Demanding what one needs in a relationship is a tricky business. Is Adam allowed to ask for space, if that’s what he needs? Sure. But is Hannah obligated to suppress how upset that request makes her, or the anxieties it provokes for her about the state of Hannah-and-Adam? Is Adam allowed to say that he needs Hannah not just to let him move out—he needs her to embrace it? Make no mistake: Hannah pulls some grade-A shenanigans this episode that are 100% her fault. The source of that desire to act out, though, is her boyfriend, who’s snapped out of the knight-in-shining-armor phase he entered during last season’s finale and reverted back to the not-so-lovable asshole we knew back in Girls‘s early days.
“I feel like you’re leaving me, but in such slow motion I’m not gonna notice ’til it’s done,” Hannah says. Which is a perfectly normal reaction to have after a literal fuck-and-run. Adam’s response, however, is a textbook, Ray-enabled study in Calling a Crying Girl Crazy. He tells her to “relax.” When that doesn’t work, he resorts to blaming her: this is the kind of insanity that drove him away; if she didn’t eat up so much emotional oxygen, he wouldn’t have had to hit the eject button.
That opening scene, however, makes the current state of the relationship seem grossly weighted in Adam’s favor. He gets what he wants (space, sex), she gets shot down for asking what she wants (intimacy, honesty). If there really is an irreconcilable difference between what each of them needs from the other, fully committing to a breakup is better than the halfway point they’re currently stuck at. Of course, on the eve of the finale, Hannah and Adam are well on their way to calling it quits.
“I Saw You” makes official what last episode implied. Hannah and Adam’s relationship troubles are inextricably linked with the couple’s trajectory as artists. During their fight, Adam bluntly told Hannah his Broadway gig and her GQ job aren’t “the same thing.” This time, he talks about “something fuckin’ major” happening for her in the future. Then there’s Patti LuPone’s fictional house-husband Peter, in whom Hannah sees a nightmare vision of a future where she’s…a tenured faculty member in a decades-long, reasonably happy marriage? One of this arc’s themes is that material satisfaction isn’t as fulfilling as creative satisfaction, but I still have a hard time buying it. Enter Shoshanna, explaining it all: “You were supposed to be the famous artist in this group, and now you’re just working in advertising.” Not anymore, she isn’t!
Shoshanna and Jessa’s relationship draws an exaggerated parallel to Adam and Hannah’s. Jessa’s in the throes of detox, collapsing to the floor with pain that’s physical rather than emotional. Shoshanna halfheartedly plays sober companion, waltzing off to beautify as Jessa sorts out her dependency/commitment/abandonment issues. [Aside: Shosh isn’t down with graduation caps. Of course she isn’t! They’d mess with her donut bun, or whatever epic/ridiculous updo she has up her sleeves for her big day.] She didn’t exactly inflict Jessa’s current woes, but she is supervising them. And she’s about as sensitive to her cousin’s suffering (“You look like a junkie”) as Adam is to his girlfriend’s.
Being Jessa, though, she lands on her own two feet soon enough, snapping an assistants’ gig with an artist Marnie idolizes just as Marnie’s getting the chance to show her what she’s got. The scene sets Jessa and Marnie up as foils; as the show’s two most conventionally attractive women, they’ve got polar opposite approaches to life that yield polar opposite results. Marnie makes the cardinal mistake of caring too much and, what’s worse, showing it. Jessa doesn’t work for or want much of anything, so like The Secret in reverse, she ends up with all of it. Count it as one more straw on the camel’s back in the run-up to Marnie’s eventual nervous breakdown.
There’s also the fascinating, two-line meditation on the importance of representation. Coming from Lena Dunham of all people, Beedie’s observation that part of the pain of getting old is realizing the people on TV don’t look like you anymore comes as a surprise. We know from episodes like “Flo” that Girls is perfectly capable of showing the emotional lives of non-twentysomethings. Seriously, though: a line of reasoning that, when applied to race, could have come straight from the mouths of Dunham’s critics? That’s even more on-the-nose than the Gawker/Jezebel debate of a few weeks ago. Either Dunham’s trying to show she’s learned from her detractors or she’s giving them the middle finger. Or both.
Last but not least, we have the Great Marnray (none of this show’s couples have especially portmanteau-able names, okay?!) Reveal of 2014. For every tiny step Marnie takes forward, the Rules of Girls dictate she take about seven giant leaps back. Marnie gets a few tiny wins this week: her open mic performance is most definitely not the “shitshow” Elijah thought it would be; she finally takes back the power from Ray in an exchange that’s an almost verbatim repeat of Hannah and Adam’s conversation at the beginning of the episode—”You talked, I listened” versus “You said that, but I never signed off on anything.”
That’s only after she watches Jessa get the assistant job and Desi embrace his drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend, though. And the worst is yet to come: right as she’s proving that maybe Ray isn’t the best guy to listen to while he’s ranting about the virtues of singledom, Hannah catches them in the act. (“Everything is my business!”) Tune in next week for what will surely be the best Shoshanna Shapiro Meltdown since “Beach House.”