Girls: How well can you know someone?

Girls, season 3: Spoilers, analysis and some pointed questions


Welcome to another season of Girls episode recaps at Maclean’s, complete with spoilers and analysis, where Colin Horgan tries to answer some questions the show presents each week.

Week 1: Episodes 1 and 2

How well can you really know someone?

“We bought the ingredients to make grilled pizzas and we were going to make grilled pizzas, and on the day we were supposed to do that, he left me,” Marnie says over dinner at Hannah and Adam’s apartment. This is the fate of Charlie, who was destined to disappear after Christopher Abbott left the show citing creative differences. “On what f–king planet does that make sense?” she asks.

Nobody answers, but it’s probably Earth, given that Adam confesses to have seen Charlie on the street, acting perfectly normal and not, as Marnie had hypothesized, suffering from a brain tumour that changed his personality and which, once removed, would allow him to return to her life.

But Adam has another story for Marnie: He once dated a Colombian girl who went to Columbia University, he says, who dumped him unceremoniously, knocking him into a lengthy funk. Then one day, Adam says, he realized he and the Colombian Columbian never really knew one another. Just because he knew her middle name or her favourite record didn’t mean anything. “Anyone can have that,” Adam tells Marnie. “Really knowing someone is something else. It’s a completely different thing and when it happens you won’t be able to miss it. You will be aware. And you won’t hurt or be afraid.”

Marnie’s comforted, but probably for the wrong reasons. Adam’s story likely sounds to her like a promising and reassuring forecast – that this same epiphany (becoming “aware”)  will happen to her on some wondrous day when she meets Mr. Right. But Marnie’s tragedy is really that the person she needs to get to know more than anyone else is herself.

Going by these first two episodes, there’s little evidence she’s working on this. During an argument with her mother, Marnie lists the good things happening in her life, as if trying to convince herself at the same time. “I go into the city to work every day at a job where I am respected. I have friends. I am getting a new apartment,” she tells her mother. “I’ve already fixed everything!” Of course this isn’t true, evidenced most wonderfully as she stands alone on the curb in suburban New York, waiting for the bus that will take her to that job – at the coffee shop. Marnie’s unfamiliarity and dishonesty with herself is at the root of her ongoing obsession with Charlie. “You have to work hard to move on,” he mother rants. “He is just the first of 20 guys who is going to f–k you over. That’s just what guys do. Why focus on this one?” Because. Because Marnie defines herself only in relation to the guy she’s with (which was, for most of the preceding two seasons, Charlie). And so it seems destined to continue.

What is the point of friendship?

Meanwhile, Hannah is also heartened by Adam’s story (even while being slightly jealous of the Columbian Colombian). For her, the tale isn’t one of some glorious future, but the wonderful present wherein she feels like she “really” knows Adam, no matter what his ex-girlfriend, Natalia, said about him during their awkward run-in at the coffee shop.

And maybe Hannah’s right. She did, for example, already know that Adam is – as Natalia put it – an “off-the-wagon neanderthal sex addict sociopath.” That’s part of what attracted her to him in the first place, if memory serves. She knows, too, presumably, that he is “a donkey,” whatever that means.

She knows this because the two of them are back together and living in a kind of domestic bliss, even if it is somewhat marred by financial hardship, and even if she thinks he doesn’t understand the nature of female friendship. “You’re right,” Adam agrees on this last point, as he steers their rental car along the highway, captaining the mission launched to retrieve long-lost Jessa from a rehab facility in the middle of nowhere. “And I don’t want to,” he continues, “if it involves ignoring all logic and being totally hysterical.” Adam expands on the idea a few moments later. “I just think that women get stuck in this, like, vortex of guilt and jealousy with each other that keep them from seeing situations clearly.”

If that’s the case, then which part of it explains why Hannah felt compelled to rescue Jessa? The guilt? The jealousy? The vortex? Nah. Adam is probably wrong on this one, or at least only partly right. But if the point of friendship is not any of those things and, as Hannah told Adam an hour before Marnie and Shoshanna walked in for taco night, it’s also not being interested in what your friends have to say, then … what is it?

At rehab, Jessa finds a kindred spirit in Jasper, an aging pharmaceutical drug addict, who dissects her aggressive ridiculing of her fellow program participants’ fears. In short, he knows Jessa’s game of serving up “reality” for the squares, having no doubt been a longtime player himself. And, after listening to her complain, he suggests she has to learn “when honesty is righteous and when honesty is nothing more than a parlour trick.”

It would have been good advice for Jessa to follow during her rehabilitation, but as she stands in front of the building, bags packed, headed for home, and swearing to Hannah that she’s turned some kind of corner for good, it’s clear knowing that difference could save her in the outside world, too. Because the point of friendship, whether Hannah or Adam or Shoshannah or Marnie or Jessa know it, is more than likely righteous honesty – the kind that is virtuous and open rather than the kind conjured for convenience. It’s what makes people take boring, metaphor-less road trips to save each other.  It’s what helps you feel unafraid and unhurt. It’s what helps you to know yourself. And it’s what allows you to really know someone else. But being righteously honest is not easy. And so, sometimes, rather than making a grilled pizza with your girlfriend like you’re supposed to, instead you just walk away.

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