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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Girls, "I Get Ideas"

Season 2, Episode 2
Grade: B+

Verdict: The writing in this episode looks inward at its own flaws, gracefully and honestly addressing the complaints about the show's lack of diversity, while giving us plenty of the Hannahisms we crave.

So here's the hard thing about reviewing really good shows: Do you grade it compared to what you've come to love and expect from past episodes, or do you compare it everything else on TV? I'm going with the former, simply because I think everyone will be bored of an "A" grade each time. This week's episode was great, but it didn't make me laugh or feel to the capacity that it has in the past.

In "I Get Ideas," Hannah deals with the backlash of dumping Adam and tries to get closer to her new romantic interest, who happens to be a Republican. Marnie struggles to find a job and reconsiders her career path, and Elijah confesses his sexual indiscretion to his boyfriend, only to be dumped. Jessa and Shoshanna are still having a great time with their respective love interests, which automatically makes them less interesting for now and yielded very little screen time for either character (because who cares about happy people?), but we all know Jessa's spur of the moment marriage will trainwreck soon.

I think the pacing of "I Get Ideas" improved from last week. It still feels a bit crowded with characters at times (was there much point to even including Jessa or Shosanna?) but it made room for Hannah being Hannah, which is the whole reason I watch this show. The writers are excellent at developing the characters, and Hannah in particular, in tiny little moments. Each as a piece means little, but together they form a picture that helps us relate to the characters. This week had plenty - Hannah resorting to YouTube for an awkward work out and a DIY haircut, eating Cool Whip straight from the container, wearing weird sleeping bag pajamas.

In the most notable part of the episode, which is maybe one of my favorite snippets from the show so far, a fight occurs between Hannah and Sandy (played by Donald Glover of Community). When Sandy reads one of Hannah's essays and reluctantly admits he's not a fan, she takes the criticism poorly. Hannah disparages Sandy for being too Republican, which leapfrogs into an argument about race. Girls received a lot of backlash last season for having an all-white ensemble. In a very meta-moment, the writers address that criticism, handling it much more gracefully than Hannah does:

Sandy: This always happens, this 'I'm a white girl, I move to New York, I have a fixed gear bike, I'm going to date a black guy, and we'll go to a dangerous part of town.' I've seen this happen a million times, and they can't deal with who I am.
Hannah: The joke's on you, because I never thought about the fact that you were black.
Sandy: That's insane, OK? You should. I am.
Hannah: I didn't think about it until just now when you said it because I don't live in a world where there are divisions like that.
Sandy: You do.

As a character, Hannah is very self-involved and gets caught up in her own little world; sometimes, to the point of jeopardizing her character's likability, and for some, even jeopardizing the show's likability.  I really appreciated that in responding to the criticism, the show did so thoughtfully. They didn't hire a black actor to play a part that a white actor could just as easily have played, and they didn't completely ignore race out of fear of angering people again. The writers also clearly used Hannah's essay as a foil for reacting to other critical responses to the show ("nothing happens, but it's very well-written").

There were a few set ups in this episode that I look forward to watching play out in upcoming episodes. Marnie and Hannah had an awkward moment when Marnie implied she didn't think Hannah was pretty enough for a "pretty person job." Coupled with the fact that Elijah slept with Marnie (even if it was only "three pumps"), these two characters are headed for another clash. Jessa's husband also spontaneously buys her three puppies in this episode. That sounds like a cute idea, much like their wedding probably did, and will probably end in disaster, much like their marriage probably will.  

Best Moment: Hannah & Sandy's break up talk (in particular, Hannah asking if he still wants to have sex afterwards, purportedly for his sake and to save him from blue balls)
Worst Moment: Hannah calling 911 because she thinks her ex is a full-fledged stalker. Really? I find her completely relatable most of the time, but you lost me there.

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