The fourth episode of Girls‘ still-terrific fifth season is the first point at which the end of the series comes into sharp focus. There’s been little sense of what the future had in store for its core quartet over the course of the show, as it’s always been very much in-the-moment, as one’s early-to-mid 20s tend to be. It may be a mirage, but “Old Loves” presents a rather bleak view of the future: Marnie staying in relationships for 10 years too long, Hannah never staying in one for long enough to even know if it’ll work, Hannah and Jessa no longer speaking, and Shosh . . . well, Shosh is going to ascend to anime heaven at some point and leave all earthly concerns behind. She’ll be fine.
The other three, though? Kind of a rough episode. Desi’s mode of loathsomeness this week involves, in a metaphor for his entire existence, pissing off everyone in the building by erecting literal walls in the tiny apartment he shares with Marnie to create a kitchen studio — and a Ray Bradbury nook — explaining that he’s doing it for Marnie, even though it’s the literal opposite of what she wanted. Desi (who it should be noted, is played perfectly by Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is such a perfectly rendered version of a person at least 20 people I know have fucked at some point or other, and Girls not having the mortality rate of Game of Thrones is a great vexation at this point. Yes, he feels things and cries, but he’s a vision of pure, Brooklyn-bearded, passive-aggressive evil.
Hannah, meanwhile, is also dealing with an act of passive aggression: Fran’s inability to accept her (admittedly flighty and very Hannah-y) choice to nurture her students’ creativity rather than teach them the rules of grammar. Hannah, after a classically cringe-inducing confrontation with Fran and one of her students at school, heads over to Jessa’s, where Marnie has also taken up refuge. In a neat bit of composition mirroring text, Marnie and Hannah are foregrounded, talking at each other without really listening, while Jessa, who’s gone back to school as part of her campaign to get her shit together, tries to study. The scene ends with Marnie (in the glow of the sort of epiphany that reinforces an existing, as-yet-unrationalized desire) drifting away to go “work on things” with Desi, and it leads to Hannah dragging Jessa to get rice pudding, which leads to Jessa — employing Jedi-level passive aggression — giving Hannah the opportunity to dynamite their lifelong friendship as a means of giving herself the justification to (finally) get together with Adam. There’s a chance (admittedly small given that we’re still a season and a half from the end) that this could be it for Hannah and Jessa, making the scene a bit of a gut punch.
The episode’s one successful romance is Elijah and Dill Harcourt, although this is quite obviously because it’s just beginning (the sex proves a little awkward, though Girls without awkward sex would be another show), and being juxtaposed with the other, older, troubled relationships casts a cloud over their new love. “Old Loves”, whether it looks backward or forward, is a fine episode.
Danny Bowes (@bybowes) is an artist and critic whose film and TV writing has appeared in Premiere, Tor.com, The Atlantic, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, RogerEbert.com, Salt Lake City Weekly, and The A.V. Club.