‘Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz’ and ‘Daddy Issues’
Since the beginning, Girls has sought to explore the idea of ‘growing up’, highlighting its complications, stressing how difficult it is to do and ultimately bringing its characters to the realisation that the lines between being a child and an adult are surprisingly indistinct. No one wakes up one day feeling grown-up and certainly Hannah and co. have yet to experience such a revelation.
Acting mature doesn’t come easy for any of the four protagonists, but Hannah in particular struggles with aligning her much-sought-after independence with her propensity to make adolescent decisions. This idea comes to a head in episodes 8 and 9, which see Hannah’s career and personal life simultaneously force her to reassess her understanding of adulthood.
Despite last week’s disaster date with fellow teacher Fran, Hannah still seems to be thriving in her substitute teacher career. Her confident, sociable manner makes her a hit with the kids; Hannah has taken a particular shine to Cleo (Maude Apatow, daughter of Girls’ executive producer Judd) and as episode 8 opens she is already invested in Cleo’s personal life: “I don’t like him for you,’ says Hannah when Cleo talks about a boy she’s interested in, “I don’t like anyone here for you, I’ve checked out every guy in this school and none of them are cute.”
Hannah has no concept of the teacher/pupil boundaries and what is inappropriate. She likes to view herself as a mature adult who can help out the younger, less-experienced Cleo, but she also sees it as perfectly reasonable for the two of them to skip school and get matching frenulum piercings. As it is, Hannah backs down from the pact after watching Cleo’s horrific piercing experience, but it seems certain this experience will come back to bite her.
Hannah also attempts to patch things up with Fran, but he refuses her suggestion of a second date, explaining he is tired of relationship drama. Hannah tries to argue she isn’t the person Fran thinks she is, but he replies matter-of-factly ‘I think you’re exactly the person I think you are. I think you’re not the person you think you are.’
Shoshanna is having more luck in the relationship department. Her job interviews may have dried up, but, as she explains to Ray: “I happen to have a date with a man who is very much intriguing to me”. Despite some ill-advised advice from Jessa, said date seems to go well: the soup mogul, Scott, is friendly and kind, whilst his pragmatism seems to perfectly balance out Shoshanna’s romanticism.
Meanwhile Marnie and Desi have a decisive argument over money. Spontaneous, selfish Desi has spent their $2000 advance on a piece of irrelevant musical equipment and seems to have no concept of what is wrong with this decision. Marnie is furious and, in one of her rare moments of standing up to him, explains that monetary decisions were what caused her parent’s marriage to fall apart and so she feels strongly about the topic. Desi’s effectively silences all Marnie’s complaints by proposing and, overcome by the romance of the moment, Marnie accepts and the audience inwardly groans. Is this engagement doomed to fail, or will the two find some kind of happiness together?
Running parallel to the main action of episode 8 are glimpses of an ill-fated dinner party attended by Hannah’s parents, Tad and Loreen. Following a meeting with a relationship councillor, Tad surprises and devastates Loreen by coming out as gay and this has knock-on effects at the ensuing dinner party. This announcement, after Tad has been in a seemingly happy relationship spanning for twenty years, surprises both Loreen and Hannah, who is informed of the situation by her mother via a phone call. The episode ends with Hannah receiving the news and thus we’re left wondering how Hannah will respond to the bombshell.
In a video published on the Girls’ Youtube channel, Lena Dunham discussed the reasons why she introduced this storyline, noting that “in the context of Tad and Loreen’s relationship it makes sense.” Tad has always been deferential to Loreen and Dunham suggests this is because “there’s something big he felt really guilty about”. Dunham concludes that “a big part of being in your twenties is realising your parents are people, and not just in the world to serve you.”
Episode 9 continues with this theme and poignantly handles the fall-out of Hannah’s dad’s announcement. Throughout the episode, she demonstrates genuine concern for the well-being of her parents, both of whom are naturally in some distress. ‘I’m a famous liberal,” she announces matter-of-factly, “My beliefs perfectly align with having a gay father.’ That said, the experience is still slightly weird for her. Recruiting Elijah to help Tad adjust to life as a gay man is a strange experience for Hannah and she feels uncomfortable as he happily embraces his new image as a ‘daddy’.
Eventually, Hannah draws upon her earlier conversation with her school principal and tells her dad that although she supports his choices and wants him to be happy, there have to be some boundaries in terms of what he shares with her. Hannah handles the situation sympathetically and, by the end of the episode, it does seem as if she really has reached a new level of maturity.
Meanwhile Jessa seems to have finally achieved her long-term aim and pinned down Mimi-Rose’s ex-boyfriend, the enigmatic, eccentric hipster Ace (guest-star Zachery Quinto). It’s unusual to see Jessa in a position of vulnerability, but in this episode her defenses are down and she seems to genuinely like Ace. Their fleeting happiness is cut short, however, by Ace insisting that the new couple pay a visit to Mimi-Rose and Adam’s apartment. It soon becomes apparent that Ace is using Jessa to make Mimi-Rose jealous and, even more outrageously, he succeeds, with Mimi-Rose impulsively deciding she would like to get Ace back.
Jessa’s no-nonsense attitude is advantageous here; she can call out the situation for what it is and leaves decisively, taking Adam with her: “I’m not going to be a pawn in your game,” she declares “I f**king run game.” Mimi-Rose decides the only solution to the dilemma is to be alone, but either way it seems Adam and Mimi-Rose are over, although Hannah doesn’t know it yet…
Episode 9 concludes with Ray triumphing in his local council elections. Finally he seems to have found a career goal. His ideas, teamed with Shoshanna’s expert marketing skills, have ensured victory. Shoshanna had no doubt he would win: “What Ray Ploshanksy whats, Ray Ploshanksy gets,” she says firmly, before adding quickly “Except for me…or Marnie, or anyone you’ve ever loved.”
Marnie is still firmly on Ray’s mind this season. Their surprise relationship in season 3 was a confused but sweet affair, and the two did seem to have a genuine connection. Matters are only made worse when Marnie, in typical Marnie fashion, decides to use Ray’s election party as the moment to announce her engagement to Desi.
“That’s great news. I’m so happy for her,” says Ray unconvincingly after she finishes her announcement, “I’m so happy for everyone,” Hannah responds. After a pause, Ray concedes, “I’m faking it.” “I’m faking everything,” Hannah concludes, and thus the episode ends, with the two sitting forlornly, despondent at what should have been a victory celebration.
Next week’s episode is the season finale. Season 4 of Girls has arguably been one of the best yet, so it will be exciting to see how the storylines pay-off. How will Hannah react to Adam and Mimi-Rose’s break up? Will Ray tell Marnie his true feelings? Will Hannah continue her teaching career? What does the future hold for Hannah’s parents? Check back next week for all the updates on episode 10.