Review: 'Girls' - 'Free Snacks': Editorial vs. advertorial
A review of tonight's "Girls" coming up just as soon as I am being written about in popular service publications...
This has been perhaps the funniest "Girls" season so far. It's also been the season that's made Hannah (and, to a lesser extent, her friends) more self-involved than ever before, to the point where she's in danger of seeming like a non-violent sociopath rather than a complicated character who has some growing up to do. I don't know the the latter is the reason for the former, since some of the season's best comic moments have involved Hannah trying to be empathetic (like last week's counseling session with Adam and Caroline), but it's been an interesting approach for such a divisive show. It's as if Lena Dunham, Jenni Konner and company decided to steer as hard into the skid as possible: Oh, you say these characters are spoiled and unsympathetic? You ain't seen nothin' yet! We were nearing the point where I wouldn't have been surprised if Hannah talked Ray into helping her cook meth.
Instead, "Free Snacks" brings Hannah back into more human territory, placing her in a situation in which she's a relatively sympathetic figure, even as she's being Hannah Horvath and putting her foot in her mouth time and again.
Back when I was at The Star-Ledger, there was talk that every third desk in the newsroom (and at every newsroom around the country) held an uncompleted manuscript for the novel one reporter or another hoped to finish if they could ever find time in between covering breaking news. There is the dream of what you want to do, and then there is the reality of what you do to pay the bills, and even if they have certain things in common, they are not the same. But it's also hard to walk away from the job that pays you a living wage and gives you an outlet, even if it's not what you might really want to be doing — and the longer you do it, the harder it gets to walk away.
This job writing advertorials for GQ is on one level a big step up for Hannah, and on another a comfort trap. It's a steady job in which her work will appear in a national magazine — albeit in the part of magazine many readers (including anyone Hannah might hope could lead her to a better job) will turn right past — that pays better than working at Ray's coffee shop, puts her in an office with like-minded people (and also with Kevin, who doesn't like her face), and gives her access to some very impressive free food. (The lox is from Russ & Daughters — site of a memorable scene from "Louie" season 3 — for goodness' sake.) And Hannah, it turns out, is very good at this. She's probably more aggressive than she needs to be in the pitch meeting, but Janice the boss loves her pitches.
But it's not what Hannah really wants to do, and because she knows that she is God's most special snowflake, she assumes she's the only one in that bullpen who feels that way. Instead, it turns out her colleagues have far more impressive work on their resumes than her unpublished ebook, but the ease of this job — at a time when it's exceptionally hard to make a living as a writer — has kept them from striving for more. And though Hannah initially tries to quit rather than become like them, she ultimately makes the same decision — the responsible one, rather than the idealistic one — the others have.
That's a big deal, even as there are a number of sequences at the GQ office that I had to watch through the horror movie finger filter. I don't know if she'll stay in this job for long, but if she does, it would be a significant change for the show. Hannah wouldn't magically become a different, more self-aware person, but having this kind of job — even if it's one she wants to view as temporary — adds both stability and tension to Hannah's life, and therefore to "Girls."
Some other thoughts:
* Hannahs' job also adds some familiar faces to the recurring ensemble, including Jessica Williams from "The Daily Show" and Michael Zegen from "Rescue Me" as two of Hannah's new co-workers. Meanwhile, their boss is played by J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons.
* Jessa also starts a new job this week, but it's only briefly glimpsed, and used to demonstrate that Jessa is once again unqualified and not taking things seriously. (When a mother worries that an outfit Jessa randomly selected is too small for her daughter, Jessa replies, "No, unless your child is morbidly obese."
* Ray's making an effort to be a good boyfriend, or however you define his relationship with Marnie, to the point of watching the terrible reality shows she enjoys. (Loved his response to her question about which "Real Housewives" locale is most intriguing to him: "The one set in Prague?") And before they get to the Chinese restaurant, they run into Hannah and Adam's doppelgangers, continuing a recent tradition of comedy doppelgangers that's included "How I Met Your Mother," "Parks and Recreation," "Community" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," among many others.
* This week in Alan Wants a Web Series: "I Am Not Your Monkey," in which we see raw footage of various Adam Sackler auditions, sometimes playing along with what the casting director asks him to do, sometimes walking out or flipping over tables or being Adam.
* Also, Adam appears to have let go, for now, of any anger he had about Hannah kicking his sister out of the apartment.
* Shoshana's also attempting to pull out of her recent nosedive, asking her current hookup if he's interested in something more serious. Still, at this point she's definitely coming across as colder and meaner than she was at the beginning of the series. As with Jessa, she's had so little to do in the last batch of episodes that it's hard to make out a significant character arc for her, but I'll be curious to see what's up if/when she starts getting more screentime.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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