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‘Girls’ Talk: “It’s About Time”

HBO Girls Season 2 Poster
HBO

Welcome back to our weekly ‘Girls‘ talks! This week we’re joined by two critics to discuss the season two premiere of Lena Dunham‘s HBO series. In “It’s About Time,” Marnie and Hannah have seemingly switched roles, but does Hannah really have it together? And did Marnie ever have it together in the first place?

ScreenCrush editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Kate Erbland and Allison Loring to discuss this week’s episode, titled “Hannah’s Diary.” Kate is the Associate Editor at Film School Rejects and a contributing writer and critic for MSN Movies. You can tweet her @katerbland. Allison is a contributor for Film School Rejects and Reel Vixen. You can tweet her @allisonloring.

Britt: I think the first thing we need to talk about is something I glossed over in my review — partially because my review was already 1400 words long, but also because I thought it might be better to discuss it with you guys informally. Marnie. Ladies, we need to talk about Marnie. I’ve seen it mentioned that she’s become Hannah, and I think there’s a correlation there, but the moment she sleeps with Elijah is a completely different game.

Marnie is seeing what it’s like to not have her crap together all the time, and often times when people go on these personal journeys and have to sort their selves out, tons of mistakes are made along the way. We feel confused and lost, and we try on all these different decisions like hats, and a lot of them aren’t right. Marnie NEEDS to make mistakes, but boning Elijah?! That’s the ultimate betrayal of Hannah’s trust. That picks at a very sensitive wound. I’m not excusing Marnie’s behavior, but I see why she went through with it. What do you think?

Kate: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Marnie’s sexuality. A lot. I think that what really defines Marnie is a tremendous lack of self-awareness, compounded by preconceived notions launched at her by other people. In terms of how this applies to her sexually, Marnie is gorgeous, and I think that her looks influence people into thinking that, because she is sexually desirable, she has some sort of grip on her own sexual desires.

Let’s be clear — she doesn’t.

In the first season, Marnie seemed ambivalent about sex most of the time. She wasn’t particularly interested in Charlie in that manner, and she never made any bones about all the sexy stuff she hadn’t tried or didn’t enjoy (including, pardon me, pretty basic stuff, like blowj–s, something she repeated in this episode). But once she started to get more in touch (literally) with what she wanted sexually (thanks, Booth Jonathan!), she also started to act out when it came to getting some. Her making out with Jessa at Thomas John’s swank apartment is the exact same thing as her having sex with Elijah on Hannah’s couch. She thinks this is what sexual experimentation is about, she thinks this is how you develop as a sexual being, she thinks she should be some sort of minx because she’s so “hot.” She’s so wrong and it’s so sad. The only honest sexual moment Marnie has had yet involved her masturbating in a bathroom — that’s the only time we’ve seen her engage in something sexy because she wanted to and because it pleased her.

When it comes to Elijah, the last person that Marnie was thinking about was Hannah. The second to last person she was thinking about was herself.

Allison: Oh Marnie… I feel for this girl, I really do. She so wants to have her life together and she is simply not at that point in her life yet. I agree with Kate — I do not think Marnie was in any way thinking of Hannah when she had sex with Elijah, she just acted on an impulse. Marnie reached out to Hannah earlier in the night to confide that she was struggling and needed her friend, but Hannah made it clear that while she is still there for Marnie she had a lot going on in her own life too. I think when Marnie found herself alone with Elijah, and he seemed to be taking an interest in her, the opportunity to allow him to actually make her feel good was something she could get lost in for a few minutes. But in typical Marnie fashion she cannot help but judge the situation, even though she is one of the two people in it, and Elijah calls her out on it.

I thought it was also interesting that this episode introduced us to Marnie’s mom, who also seems to be struggling to get her life back on track. It made me wonder exactly when Marnie’s parents split up because I have a feeling Marnie looked up to her mom while growing up and now her mom seems as lost and confused as she is, making her actions later at the party further prove just how lost Marnie is lately and she doesn’t seem to know who to turn to for guidance.

Britt: I think introducing Marnie’s mom in this episode was perfect. I have a feeling her parents weren’t divorced until Marnie moved out of the house and went off on her own. Her mom seems like one of those older women that’s been repressed and is now trying to explore the 20s she never had. Her hair and clothing are very current and Marnie mentions she recently lost some weight, and then there’s the mention of sleeping with a young cater waiter. These are all signs of a woman who’s recently feeling liberated. I think Allie is on to something with Marnie’s confusion about her mom, and that’s reinforced when her mom mentions that she just wants to be Marnie’s friend. But we also see how superficial and judgmental her mom is, which gives us a better idea of Marnie’s own attitudes.

I do have to say, I love the idea that Marnie is a mess right now, even though she’s making incredibly frustrating decisions. But those are the kinds of decisions I love to see on the show because they’re human choices. I’m mad at her for sleeping with Elijah, but I feel sad for her because she’s just confused and, like Kate was saying, she has no idea what she wants.

Kate: My first thought upon meeting Marnie’s mom was “ohhhh.” No, really, her mom’s regressive behavior made it clear just why Marnie think she needs to be so put-together and grown-up, as she seems to be missing that in her family life. I agree with Britt, it feels like Marnie’s parents didn’t break up until she was out of the house, which was likely a tremendous shock to Marnie’s system. No wonder Marnie is so lost.

Allison: That was the impression I got from their lunch – this was a split that happened after Marnie finally “left the nest” and it rocked Marnie’s world, creating the girl we have come to now know. I am really interested to see Marnie’s character arc this season because she is finally acting more “human” and making mistakes which she will (hopefully) learn from.

Britt: I think Hannah is just as lost as Marnie, even if she doesn’t think so. She thinks she has it together because she has a job and a boyfriend and can pay her rent, but she doesn’t. She’s nursing Adam and his broken leg when she’s not working or writing or dating Sandy. And she thinks she can control this new relationship by setting all these rules that she starts to break by the end of the episode.

What’s more interesting to me than Hannah not having it together is Hannah believing that she does. I love the way she postures herself as busy and having so much going on, but that superficiality is seeping through to other aspects. You see it in the way she interacts with Adam and especially Elijah, with all their talk of parties and acting cute about being roommates, but her relationships are all built on co-dependency. She and Elijah need each other. Adam needs her, and she needs to help Adam so she can stop feeling guilty. There’s a lot of parasitic business going on here.

Allison: I also hate to see Hannah think she has it all together when she clearly does not. But that was also true of Marnie last season so I find it interesting that the two have kind of switched in that way — neither of these girls “has it together,” and Marnie is starting to accept that while Hannah thinks she has finally moved past it.

Kate: What’s even more amusing about Hannah’s new belief that she’s got it together is the timeline involved in this get-it-togetherness. It’s been, what, three weeks since the first season ended? And now Hannah thinks her job (at a coffee shop) and her new roommate (who might make us laugh but also might just be terrible) and her cute new lover (hi, Donald Glover!) spell out the stability she’s been looking for? She’s nuts!

And she’s still unable to stand up for herself — she’s trapped taking care of Adam, Elijah forces her to ditch his own boyfriend, and she can’t even play by her own rules. At least she has better posture now (and I mean that both literally and metaphorically).

Allison: I thought it was a good “welcome back” episode to show us where Hannah and Marnie each are in their own lives, but also where they stand with each other. Dunham has almost “reset” things in a way by having these two switch roles, but these are two very different people so it will be interesting to see how Hannah handles being the one who seems to “have it together” (and is already showing cracks around that idea) and how Marnie handles being the one trying to figure out what to do next.

Britt: It’s also a great show of how power shifts in relationships, which is something I explored in my review. We’re seeing a lot of power shifts in this opening episode, like Hannah having the upper hand in her friendship with Marnie only because she has things that Marnie used to have but now doesn’t. We also see how power becomes nebulous and strange in Hannah and Adam’s relationship because he exploits her guilt to keep her around, but I can’t even be upset with him for it because I know that beneath his (very attractive) exterior, Adam is a good guy, and Hannah has made mistakes with him. I still hope they can work it out!

Allison: Adam is definitely using his accident (and Hannah’s role in it) to guilt her into staying around, but he also lets it slip that she is his “main hang,” and the moment he says that is so raw and honest, it is clear that Adam still has very strong feelings for Hannah. I too hope they can work things out, or at least come to a better place of understanding their relationship, regardless of who has “the power” in it.

Kate: I do remain confused, however, as to how Hannah is just so done with the romantic version of the relationship (even if she’s just presenting herself as such).

Allison: I agree — and I do not buy that she is over it as much as she likes to pretend she is. Yes, Adam has guilted her into staying around, but I do not buy that that is the only reason Hannah keeps going back to him.

Britt: I think there’s a couple of things going on there: Hannah has convinced herself that she doesn’t have time to take care of other people and their problems, and the more you convince yourself of something, the more it becomes true to the people around you. Fake it until you make it, and all of that. But also I think Adam professing his love to her at the end of last season scared her because, like he said, deep down she doesn’t believe she deserves love. She, like many women in their 20s, enjoys the chase; you try and try to get someone to want to be with you and to care for you as much as you care for them, but once you accomplish that, what’s left?

Clearly she still has feelings for him or else she wouldn’t be over there helping him pee in pots and cuddling with him in bed, but maybe it’s easier for her to lie to herself and tell herself that she doesn’t want to be with him because having a real relationship, which involves giving as well as taking, is too hard for her to comprehend.

Allison: I completely agree — Adam’s confession of being in love with Hannah freaked her out because she never thought that was possible. Plus Hannah has always been more about the struggle (i.e. what results in the better story) than what she perceives is a “happy ending,” but now that Hannah seems to have her life “together,” what does that mean for her writing? She says she’s writing all the time, but about what? Her “perfect” roommate? Her blossoming romance kept together by rules? Her stable job at the coffee shop? The stability of a real relationship with Adam seemed to scare her, but now she’s created a seemingly stable life for herself, and seems determine to exclude him from it.

Kate: It’s also interesting that, correct me if I am wrong, we didn’t see Hannah write a page yet, did we?

Allison: Not yet!

Kate: I think that’s going to change next week…in a big way.

Britt: Can we talk about Ray and Shoshanna because this is a relationship that I want to happen so badly.

Kate: I can’t wait to find out what Ray did to Shosh! Also, what could he have done, he so clearly adores her!

Allison: I think Britt touched on this in her review — Shosh made it seem like she just wanted to lose her virginity and expected nothing more than that, and I think Ray respected that too much and completely backed off. But that of course made Shosh in turn feel like he just did her and quit her. It is clear that Ray is interested, and maybe has been for a while.

Britt: That’s exactly it. She made it clear that she just wanted to lose her virginity, and he was trying to respect that. Classic case of someone saying something when they mean something else entirely. Shoshanna is so good at saying what she means in these rapid-fire spurts of awkwardness, but there are also these great moments when she’s nervous and scared and just trying to please people, so she says the total opposite of what she means. She did that last season at the abortion clinic when confronted about her own sex life. I think it’s really endearing, but I hope this relationship with Ray helps her to be more honest. I’d hate to see her stuck in a relationship that makes her miserable just because she’s scared to hurt someone’s feelings.

Allison: I think Ray is game to take on Shosh, and he clearly respects her so hopefully she’ll recognize that and feel safe to be as honest with him as we know she is capable of. They are poised to have such a wonderful relationship that may end up making them both better people!

Britt: I agree. Their relationship is also the lightest thing this show has, and I feel like with all the brutal honesty, the show needs this breath of fresh air every week. Speaking of which, we don’t get much Jessa this week, other than half a head of cornrows as she blissfully returns from her honeymoon with Thomas John. This brief glimpse doesn’t give us much to go on, but do you think Jessa’s flightiness is still very much in play? Will she stay with Thomas John or is she already plotting her escape?

Kate: The weirdest thing about our brief look at Jessa and Thomas John is that he’s still the asshole we remember him as being from his first appearance — cutting the taxi line at the airport? Pretending to not speak English? Allowing Jessa do that to her hair? — but Jessa doesn’t even seem to notice. She’s happy for now, for sure, but there’s no way this will last.

Britt: You know, I’ve watched the episode twice now, and both times I didn’t seem to notice that he was being a jerk. I just noticed that they were happy!

Allison: I agree that their relationship is doomed, but I’m interested to see what happens to cause it to fall apart.

Kate: I mean, they are definitely happy, but everyone else in that taxi line is pisssssed.

Britt: All right ladies, any last thoughts?

Allison: I also thought Thomas John was being a jerk and I want more Donald Glover.

Kate: I think we all need to go download “Building a Mystery” right now.

Britt: Who knew Sarah McLachlan could find relevance again after years of dying dog commercials?

Kate: I was captivated.

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