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GIRLS, “Only Child” Episode Recap

The girls on Girls are some of the worst people on TV, something that you, dear reader, obviously don’t need me to spell out for you. Their character traits aren’t entirely unfamiliar to the cable TV landscape, however. There’s narcissism, self-pity, anger, and emotional manipulation, among others, words that can be just as easily assigned to Tony Soprano or Walter White. But what makes Hannah worse than just about anyone is her level of delusion. As far as she’s concerned, there is no inner-struggle between right and wrong, because she has absolutely no concept of how her behavior affects anyone but herself.

Being an asshole is one thing, but there’s nothing worse than being a phony, which is what Ray’s bottom line is when Marnie asks for his honest assessment of her. But at least with Marnie, she acknowledges that she has a problem and actively seeks out answers, even if in doing so she reverts back to old habits (Ray explains that even when she’s trying to be sincere she can’t help but carry a phony tone). So Ray — who, like Adam, has a seemingly singular purpose on this show to be a voice of reason — told Marnie what she needed to hear: She’s extremely judgmental, she thinks she’s better than everyone else, she’s unbearably uptight, and she uses people. These are all things that Marnie already knows and is trying to accept, and what ultimately makes her a sympathetic character is the fact that she hates herself and desperately wants to change. Jessa can also be seen as, if not sympathetic, at least more likable because she too owns up to her flaws, although in a completely different way in which she shows virtually no desire to change.

But with Hannah, she’s bought into her own shit for so long now that she’s no where close to being grounded in any sort of realistic self awareness, even though literally every character on the show has at one time or another called her out on her behavior and, in some instances, offered help. To call Hannah a phony in the typical sense of the word is a little unfair. As she’s shown with her unconventional way of grieving, she’s not interested in playing along just because it’s what you’re supposed to do — she has an agenda to find out what the deal is with her book and she doesn’t sugar coat much when trying to figure out what is next for her. (Hannah’s impeccably insensitive word choice to David’s widow at the funeral when finding that the publisher is dropping her book: “My book is dead.”)

Where Hannah’s phoniness comes into play is in her veiled perception that she cares about anyone but herself. She acts as a mediator for Adam’s and Caroline’s fight, mostly spewing garbage that she picked up from daytime talk shows, but ultimately cuts ties with Caroline later in the episode without Adam’s consent, basically because she was being an inconvenience to her. She goes to David’s funeral and instead of paying her respects, she insults the widow to accomplish personal gain. The most unforgivable of Hannah’s transgressions was in the phone conversation with her dad, where she interrupts him talking about a small medical procedure with the news of her book. It’s one thing to be an asshole to a stranger, but to totally dismiss her dad, one of the few people who will always be in her corner, is a pretty unforgivable offense.

As the titular only child, Hannah was obviously spoiled rotten growing and always expected everything to go her way. When Adam says to Hannah at the end of the episode, “She’s my sister, don’t you get that,” that answer’s a fairly obvious “no.” No matter how volatile Adam’s and Caroline’s relationship is, Adam knows that his sister needs him and can’t just kick her to the curb the second shit starts to go astray. This is exactly what Hannah does, since, amazingly enough, her entitled self has gone through young adulthood achieving pretty much everything she’s wanted — a great education, a loving boyfriend, living in New York, a book deal — so when the rights to her book are locked up with her old publisher for the next three years, she of course doesn’t act like an adult about it but reverts to her needy, selfish, only-child “poor me” ways. After all the seemingly positive steps Hannah has taken since overcoming her bout with OCD last season, she’s shown that it was all a farce, that there will always be that entitled little girl inside who will make a fuss when things don’t work out the way she planned.

Hannah’s behavior is clearly intentional on the show’s part; it has never been afraid to show Hannah in an unflattering light and basically dares the audience to hate her with every new plot development. But at a certain point her self-involvement just becomes too much to handle, and after 25 episodes of making the same mistakes, the show has seemingly run out of creative ways to make Hannah’s rancid soul an interesting character trait. There’s simply no complexity anymore. She’s just horrible and shows no signs of careening towards redemption. Unless the show starts allowing Hannah to, like Marnie, at least try at becoming a little better, it’s going to be stuck in this uneventful, boring rut of not-at-all shocking revelations about Hannah’s personality. That or she becomes so evil that Adam, Marnie and company turn on her and she is eventually humbled when forced to her own devices. Either way, the show is in need of something fresh in short order.

Other Thoughts

– “He had a gay app on his iPhone and liked to show his ankles, but what does that even mean in this day and age?”

– This week in Shoshanna news: She’s pissed that Jessa just mopes around her apartment all day, her recent hijinks has really taken a toll on her GPA, she has a 15-year plan (thinking any further down the line would be insane).

– Adam to his sister, “You have no drive or goals, but somehow tons of opinions,” which Hannah, the mediator, says actually sounds a lot like him. I really, really hope the Hannah/Adam relationship starts going through some major shit in the next few weeks. It’s boiling under the surface and just needs to explode, if for nothing else than to let Adam Driver out of his restraints.

– Hannah’s new publisher compared her to Mindy Kaling. There’s something icky about Lena Dunham, a writer portraying a version of herself on screen, patting herself on the back so hard.

– Marnie and Ray had sex, because why not. It happened just when I thought, “Hey, a platonic relationship between heterosexual members of the opposite gender, that’s really cool!” too.

– To Hannah, three years might as well be a million years, because she’s forever stuck in the emotional mindset of an eight-year-old.

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Nicholas DeLorenzo

Nicholas DeLorenzo

television writer/social assassin