Review: 'Girls' - 'Dead Inside': Between grief and nothing
A review of tonight's "Girls" coming up just as soon as I place one crumb of human compassion in this fat free muffin of sociopathic detachment...
I really enjoyed the first three episodes of this season, and I really enjoyed episodes 5 & 6 as well. "Dead Inside," though, didn't really work for me.
The idea behind Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow's script is a sound one: how does a very young, very self-absorbed woman like Hannah Horvath react the first time death takes someone relatively close to her? As you might imagine, the answer is "in the coldest, most narcissistic way possible."
Now, the deck is stacked in favor of this particular result. The show didn't bump off an old friend or a beloved cousin (more on cousins in a minute) or someone else who mattered emotionally to Hannah. This was David, who was very important to her professionally, but who was someone — as we were very clearly reminded in last week's birthday party — Hannah didn't like very much. So Hannah's specific reaction — "And no one even began to tell me what was next for my ebook!" — didn't seem unfair or out of character. But there was a level of self-consciousness to that entire story(*) that "Girls" at its best is either able to avoid or, in the case of something like the Donald Glover breakup scene last season, make so funny that the meta of it all doesn't much matter. "Dead Inside," on the other hand, seemed keenly aware of how much of the audience feels about Hannah, while mainly generating laughs in out of the way places like Laird's snot-dripping reaction to Caroline's story about dead cousin Margaret.
(*) I first watched the episode weeks ago, before that gross (and ultimately backfiring) Jezebel stunt about getting unretouched pictures from Dunham's Vogue photo shoot, and even there, Hannah's defense of Jezebel and Gawker — two sites that write an awful lot about "Girls," both good and bad — seemed very echo chamber-y. Now it's even weirder (albeit probably funnier).
And Caroline is turning out to be something of a problem. I'm really enjoying Gaby Hoffmann's performance, but "Girls" doesn't especially need another deceitful sociopath, not when it has Jessa — presented here, somewhat understandably, as such a corrosive force that her childhood best friend would fake her own death to get away from. The climactic moment where Hannah appropriates Caroline's fake story is meant to be disturbing — rather than finding the empathy Adam so desperately wants to see from her, Hannah instead becomes more like the calculated, manipulative sister Adam rightfully distrusts — but it doesn't really land for a couple of reasons. First, while we've seen Hannah lie in the past, in general she tends to err on the side of truthfulness, landing herself into trouble because she has little skill at or inclination toward deception. Second, even allowing for Hannah being a bad liar, telling Adam this exact story is an incredibly stupid move with too much potential to blow up in her face, either because there was some truth to Caroline's story (maybe they actually had a cousin named Margaret, even if she didn't die after Adam heroically took her to the prom) or because Adam might repeat the story to Caroline, a total wild card who could tell him its true origin. It has such enormous potential for self-destruction that I was completely distracted from the actual point of the scene and what Hannah's deception said about her and her fear of chasing Adam away.
Some other thoughts:
* The Jessa subplot, by the way, ultimately felt too cartoonish and strange, even by the standards of the fantasy world in which Jessa tends to operate. I appreciate that characters this season continue to call her out as being this awful wrecking ball with pretty blonde hair, but the scene at Season's brownstone was vibrating at a very weird frequency.
* Another self-aware moment: Adam is incredibly excited to find a vintage Tom Hanks photo, on a show where Hanks' wife plays Marnie's mom, and his "Bosom Buddies" co-star plays Hannah's dad. (And speaking of "Bosom Buddies," you might just want to watch the latest "Greatest Event in Television History.")
* I greatly enjoyed both Ray and Hermie's reaction to the Marnie video as well as Marnie's continued indignation over the whole thing. Also, note that the video only has 1621 views so far; it hasn't gone genuinely viral, but of course Marnie would get this upset about it.
Finally, note that HBO is going to premiere the next new episodes of both "Girls" and "Looking" on Saturday night at 10 and 10:30, to avoid having them premiere opposite the Super Bowl. The episodes will still rerun in their usual timeslots on Sunday, but my review of the next "Girls" will publish after it first airs on Saturday night (as, schedule permitting, will Greg Ellwood's take on the next "Looking").
As for "Dead Inside," what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org