After a stellar season that seemed to bring Girls back to form, the series’ sixth and final season has been oddly inconsistent, offering one slow, lacklustre episode then following it up with an exceptional one. It could be Lena Dunham’s master plan to lull her audience into complacency before she hits them with her brilliance again and reminds them that she was once lauded as the new voice of twenty-somethings for a reason. Keeping in line with this pattern, ‘The Bounce’ is a thoroughly entertaining episode. Although billed as a half-hour comedy, Girls has always straddled the line between cringe comedy and pathos, but ‘The Bounce’ offers up the most consistent laughs all season ““ a credit to the immensely talented Andrew Rannells, who steals the literal and figurative spotlight this week.
Girls has alluded to Elijah’s acting aspirations in the past, typically in an off-hand manner that suggested Elijah had little in the way of actual talent and was more obsessed with the idea of fame. Girls completely debunks this theory during Elijah’s audition for the fictional musical adaptation of White Men Don’t Jump. While gearing up for his audition, Elijah is rattled by the sudden appearance of ex-boyfriend Dill on his doorstep. We’ve seen Elijah quietly mourning this breakup in the periphery of season six and for a moment it seems like he is going to use Dill as an excuse for self-sabotage. His instinct to self-destruct and apparent fear of failure explains so much about Elijah’s inertia and adds a whole new level of depth to his character. However, we are mercifully awarded the chance to finally hear Andrew Rannells sing, and good Lord, what a set of pipes. Elijah pours his heart and soul into a rendition of “Let Me Be Your Star” from NBC’s short-lived series Smash (R.I.P. you beautiful, messy show) and the lukewarm reaction from the casting directors is pitch perfect. Elijah’s dance audition is far less impressive as he is forced to use a basketball as a prop and his nerves, combined with a distinct lack of rhythm, make for an episode highlight. Rannells plays snarky so damn well, but he really kills it when he has a chance to illustrate the hopeful, earnest side of Elijah.
While the focus is definitely on Elijah this week, both Hannah and Marnie are forced to examine some self-truths. With the threat of eviction looming over her head, Marnie tries to pawn a family heirloom, only to learn that her parents had been grossly exaggerating its worth. Marnie uses this opportunity to cast blame on her parents and their lies for her inability to get her life on track. Similarly to how she attributes her dependency on romantic relationships for self-fulfilment to her mother, Marnie is quick to point the finger at everyone but herself. It takes a completely impartial third party for Marnie to finally acknowledge that all of her mistakes and missteps have been of her own doing. This is just in the nick of time, because Marnie’s self-delusion was threatening to reach cartoonish levels of ignorance.
After numerous attempts to justify keeping her pregnancy from Paul-Louis, Hannah decides to make contact with him. The outcome of their conversation is exactly what Hannah had been hoping for, except that it completely defies her expectations. As the past few episodes have foreshadowed, Hannah has some very misguided notions of single motherhood. ‘The Bounce’ quietly shatters these illusions, leaving Hannah to confront the fact that her pregnancy and uncertain future actually terrifies her.
There are a few main players absent from the episode, but Girls has proven time and time again that it excels at concentrated storytelling. Not only is ‘The Bounce’ a wonderful vehicle for Elijah’s arc, but the episode also gives Marnie a long-overdue moment of redemption and throws a realistic curveball at Hannah’s pregnancy.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10