Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Girls: “Close-Up”

Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams, Lena Dunham, Andrew Rannells
Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams, Lena Dunham, Andrew Rannells

One of the earliest ideas presented in Girls is how traumatic it is to have an abortion. In the opening scene of the pilot, as Hannah is raging against Tad and Loreen for cutting her off financially, she gives them a glimpse into the potential consequences of their decision: “My friend Sophie, her parents don’t support her. Last summer, she had two abortions right in a row. And no one came with her!” Then, in “Vagina Panic,” Marnie is fuming about Jessa’s failure to show up to the women’s health clinic after she went to great trouble to ensure she, Hannah, and Shoshanna were there to support Jessa in her time of need. This history is important to understanding the infamous Mimi-Rose Howard. She needed an abortion—it isn’t her first—but instead of enlisting Adam in the decision-making or the logistics, she had the procedure, accompanied by her sleepwalking friend Sue-Ellen Garth, and casually mentions it to Adam afterward.

Adam flies into a rage, but his rage isn’t focused or fully-formed. It isn’t that he would have preferred to have the baby, but he would have preferred to be involved in the decision or at least told a decision was being made. Adam’s larger gripe is that Mimi-Rose doesn’t depend on him the way Hannah did, and Adam is learning that while a codependent relationship isn’t healthy, it’s certainly comfortable. Adam never had to question his importance in Hannah’s life, and Mimi-Rose’s independence threatens him and activates his insecurities. It’s an experience Hannah will eventually have too—though she got a glimpse of it in “One Man’s Trash”—and her success will depend on her ability to stare down her biggest flaws. Still, it feels odd for Adam to be the one put to this test.

“Close-Up” is a bit frustrating because while learning the difference between being needed and being wanted is a great story for Girls to tell, Adam is neither the character most deserving of that story, nor the most satisfying vessel for it. There’s a sort of narrative egalitarianism to Girls which is admirable, but can be impractical for the storytelling. It’s daring and ambitious for Lena Dunham and her writers to service all the characters regardless of their current circumstances, physical locations, or emotional dynamics. But Hannah and her girlfriends are the focus of Girls, and spending long periods of time with Adam and Mimi-Rose will never seem like the best use of the show’s time, no matter how good the material is. It’s possible to understand Adam and empathize with his approach to ending his relationship with Hannah, but also feel awkward watching him iron out his issues with his new girlfriend.

The same is true for Ray, who tries in vain to be heard before his community board in the hopes of ending the traffic noise plaguing his neighborhood. Upon seeing how dysfunctional the board is, Ray decides he’s going to run for a seat on it himself. It’s another story that might seem worthwhile if it belonged to a character other than Ray. Like Jessa or Shoshanna, who have been largely sidelined in season four, with the former popping up occasionally to make venomous comments and the latter working toward her goal of alienating every employer in the New York City metro area. “Close-Up” feels out-of-balance because it’s focused on the two characters who have the least standing in the Girls universe.

Girls is invariably insightful, well-written, and funny, so the Adam and Ray scenes aren’t bad, but their prominence undermines one of the show’s most important thematic elements: how young people learn to cope with relationship transitions. It’s in your mid-20s when your relationships stop being mandatory and you begin to realize a person’s long history in your life isn’t enough alone to justify a long future. Losing a relationship is deeply painful, even when it’s necessary, and “Sit-In” was so powerful because it didn’t flinch in its portrayal of how crushing those departures can be. “Close-Up” dilutes that impact by letting the audience escape the discomfort Hannah has to endure. Hannah has to rebuild her life while fighting the urge to imagine what Adam and Mimi-Rose are up to, but we can’t experience that with Hannah because the audience isn’t being forced to break up with Adam or wonder what he’s up to. Adam Driver is an excellent actor and his presence would be missed. But if he stays in the picture to this extent, Adam and Hannah’s break-up seems insignificant, and it shouldn’t, even if the larger plan is to build to a reconciliation.

“Close-Up” is indicative of how Girls is trying to have it both ways this season, exploding its status quo while maintaining it at all costs. Take Jessa, who we last saw scrapping with Hannah over her role in the rise of Mimi-Rose. In “Close-Up,” she’s back at Hannah’s side, being typically awful when Hannah decides maybe teaching is the next thing she’ll try. Not every moment in life has greater ramifications, but it’s weird that there never seems to be any cumulative effect of Jessa’s behavior on her relationship with Hannah. “Beach House,” which remains Girls’ finest episode, featured the epic confrontation between Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shosh that seemed important, yet never reverberated beyond that episode. Here again is an instance in which a scene plays like a relationship is changing in a fundamental way, then seems to blow over.


It’s arguable that Hannah would be inclined to hang on to anyone dear to her these days. She doesn’t have Adam anymore, and she isn’t taking her friendships for granted after leaving Iowa, where she alienated the people she dreamed would welcome her as a kindred spirit. Confronting Jessa’s callous behavior might not be a priority for Hannah now as she navigates her emotions and sets off on a new path toward finding herself. But that conversation should take place eventually, because as Hannah begins figuring out her life’s destination, she’ll have to learn that not everyone around her is equipped to accompany her on the journey.

Stray observations:

  • Hannah’s tearful rant about Elijah eating the rest of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch gave me one of the biggest laughs of the season.
  • Elijah’s response to Hannah’s break-up is far more muted than I’d hoped.
  • I can’t even with Marnie & Desi. Desi is easily the most off-putting character in the history of Girls, and no, I didn’t forget about Booth Jonathan.
  • What’s so bad about being like She & Him?
  • Even by Marnie standards, thinking a record label would be impressed by “almost 100” downloads from a music blog is incredibly self-delusional.
  • Some of the gems in Marnie & Desi’s body of work: “Rattlesnake Cowgirl,” “Heart For Sale,” “Whoa-Wow-Wonderful,” “Song For Marcus Garvey,” “Oaxaca Blues,” and “Kokopelli Shellie.” I’d kill to read the writers’ full list of awful song titles from which these six were chosen.
  • Shosh has a date with Jason Ritter, so there’s at least one positive outcome from her latest dismal interview.
  • I’d also love to meet more of Mimi-Rose’s friends, whose names I’d like to believe adhere to the same naming convention. Perhaps Mimi-Rose Howard and Sue-Ellen Garth will have lunch with Trudy-Anne Sebastian, Gloria-Renee Heath, and Rachel-Marie Charles.