“It didn’t feel like very much when it was happening.”
The first of this two-episode season finale is a meditative installment that forces the characters to really consider who they were in the past and where they’re headed now. “Love Stories” is irresistible and certainly on my list of Girl’s best episodes. Directed by Alex Karpovsky, this poignant penultimate episode gives the Girls a reinvigorated gravitational pull even when it seems like everything is about to go south for everyone. This is an episode that feels more expansive than anything that has come before it. Forget the adventures in Iowa or Japan because these girls can have worthy adventures and relocate their center and themselves within the busy trappings of New York.
Since Hannah decided last season to choose a different career path and jettison her original dream to write and use her voice on paper, she has reverted back to her old foolish tricks, doing things like flashing her boss. The lack of a creative outlet has been a wound for Hannah this entire season and this episode finally gets to the heart of that without flinching. Hannah shouldn’t really be with anyone right now and the cold open in which she continuously dismisses an irate Fran proves that. Fran is a ridiculous man himself—a good guy who is just as much of an a**hole as everyone else—but he can’t see it because he’s so sure of his upright morals and perspective that anything that doesn’t praise him as being good is an insult to his entire being. Such is the life of a “secret dick”.
To say that Hannah’s relationships haven’t been the best this season would be an understatement. Her friendships are suffering and her love life is once again put on hold. With this in mind, the sudden return of Tally Schifrin (Jenny Slate), Hannah’s former literary nemesis would anticipate old feelings of inadequacy and spitefulness, especially when considering their last interaction all the way back in Season 1’s “Leave Me Alone”.
This is thankfully proven wrong. These two don’t have anything to be competitive about anymore because Hannah has stopped writing and more than that, Tally’s continued literary successes comes at a cost of realizing herself. The two hang out all day, at first reluctantly, but Hannah warms up to Tally more and more, realizing that they have more in common than ever. Hannah’s frustration concerning Adam and Jessa is thankfully more nuanced than it first appears. She isn’t simply jealous of their relationship, but finds that she loves them both so much that the anger and pain of betrayal fevering behind her face is only rivaled by the affections she will forever associate with the pair of them.
And Tally’s life isn’t as lovely as it seems either. After stealing a bike and smoking a doobie, Hannah is comfortable enough to admit her jealousy of Tally’s success. But Tally’s success has resulted in a crisis of self-identity. She isn’t so much a person anymore as she is a brand—successful but a creation she can no longer identify with. It’s a glamorous problem to have but a problem nonetheless and one that makes Tally feel more than a little alienated and miserable. All of that time and energy managing her literary brand has caused her to miss out on her life. Where Hannah was always so envious of Tally, Tally finds something special in Hannah’s flailing life.
Tally is envious of all the experiences Hannah has collected, from tumultuous relationships to failing miserably. As pitiful as some of those experiences might have been, they are authentic to her life. This is without a doubt one of the best scenes of the series—one that clearly stems from Lena Dunham’s own fears having cultivated a successful brand—it proves to be a pivotal moment for Hannah that allows her to see her recent failures in a new light. It all comes from an organic place of emotion and still maintains essential comedy elements that lead into a short celebratory dance sequence to Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s “Feelin’ Myself”.
This strange reunion is much-needed catharsis—a catharsis Hannah hasn’t been able to achieve since she came back to New York from Iowa. Hannahan d Tally’s day ends on a perfect endnote as they awkwardly run into Adam and Jessa in the hall. At that point, all there is to do is laugh and I love Adam and Jessa’s reactions. It’s a small detail, but their facial expressions are so telling. Adam is stone-faced and silently piqued, like a scolded child. Jessa attempts a cordial smile, as if she wants to be in on the joke. She slowly realizes they are the punchline and her desperate smile dissolves. Hannah and Tally continue their eruption of laughter as Adam and Jessa lumber into their apartment. It’s a strong moment of self-actualization.
Ray and Shoshanna are always a good team. That’s been proven twice before and it’s no different here. Shoshanna spying on the hipster café across the street provides some price comedic moments and gives our lost Tokyo princess a new purpose. Somehow whenever Shoshanna is down and out, Ray’s problems seem to center her and give her something to do, something to correct. There is a lovely reliance there and for her to find some sense of actualization through Ray’s inabilities is sweet. The two complete each other on a level that doesn’t have to be romantic. Their friendship is one of the show’s most sacred and pure. It’s a fun duo and Shoshanna’s plans to turn Ray’s café into an anti-hipster establishment should garner some great laugh-out-loud moments.
Marnie’s love dream is just as bizarre as it should be. I mean seriously, it’s Marnie and Ray. Marnie has vowed to only spend time with herself for now, avoiding any trouble that love and any romantic entanglements might bring. She already has to deal with an impossibly disgusting Desi at the moment so a potential relationship with Ray would only add more fuel to yet another potential Marnie Michaels fire. Marnie’s past with Ray isn’t the most healthy. Ray’s affection for Marnie is unprecedented and Marnie has used Ray as a conduit for her own frustrations on more than one occasion. It might be that Marnie is beginning to see Ray as an actual person and not simply an object for validation and self-reassurance. Desi continues to be problematic and as he and Marnie prepare for their tour, the inclusion of Ray will be certainly stir up a bevy of ridiculous shenanigans.
Elijah’s continued frustrations with Dill finally comes to a head when he pitches that the two of them try a monogamous relationship. We haven’t really seen this level of anxiety and awe from the usual snarky and detached Elijah so to see him put in so much effort and still lose Dill is heartbreaking. Andrew Rannells really brings it in this scene. He tries to hide his vulnerability as much as possible when Dill tells him he’s not special enough to be in a relationship with. But it’s too late—he put himself out there, vulnerable and hurt and he’s got nothing to show for it. All Elijah was to Dill was a moment of re-invigoration.
I assume that Dill does this often: A semi-famous, wealthy news anchor who enjoys the thrill of indulging in a cute but aimless Brooklynite. Dill is indulgent and uses Elijah and countless other boys as a quick escape from the typical notes of his life. He came to Elijah with his ego in shatters and Elijah’s admiration of him helped Dill reconstitute said ego. It’s a ruthless exploitation of Elijah’s vulnerability which will likely send him back to his usual self-destructive antics. Or perhaps he will make a point not to be so aimless, because as careless as Dill is when he says it, what he says is true. Elijah’s drive has deflated. What does he want? This is a question that needs to be answered soon. He needs to fall in love with himself before he can seriously consider being with anyone let alone someone so indulgent in their own pleasure.
“Love Stories” is about falling in love with one’s self all over again. There is an attempt to focus these characters and it is a welcome turn following last week’s episode which saw all of the girls on the verge of self-destructing yet again. A lot of the season focused on the Girls’ relationships with various men in their lives. This is the first installment that attempts to veer away from relationships and focus almost solely on what’s good for the girls themselves, personally and career-wise. Hannah and company are about to upend their lives in both small and big ways. Hannah quits her job (to some relief from Principal Toby) and has fun for the first time in a long time. And with someone she least expected. Sometimes all you have to do to lighten the load of life is smoke a J with your former nemesis and dance it out. “Love Stories” gets 4 out of 5 stars!
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