Five Essay Prompts for Girls 2×8: ‘It’s Back’

Illustration via Alex Bedder.

Illustration via Alex Bedder.

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Girls. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Even though the episode seems to insist that Hannah’s OCD has been brought on by the stress of writing the book, the first time we see her exhibiting this behavior is when Adam calls her and she instinctively looks behind her–paranoid (but really, not that paranoid) that he might be following her–and then looks seven more times. And she mentions the book to the therapist only after she mentions Adam. Being that at least part of her OCD involves her persisting in behaviors that she originally does accidentally or without thinking (looking behind her, bumping into the guy at the show), how might we read her disorder as a response not to work-related stress but to Adam-related stress? And what does this say about their ongoing, if unacknowledged, relationship?

FIRST OF ALL, can we just stop for a moment and acknowledge how hard we were emotionally toyed with by HBO’s DEF (Delusionally Empowered Female) programming last night? I actually spent 20 minutes trying to find dictionaries that would agree that “delusionally” was a word, just to avoid thinking about the panic induced by watching Girls and Enlightened back to back. My compulsion when stressed is to reinspect losing scratch-off Bingo cards over and over, so I actually missed most of the visuals this week. Was Shosh’s hookup black or Hispanic? (Either way, can’t wait for the racial Donnybrook that encounter will cost us.)

But if I have to get into it: both Hannah’s trigger and her compulsions are related to sex. See also: the masturbation issue, which was alluded to last season in a throwaway line by Marnie, “You’ve been crazy since middle school, when you had to masturbate eight times a night to stave off diseases of the mind and body“; her ambivalence about Adam; her ambivalence about Adam regarding sex; her ambivalence about sex in general post-Joshua.

I mean, yes, the looming e-book deadline would be intolerably stressful, especially for someone like Hannah, who definitely does not have it together. With her anxiety, she couldn’t even power through it on no sleep and Adderall, the way most of America’s 20-somethings deal with looming workloads. Poor Hannah.

I’d say whatever the main or original trigger for Hannah’s relapse–whether it’s the book or Adam or her parents coming to town– it isn’t something you can deduce from the show, nor is it useful to think about. It’s all of the things. Six of one, half dozen of the other, and 8-16 climaxes in one night, Jesus Christ.

2. The chorus of the song Judy Collins sings, “Open the Door,” goes:

Open the door and come on in
I’m so glad to see you my friend
You’re like a rainbow comin’ around the bend
And when I see you smilin’
Well, it sets my heart free
I’d like to be as good a friend to you
As you are to me

How would each of the characters understand these lyrics in relation to what happens to him or her in this episode?

Marnie: Why can’t Charlie and Hannah be as good of friends to me as I am to them?

Ray: If Marnie starts singing Judy Collins right now I am just going to lose it.

Shoshannah: I don’t even remember the last time I saw a rainbow. Ray is the opposite of a rainbow. He’s just like … rain.

Hannah: You are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good, you are fine and good. You are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine, you are good and fine.

Adam: This song is just so fucking real right now. I don’t care how corny it sounds, no one should ever apologize for Living. I am just looking at this girl’s smile and I am thinking ‘Hol-y shit, yes.’ Yes! You know? Fuuuuuckin’ … You just got to keep that door open.

Charlie: “That’s right, Marnie. You get out what you put in. I’ll be just a good of friend to you as you were to me.” Unless … maybe I should call her? No. She’s not worth even 10 of my dollars. She means nothing to me. Thanks, Forbid. (Texts Marnie.)

3. Some shortsighted people suggested a few weeks ago that Patrick Wilson’s character was not real but existed only as a figment of Hannah’s imagination. While nothing in that episode remotely hinted at that, several elements of this one (not least the brilliant casting of the oddly vatic Carol Kane as her mother) seem to imply that all is not right, or not real, about Natalia. Is it possible that Adam has projected a fantasy woman, and if so, why is she a detective’s assistant?

No, Natalia is not a projection. Adam’s decision to go to AA instead of continuing to accidentally drink from the urine jar showed him taking action towards improving his mental state, which is more than we can say for the rest of this truly messed-up bunch. (It’s like thanks Girls, I actually just saw Silver Linings Playbook. I don’t need to watch all of you dissolve in some heretofore unknown, DSM-IV criteria-meeting chemical imbalance too.)

There is a catch to Natalia, though. Firstly because nobody’s perfect, not even girls with the best jobs ever. But mostly because Natalia’s independent identity may be perfect … as a foil to Hannah’s needy, messy train wreck of emotions.

4. Ray tells Marnie to decide what she wants to do “before the clay hardens.” To a certain extent, Girls has consistently portrayed its female protagonists in a more unformed state, a early 20-something period of trying on different selves or different lives to see what they want to be. Given this premise, is Ray simply projecting his own fears of being too old and set in his ways onto Marnie, or is the show suggesting that unless these characters make up their minds soon, this prolonged adolescence will end in them being stuck? (Things to consider: Shoshanna realizing she doesn’t really like parties, Hannah not realizing she still needs her parents, the fact that rollerblades can now be called “vintage.”)

Neither. Girls would never suggest that this period of time for the characters is in any way an outlier to normal behavior, because that would essentially be telling viewers who identify with the show that their feelings are abnormal, instead of communal. Plus, it’s just not true: you are not set in stone (or hardened clay) with the decisions you make in your early-to-mid 20s. Or ever, really.

And Ray isn’t projecting, he’s doing what he does best … pushing someone into action. It’s easy to see Ray’s needling of Marnie (And woof, have they been co-habitating in Shosh’s studio loft all this time? Or is it a one-bedroom? I cannot believe these living conditions have been left unexplored till now) as him somehow yelling at himself to get his shit together, but he’s not. First of all, he’s not dressed like a magician’s assistant. But more importantly, he definitely has an answer to his own quickfire challenge, and it’s the paradox du Ray: he doesn’t want to be anything.  If he could do anything he wanted, he would do nothing.

So mainly this scene was to provide audiences with the experience of hearing an advance version of Allison Williams’s debut album.

5. Imagine you are a psychologist who writes children’s books involving a bionic dog. Create a plausible plot for such a book that you might use to illustrate the pathology behind one or more of the following: Marnie budgeting six years for her boyfriend to be a mess after she breaks up with him; Ray insisting that coming to a college party with his girlfriend is creepy because he is too old, but seeing no issue with sleeping with a college girl in the first place; Adam falling for Hannah because she acted like a helpless child around him; Shosh obsessing over getting more practice for when people are going to need her too much.

Billy the bionic beagle was a very special dog. He had a heart that would live forever. But even though Billy was a very loyal and very good dog, he was sad. He was sad because his friend Brian was no longer a young boy for him to play with. Brian was an old man now. He no longer wanted to throw the ball, or play fetch or take Billy to the dog park. But Billy the bionic beagle was still a puppy, and would never grow old. Or at least it felt that way, you know?

One day Billy went to the foot of the bed, where he and Brian had started so many adventures.

“Let’s go play in the dog park!” Cried Billy.

“I can not, for I am too old to play,” said Brian. “Plus, it is really creepy to see a very old guy hanging out at the dog park.”

“I am sorry, Billy,” said the old man to whom Billy had served many long, faithful nights.

Billy was one sad beagle, but he set his tail up straight, and snuffled his way over to the park on 62nd. Billy had not been to the park in a long time. He could find no new doggie friends to play with, because it had been so long since Brian had taken him for a visit.

Billy’s bionic beagle heart felt like it was going to break. But it wasn’t, as  it was made out of titanium and plastic and nanobots. Still. It didn’t feel great. Billy was sad about Brian and about all the time he missed out on at the park while taking care of his owner. But he was also angry at Brian, who was too busy dying to be a very good friend.

It was time to move on. Billy had to find someone new to have adventures with, to love and nurture and watch old episodes of Ally McBeal.

“Bye, Brian,” Billy barked. “Bye.”

Billy the bionic dog had an aunt he owed a visit.

Bye, Billy. Bye.