Girls is rarely better than it is when it’s forcing Hannah to poke her head out of her own little world and realize there are other people all around her, and if nothing else, “I Get Ideas” is a constant stream of scenes where Hannah has to bump up against the fact that she doesn’t know everything, whether that’s Elijah and Marnie trying to figure out how to protect Hannah from finding out they had sex, or Marnie trying to find a way to diplomatically tell Hannah she’s not pretty enough to get a job at the club Marnie gets a job at, where the rich, older gentlemen would prefer all servers to have a certain willowy, statuesque build. I’m pretty sure everybody has that friend who just doesn’t take the truth very well, who shies away from being confronted with their own faults. Hell, we’ve all been that friend at one time or another. In the first two episodes of this season of Girls, Hannah has become that person to her friends. She’s someone they need to carry across the eggshells as delicately as possible.
Sandy, the new guy Hannah’s sleeping with, has no such compunctions. He’s only known her for a short while, and he’s got no problem telling her that her essay is well-written but doesn’t really have anything going on in it. (In some ways, Sandy sounds like some of Girls’ harshest critics back in the early going of season one.) Hannah, of course, reacts poorly to being given some honest feedback, because she’s at that place all young writers are when they’re in their 20s—pretty sure they’re hot shit and not ready to hear anybody who would disagree. (Everybody else loved it, she says.) Hannah spins the whole thing into a really awkward discussion of first Sandy’s politics and then his race, which she pretends not to have noticed. To paraphrase the famous campaign for The Real World, the characters on this show are pretty great at being polite, but they’re lousy at getting real.
“I Get Ideas” is a more confident half-hour than last week’s episode, and it speaks well to the way that the show has broadened its ensemble across its first 11 episodes. In the early going of season one, viewers who didn’t like Hannah all that much would be forgiven for wondering if the show was just going to eternally exist within her self-obsessed viewpoint. But little by little, the show crept out of that viewpoint throughout the first season, and now, it’s in a place where it feels just as natural to open with a lengthy—and hilarious—argument between Elijah and George as it would have felt back then to open on Hannah doing something or other. (Hannah, who’s being argued about, doesn’t even realize it because she’s trying—poorly—to copy the exercise moves in some video.) That expansion of the show’s world allows it to breathe a little bit, to not feel so claustrophobic.
In many cases, expanding the world of a half-hour show can cause things to break down, but in the early going of this season I think it’s been a good thing for Girls. Yeah, some of last week’s episode seemed a bit herky-jerky, as it tried to catch up with everybody who’d ever been on the show at any point in time, but since then, the show has nicely mixed and matched all of its different spheres. Marnie gets the phone number that leads to her new job from Shoshanna (who’s just cuddling with Ray while talking about summer camp, which is exactly what I’d always imagined Shoshanna’s pillow talk to be like). Hannah just drops in on Thomas John and Jessa, then has some awkward conversation with them. Sandy and Hannah are doing well, until they’re not, and then everything falls apart. Adam’s heartbreak hangs over everything else, until he takes several steps too far. Everything has a nicely confident flow and rhythm to it, and the characters all feel like their own selves, instead of just extensions of each other.
As mentioned, “I Get Ideas” exists primarily to push the show’s two main characters in very different directions, mostly via a world that reveals how little it cares about them. Marnie is told by a prospective employer that, really, she doesn’t see Marnie in the art world at all, while Hannah gets that good advice she instead chooses to ignore. There’s been plenty said about how Girls is a show that’s rather blithe about privilege, in that the characters don’t realize how thoroughly their comfortable upbringings color everything they do or say. And while that’s absolutely true of the characters, it’s not necessarily true of the show itself, which is constantly vigilant about how little the characters are able to see past their own blinders.
This is just a case in point: Hannah and Marnie have spent their whole lives essentially having everything they’ve wanted handed to them. This is not to say they haven’t had hard times or haven’t had to struggle, but the level of struggle is miniscule, in the grand scope of things. Now that they’re struggling to have the careers they’ve always dreamed of, they’re slowly realizing that, hey, people don’t just descend from on high and tell you you’re a great writer or you’ll fit right in in the art world. These are both professions that are contracting, professions that require a certain amount of persistence and diligence. But because of their comfortable existences prior to this point, both Marnie and Hannah aren’t sure what to do when somebody calls them out on how their dreams just might be impossible. You don’t get to be a famous writer just because you want to be one. It requires hard work, and Hannah seems to only glancingly understand this at this point.
Yet persistence isn’t always a good thing. The final section of the episode is once again given over to the tortured relationship between Hannah and Adam, who seems completely unable to deal with the fact that his relationship with Hannah fell apart. One of the best things about the first season was the way that Adam’s weirdness and awkwardness gradually peeled away to reveal just how emotionally bruised and sensitive he was at his core, and I’ve seen some critics complain that his reversion here feels like a character reversal for no real reason. And, yeah, the fact that he shows up at Hannah’s apartment in the middle of the night and doesn’t seem to understand why that’s not cool feels slightly unbelievable. But I’ve been that guy—that guy who’s hung up on a girl who’s over him—and I’ve been in that place. And there’s nothing more weird or awkward than that. The final scene makes what Hannah does—call 911 (even if only for a second)—feel totally justifiable, even as it forces you to realize just how lost Adam feels. That’s what Lena Dunham (who directs) and Jenni Konner (who writes) do so well throughout “I Get Ideas”—they put these people in corners and show just how much their maturation process is a total bluff.
- Hannah eats her Cool Whip straight out of the container with a spoon, which I can absolutely respect. In fact, that sounds really good, don’t you think?
- George is rapidly becoming my favorite character in this whole thing, second only to Ray for how he can ramble on any topic at any given point in time. My favorite here was his diagnosis of Elijah as “bi” only because he’s from Boulder Springs and that’s just what he wants to tell his mother, Charlotte. “Fuck you, Charlotte! Who I’ve never met!”
- Ray, meanwhile, makes with the Shoshanna cuddling that somehow ends up talking about painting pigs. No, I don’t know either, but it’s weirdly adorable on both ends.
- Thomas John attempts to compliment Hannah, instead ends up in a conversation about who invented the shorterall. I get that he has to be isolated off in a storyline with Jessa by necessity, but I would very much enjoy if he shared more scenes with the other characters.
- For the record, Hannah, I have dated and been friends with many people who wanted to be writers, and I don’t always get around to reading their stuff right away. Sometimes, you’re just busy! (Also, I loved Jessa saying that, hey, Thomas John immediately looks at her paintings when she’s done, which is totally the same as reading a whole essay.)
- I like that Hannah’s understanding of “Republicanism” boils down to some very vague concepts about wanting to ban gay marriage and thinking people should just get to own guns. “It’s more complicated than that,” Sandy says. (He also affirms to Elijah, earlier in the episode, that it doesn’t take two Republicans to make another Republican, just like it doesn’t take two terrorists to make another terrorist. If this is it for Sandy, I’m going to miss him.)
- Maybe Sandy’s the one who’s been fetishizing Hannah! Maybe all of those white women he’s slept with have just morphed into one giant blob that says stupid things! Something, something, Missy Elliott.
- Why didn’t Hannah know that the Clinton administration was the one to repeal the Glass-Steagall act? “Just read a newspaper,” Jessa says. “Read any newspaper.”
- My life experiences and Hannah’s don’t have a whole lot of Venn diagram intersection, but I can definitely relate to her propensity for looking up YouTube instructional videos on how to do just about anything.