe that her having “too good a boyfriend” could be considered a problem. And Jessa scolds Hannah for being “so self involved” and not wanting to be just another character for one of her stories. There’s plenty to like and hate about everyone on this show, and by challenging one another, these girls will continue to work towards becoming the ladies referred to in Shoshanna’s book. But they’re nowhere close yet.

Other Thoughts

– In response to the all-white casting: Yes, this is painfully clear. But it goes to show how closed off Hannah’s world is. She’s been in New York for two years, and her only friends are her roommate and her best friend from childhood (I guess Shoshanna fits in somewhere because she’s Jessa’s cousin, but her and Hannah haven’t had any one-on-one time yet). That fact that she cannot break free from this circle in a place as culturally rich as New York is telling to the character, not to the state of the show.

– Zosia Mamet gets a lot of mileage out of Shoshanna with great line reading and comedic timing. The character could still use some more screen time to get fleshed out even more, but it’s a big step up from last week.

– Hannah admits to having hate-read Listen Ladies in a weird moment of desperation at the Detroit airport.

– A great guest spot by Mike Birbiglia as the man attempting to hire Hannah at the job interview. The two had a great report until Hannah (of course) ruined everything with a date rape joke gone horribly wrong.

– Hannah’s Google searches: “diseases that come from no condom for one second” and “the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms.” She has a special obsession with the latter, mentioning it no fewer than four times in the episode.

– With all the focus on birth control in this episode, there’s some introspective moments from Marnie and Jessa contemplating their futures as mothers. Marnie hopes that she’s not barren, and Jessa wants children with many men of all different ethnicities.

– Some good one-liners from Jessa: “What if I want to feel like I have utters?” “I don’t go on dates; they’re for lesbians.” She also doesn’t understand texts, calling them “word alerts.”

– Soundtrack: Generationals, The Pretenders, The Troggs, White Sea

– “You could not pay me enough to be 24 again.”

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Nicholas DeLorenzo

Nicholas DeLorenzo

television writer/social assassin