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Recap: Girls ‘Hello Kitty’

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A letdown only in comparison to last week’s “The Panic in Central Park”, “Hello Kitty” is the Girls episode where Hannah learns about Jessa and Adam’s affair, in quite possibly the worst way she could. Adam is performing in a site-specific/environmental theatre piece about Kitty Genovese, and the whole gang is coming to one performance. (For non-habitues of off-the-beaten path independent/experimental theatre in New York City, this is exactly how it works: the show is always something that takes a Wikipedia link and a half hour’s explanation to synopsize to your friends, and literally all of them come to one performance. This may be the literal high point of Girls verisimilitude.) Naturally, Hannah is disruptive, Marnie manages to keep pace with her in the self-involvement stakes, and it all ends in tears.

“Life as theatre” pervades the episode. The very first scene sees Hannah being read the riot act by her principal for multiple instances of Hannah-ing. She then proceeds to outdo herself, paying homage to the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct, parting her legs so the principal (like the cops in Basic Instinct, a man) is shocked into inaction by her absence of underwear. It’s a joke, and a funny one that avoids the clutches of cheapness by being exactly the kind of absurd thing that would occur to Hannah. Fran makes the point, while being kind of an asshole, that it’s a manifestation of her complete lack of adultness. The way Fran’s developing benefits the show greatly from a textual perspective, because his ultimate role in the grand scheme of things seems to be as a formative relationship in Hannah’s life, but one that is about to end very soon; she very nearly broke up with him in this episode before walking it back out of her not-being-able-to-fathom-being-alone agony over Adam and Jessa being together. Fran getting irritated with Hannah is only natural, but the writing is keeping him from being an audience surrogate by making him incrementally more stridently, irritatingly and obliviously mansplain-y to keep Hannah’s reciprocal irritation with him an actual part of the text. This way the audience has an organic reason deriving from the material itself to see things from her perspective, which is essential and yet so often assumed rather than developed by a show’s writers. (Yes, that was a shot across Vinyl‘s bow.)

Marnie swanning through this episode like the universe’s axis, openly ridiculing the idea that anything is more fascinating than her own problems, is both very funny and only as funny as it is because last week’s episode was so amazing. The revelation, brought by a heraldic Desi, that the music supervisor for Grey’s Anatomy wants to use one of their songs (“maybe for a montage!”) of course means that they have to go on tour, divorce or no divorce. This self-involvement, right when Hannah is desperately attempting to pull all the attention her way over her eschatological Adam-Jessa angst, takes place on what is basically the set of the site-specific theatre piece. Even better, Hannah’s rage at not being noticed leads her to adopt a hilariously weird physical posture, face down on a bed with her feet climbing the wall.

Elijah’s relationship with Dill takes a turn for the existential when, at a party, an excessively chatty partygoer lets fly with all manner of salacious gossip about Dill’s many boyfriends, their temporal overlap and the short duration of their relationships. Elijah does the sensible thing and bring his qualms about this up to Dill at the party rather than wait and let it simmer. Dill’s response is fascinating, and revelatory: rather than directly and literally saying anything reassuring, he talks around the subject, offering some generalities about being a public figure and subject of gossip, letting his charisma and reassuring purr carry the weight that the actual words he says cannot. It’s a performance Dill can simply flick a switch and bring the house down with… usually. Elijah does go to the extent of speaking candidly about how little he’s reassured — to an empty room, but still — and stealing a whole bunch of Dill’s bathroom stuff on his enraged way out the door. A drunken Dill later finds his way into Elijah’s bed but passes out in media res. There will, it is clear, be further words on this between them, but the fairy tale phase of the romance has, harshly, concluded.

The evening’s theatrics end with Hannah, having observed Adam and Jessa’s clear couplehood during the play, talking to them afterward, from a few dozen feet away, very briefly. Jessa can only get out a “hey,” and then walks away, clearly forcing herself to follow Adam into the night rather than doubling back to have a fuller version of the conversation she and Hannah clearly need to have soon. As a shot, it’s a marvelous composition, as physical acting, it’s superb.

Girls is so fucking good this year.

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.

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