“It can be pretty hard to have observations about other people when you are only thinking about yourself. I would know.”
While Girls is undoubtedly about Hannah’s emotional growth as both a writer and a person, the series is also so adept at demonstrating how friendships morph and deteriorate as people start to outgrow each other. One of Girls’ best episodes to date was season three’s ‘Beach House’, a culmination of three years of baggage, distance, judgment and selfishness between Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa. ‘Hostage Situation’ captures a similar essence as it further examines two key relationships: Hannah & Marnie and Jessa & Shosh.
Marnie is renowned for her truly poor decision making and Hannah is so well versed in her mistakes that it is only natural that she be the third wheel to Marnie and Desi’s semi-secret rendezvous in Poughkeepsie. Hannah and Desi have rarely shared scenes together and it’s so fun to watch – purely because Hannah so openly loathes his faux enthusiasm and general hipster-like persona, making her the perfect audience surrogate when she labels him a “total fuck nugget”.
Like Hannah and Marnie, Shosh and Jessa have experienced numerous rough patches throughout the years, but the chasm between these two women is greater than ever. The fact that they are cousins is a detail so often overlooked in the series but it does stand to reason that Shosh has only put up with Jessa’s selfishness and self-destructive behaviour for so long out of family obligation. Having newly acquired a marketing job at a branding firm, which Jessa blithely dismisses as “working at a market”, Shosh is determined to reconnect with former friends at a networking event for “W.E.M.U.N.” (Women Entrepreneurs Meet Up Now). She drags Elijah along as her “executive assistant” and Andrew Rannells is, as always, a pure delight, while Jessa also crashes the event. In typical fashion, Jessa mocks Shosh’s former friends and creators of “Jamba Jeans” (who, to her credit, are awful people) with the same air of superiority and nonchalance that the Shosh of season one would have found so intimidating and attractive. It’s almost sad to witness; it is so clear that Jessa only felt the need to integrate herself because she feels so alienated from the people who used to be her friends. Jessa assumes that Elijah and Shosh are freezing her out because of Adam, and while that may be accurate in Elijah’s case, Shosh is far too exhausted to even deal with Jessa at this point in her life when her cousin is so self-orientated.
Having also penned and directed ‘Hostage Situation’, Lena Dunham mines the Poughkeepsie scenes for comedy while the little excursion plays out like a horror movie. When Hannah meets a shopkeeper named Marlowe (Joy Bryant) who could fit seamlessly into an episode of American Horror Story: Coven, it seems like a throwaway scene. However, when she gifts Hannah with a tea set, it becomes almost like a talisman for trouble ahead. Marnie and Desi get into a heated argument that quickly escalates into a screaming match when Marnie uncovers Desi’s stash of OxyContin, outing him as an addict. Things start to get a little physical but Dunham keeps the argument from veering into darker territory with Marnie yelling, “Hannah, you dumb slut, get down here” and having Hannah and Marnie carry a kicking and screaming Desi outside as he asks, “what is the meaning of this cunt parade?” With tilted camera angles, a sinister score and Ebon Moss-Bachrach popping up in front of windows, the sequence is silly and comical, rather than threatening.
And finally, after several years of feigned indifference, self-involvement and quiet resentment, Marnie and Hannah share a real moment of self-awareness and solidarity. Hannah pledges that she will stop being judgemental of Marnie’s choices and that even after all the bullshit they have put each other through, it won’t ever keep them from being friends. This is the kind of moment that Girls has earned, and watching Hannah and Marnie drive out of Poughkeepsie as they simultaneously tell Desi to shut the fuck up is so damn satisfying.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10