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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: Girls, "Boys"

Season 2, Episode 6
Grade: B-
Verdict: I had some extreme feelings within this episode. Certain moments felt incredibly real and grounded, while others felt like contrived plot devices to trigger character development. See below for examples. I enjoyed the episode overall but felt it had wasted potential.

This week on Girls: BOYS. Written by Murray Miller, whose writing credits include American Dad and King of the Hill, "Boys" gives us a closer look at some of the men in Hannah's life. When Ray wants to get his copy of Little Women back from Hannah, she sends him to Adam to retrieve it. Ray and Adam ultimately spend the episode bonding on a mission to return a dog Adam stole. Meanwhile, Marnie struggles to define her relationship with Booth, and Hannah lands an e-book deal but struggles with writer's block.

I was intrigued by the idea of "Boys"; most episodes of this show are written by females and focus on the female characters. Initially I thought this might be a sort of alternative view episode, where we see the world of the men in Girls and only get peripheral views of the ladies. Unfortunately it actually played out a lot like a regular episode, just with a heightened focus on Ray and Adam's interaction, which was a bit of a let-down.

The opening begins with Hannah receiving a deal for an e-book, but that's about where the good news ends; the rest of the episode focuses on disappointment, primarily that of Marnie and Ray. Marnie is reveling in her new relationship with Booth and the bonus of all of his cool art friends, but realizes he doesn't consider their sexual fling a committed one. Ray's disappointment carries over from previous episodes, where we learn he's homeless. Shoshanna urges him to take business classes, and he ultimately gets berated by a stranger who accuses him of not having a job (more on this in a second), leading to a breakdown at the end of the episode.

The biggest shift and truest moment in "Boys" occurs in the tenuous relationship between Marnie and Hannah. Hannah shows up to Booth's party, but Marnie is busy with her glamorous friends and pays her little attention. Hannah brags about her e-book deal and Marnie glows about her relationship with Booth, but both of these pride points unravel throughout the episode. Hannah can't get past her first line and has only 1 month to write this book. It seems like it's not going to happen, and she's clearly incredibly insecure about it. Marnie's relationship isn't really a relationship at all, and she's most likely done with Booth.

But in their phone call after the party, they both pretend things are great. Hannah flatly says she's "so excited" about the book and Marnie doesn't mention her fight with Booth. They've officially moved into that awkward territory of exchanging pleasantries and pretending things are good because they don't feel comfortable delving into personal details. I'm pretty sure we've all been in that sad transitional state, and the phone call was dead on.

The worst part of "Boys" was Ray's plot, for me. I actually really like his character and the actor who portrays him, but the mechanism for bringing his breakdown about felt very forced and unnatural. "It's a Shame About Ray" had some really great moments dealing with his struggles. This week, a random stranger gets mad at him and suddenly berates him for probably being jobless (because he's not at work in the middle of the day) and being a failure. I wish this moment for him had been triggered by something much more subtle or much more relevant and plausible.

On a side note, I'm also not really sure I'm buying that Hannah already has an e-book deal. I realize Lena Dunham had a lot of success at a young age, but that's an exception to the most common scenario. While I know Hannah isn't exactly getting picked up by a publisher yet, it still feels like we need to see her hustling, struggling, and failing more before she obtains this kind of success. It was only a few episodes ago that we saw her freak out and fall apart when someone admitted he didn't like her essays. If she's not at the point of accepting criticism yet, I don't think she's at the commissioned-to-write-a-book stage yet.

Favorite quote: "My best relationships were with a 17-year-old and a 54-year-old." - Adam
Best moment: Hannah & Marnie's phone call
Worst moment: Staten Island lady yelling at Ray

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