‘Close Up’ & ‘Ask Me My Name’
Girls is often praised for depicting three-dimensional characters, characters whom the show neither celebrates nor criticises and instead just presents exactly as they are: quirks, achievements, controversies, flaws and all. In the space of one twenty-minute episode the viewer can go from absolutely relating to Hannah to recoiling in horror at her behaviour. This realism is part of the show’s charm, a comic, yet unapologetic look at human relationships. Thus when Girls depicts its characters less realistically or offers us more dream-like scenarios the show can falter somewhat.
Episodes 6 and 7 of Girls’ fourth season are concerned with the fall out from Hannah and Adam’s break-up and both episodes allow the viewer to get to know the enigmatic Mimi-Rose a little better. ‘Close Up’ begins with a stark juxtaposition of Adam and Mimi-Rose’s domestic bliss with Hannah’s post-break up gloom. As Adam greets his new girlfriend with breakfast in bed in their stunning apartment, an emotional Hannah confronts new NYC roommate Elijah who has eaten all her cereal. Hannah is both metaphorically and literally living with the fall-out of her break-up: she’s in her old apartment that she used to share with Adam, with the ridiculous knocked through wall serving as an unwanted relic of the month Mimi-Rose and Adam shared there together.
It soon becomes apparent, however, that Mimi-Rose and Adam’s relationship is not as idyllic as appearances suggest and their happiness is perturbed by a surprising revelation. “I can’t go for a run because I had an abortion yesterday,” Mimi-Rose explains to her boyfriend casually, surprising and upsetting Adam in equal measure.
Girls uses Mimi-Rose’s decision to withhold this information from Adam until after the event to demonstrate the stark difference between Adam’s new relationship and his former relationship with Hannah. When they were together, Hannah was entirely dependent on Adam, needing his reassurance and constant confirmation of his affection. Mimi-Rose doesn’t need this.
She has every right to make such an important choice as she chooses, but her decision not to share or discuss her choice with Adam is strange because of its implications on their relationship and the trust issues within it. Nevertheless, the two resolve their issues by the end of the episode. Adam’s anger subsides when Mimi-Rose confesses “No I don’t need you, but I love coming home and knowing you’re behind the door”.
Meanwhile Hannah perks up after her emotional cereal rant as she enjoys a revelation about her future during a lunch date with Marnie, Jessa, Shoshanna and Elijah. Apparently Hannah’s true calling is helping people. She announces this happily to her friends, explaining she will devote herself from now on to helping others.
Hannah’s decision is greeted with disbelief by the group, who unanimously agree she is the most selfish person they know: “You’re so selfish that when we lived together you put the fire extinguisher in your own bedroom so that you could have access to it first,” Marnie exclaims in disbelief. Hannah defends herself, explaining she’s turned over a new leaf and announces her intentions of becoming a teacher.
Similarly Ray also decides to pursue new career goals: his on-going fight with the New York City inept politicians over the transport issue outside his apartment leads him to decide to go into city politics himself to try and enact change.
Shoshanna’s career prospects seem less solid; she begins the episode in the midst of another hilariously botched job interview. This time it’s for a company that sells canned soup. Shoshanna’s interview with Scott, the company CEO, quickly veers off course, turning into a heated argument and ending with the offer of a date. Over lunch with her friends, Shoshanna announces she’s given up her job search, proclaiming she has no plans to ever work: ‘I’m going to marry Scott the soup mogul’ she explains matter-of-factly.
Meanwhile Marnie’s romantic and professional partnership with Desi is thrown off course by their opposing views on the topic of their musical influences. Thanks to Desi’s unpleasant personality and their professional disagreements, Marnie seems to be even further from achieving her musical dream than she was at the beginning of the season, but she seems no closer to ending their relationship.
Episode 7 ‘Ask Me My Name’ begins with Hannah in full-flow in her new job as a teacher. It’s a bit jarring to see her already well established in a teaching job after only deciding to work at a school last week. The ease with which she seems to have got this role does seem to undermine what Girls is suggesting through Shoshanna’s storylines this season: the idea that it is really hard to find a job.
Nevertheless Hannah seems to be thriving, her no-pretences approach to teaching (“I’m a sub it doesn’t matter, I haven’t read this book in like twenty years”) and her modern day references (she compares the Oedipus complex to the modern day concept of a ‘MILF) make her a hit with the pupils.
Meanwhile in the staff room she hits it off with Fran (Jake Lacy), a friendly fellow teacher whose easy-going attitude is a million miles away from Hannah’s usual type. He asks her out for drinks and she accepts the invitation.
After a hilarious deliberation with Elijah over what to wear for her first post-Adam date, Hannah suggests a t-shirt with green plastic lizards attached to it as being the perfect date outfit. Elijah’s reaction – ‘What the f***?’ – says it all. Hannah finds herself enjoying her date with Fran; the two are getting along brilliantly and Hannah suggests they go along to an art show opening.
Unfortunately the date goes quickly down hill from here: the conceptual art show, which involves everyone wearing t-shirts with the words ‘Ask Me My Name’ emblazoned on their chests, is the project of Mimi-Rose herself. It becomes clear Hannah has knowingly brought Fran along in an attempt to prove to Adam, and to everyone else, that she has moved on. The viewer can’t help but cringe as Hannah ruins the date and Fran leaves, although Hannah herself refuses to take responsibility: “I’m not on a date anymore, Adam intimidated him and he fled” she retorts.
Things get increasingly more surreal as the night continues. Hannah finds herself sharing a taxi with Mimi-Rose en-route to the art show after-party, whilst Adam is roped into sharing a cab with Mimi-Rose’s eccentric ex-boyfriend, Ace (played by guest star Zachery Quinto of Star Trek fame). Things are complicated further by Jessa’s revelation that she set Adam and Mimi-Rose up deliberately so that she could have Ace.
After her initial introduction in ‘Cubbies’, it seems a bit of missed opportunity that Girls has decided to set up Mimi-Rose as an unusual character who architects awkward situations. She still doesn’t seem a fully real character. Arguably if she had been more pragmatic and practical this would’ve marked her out as more of a threat in Hannah’s eyes.
After an eventful and surreal evening in which Hannah and Mimi-Rose steal from a shop after being denied access to the staff-only bathrooms and the taxi they are in hits an elderly woman, the two form something of a bond. They have a heart-to-heart and although Mimi-Rose bizarrely offers to subtly distance herself from Adam so he eventually breaks up with her and Hannah can have him back, Hannah refuses the offer.
Eventually arriving at the party, Hannah explains to Adam that “she gets it” and decides to leave while she can. The episode ends with her walking home, alone, and we’re left to wonder how she will proceed from here. Has Hannah’s conversation about her career with Mimi-Rose rekindled her love of writing? Will she continue with her teaching degree? Will she patch things up with Fran? Check back next week to find out.