Shelby and Alex digest this week’s excellent “Girls” episode, “Deep Inside,” focusing on their new friend Margaret, the every cousin, and how Hannah copes with death.
ALEX: Margaret, the every cousin… I’m feeling many different things about her.
SHELBY: Yeah, last week it was Caroline, now there’s this weird new cousin jumping on board. Is this slowly becoming a spinoff featuring Adam’s crazy family? And Lord, do the women in the Sackler clan ever shave? Moustache Margaret put Ray’s new soul patch to shame.
ALEX: I hate Margaret and yet I’m interested in her. Why? Initially, I was rattled by Hannah repeating the story and lying to Adam’s face. It upset me. I instantly thought: Bang, there’s the thing that will end their relationship. It happens only a few times, but Hannah kind of pissed me off. However… Margaret might be the most interesting character on the show; at least, the most interesting device. I would be excited to see if Hannah expands the story into a whole bag of nonsense and other imaginary experiences they had together. This is the kind of thing that we could really build on. Theatrically, I should mention, this ending of “Deep Inside” is one of the best I can remember. Bravo, director Jesse Peretz.
SHELBY: I completely agree with you, Alex. Even better than the Q-tip. Readers at home, if you’re having trouble remembering who the hell this Margaret character is, it’s because we made her up. Well, kind of. In this episode, Caroline makes up a story about her and Adam’s fictional cousin who died from muscular dystrophy when she was young to test Hannah’s sensitivity to grief after Hannah shows almost no remorse over the death of her editor, David. Caroline eventually confesses to telling tall tales, but Hannah steals the story and twists it into her sobfest later in a conversation with Adam. And, even though it’s the last scene in this episode, it’s a great place to begin our conversation. I’ve pondered the Margaret narrative over and over again. I wonder if this is Lena’s sneaky way of communicating with her audience, who know very well that a lot of the inspiration for the things that happen in this show are things that have happened to her or her friends in real life. Does Lena, like Hannah, think herself the voice of her generation, who has had to conquer emotions (i.e. guilt, grief, fear) that could prevent her from telling stories?
ALEX: To Lena’s credit, she’s captured in Hannah a real emotion of stalled grieving. How should someone act when this kind of thing happens for the first time? Hannah doesn’t really know, but she comes off as selfish, wondering about her book, about David’s obit on Gawker, and believe it or not about Margaret’s small dress size. She’s going through her own stages, made as obvious as her subtle escalation of how she describes David. If I remember correctly, she starts out by describing him as a coworker and supportive friend, then (at Grumpy’s) David turns into a friend, and finally a full blown CLOSE FRIEND. There are a lot of reasons to look at Hannah in this episode and roll your eyes, culminating on the stoop outside their apartment.
SHELBY: But there are also a lot of reasons to completely identify with Hannah in this episode, which is what I found myself doing. She’s right; there’s more than one way to feel something. I actually think that Lena has nailed something about the way that a lot of people try to center themselves as the victim in any sort of tragedy that happens because the only way they know how to feel bad for others is to feel bad for themselves (I’m guilty of it more often than I’d like to admit.). In the cemetery, when Hannah expresses her fear about Adam finding out “what she’s really like,” I dont think she’s afraid that Adam will find out she has difficulty processing emotion when he is able to feel and comprehend an entire spectrum of feelings; I think she’s afraid that her selfishness and egocentricity will get in the way of a committed, equal partnership, which would effectively drive their relationship into the ground.
ALEX: I felt that, too. Everyone is telling her how to feel, especially Jessa and Adam, and it’s easy to feel cornered in that kind of situation. I completely identified with the idea of feeling pressure to grieve or act a certain way. By continuing the Margaret lie, I think she’s sort of giving in to all of that or, at least, trying to show Adam something.
SHELBY: Right, and the fact that Hannah is a writer weighs heavily on this issue, too. Like most people, she tries to understand her life as a series of events which add up to equal who she is as a person. In an instance where she has no real explanation for why she can’t seem to feel whatever she’s supposed to feel, I think it makes perfect sense that she would try to insert a piece of fiction into her backstory if it might help others understand why she acts the way she does.
ALEX: No matter how I felt about the lie itself, I thought it was the perfect ending this week. But, like I said before, I think it could turn into tension between her and Adam. They had a meaningful talk (argument?) about death earlier in the episode, during which Adam says the world would be fuzzy without Hannah. She thinks a lot about what would happen if Adam died and whether it sounds weird or not, I believe Lena Dunham admitted something that none of us want to admit — unless it’s just me. We all think about death, people, just admit it.
SHELBY: Of course. And we romanticize it (to almost an alarming degree). Hannah admitting that she thinks about what she’ll say at Adam’s funeral is just one of the examples throughout the episode of how death inspires some sort of theatrical performance in those who were indirectly affected by it. There’s also the way everyone runs about completely frenzied in the first minute of the episode because they’ve heard the news, the makeshift casket that Laird made for his dead turtle, and the fact that Caroline, Laird, and Hannah, all stop their frolicking through the cemetery just long enough to be “respectful” of the mourning family gathered around a tombstone. I love Jessa’s reaction to the news–“It’s just something that happens.” Isn’t that so true? Death is the one thing that’s certain in life, and yet when it happens, people seem to act like it’s the least natural thing that could ever happen.
ALEX: “Deep Inside” comes together as an excellent episode. It’s filled with truths and moments like Hannah and Adam’s argument, frolicking in the cemetery, the ending on the stoop, the opening in the office, etc. The horrible feeling like you’re late to an important meeting, only to realize that something much worse has happened. And I loved Hannah’s line, wondering if the specific floor was safe to be on. Uh, hello, How-9/11-has-impacted-this-generation. I believe the best episodes shrink their scope. So much of the first three episodes have been about trying to shove every little thing about each character into 30 minutes; literally, last week’s episode was a full 30. “Deep Inside” tightens it up, focusing on the stories of Hannah and Jessa. We get a great interaction between Shoshanna and Jessa, but that’s it for Shosh. Marnie has a frantic exercise montage and quits her job (wasn’t surprised) and then she’s gone. Ray has a soul patch and that’s enough for him. Meanwhile, Jessa experiences that Shoe On The Other Foot feeling with a friend she thought was dead. I liked this because it showed Jessa what she does to other people. You’re not the only one who can disappear, Jessa.
SHELBY: I still couldn’t help feeling for her, especially now that we have a better of idea of why Jessa is such a fleeting presence. I was happy to see the shot of her smiling, gazing upward, hopefully because she’s realized that she’s with her real friends now–ones who will take care of her and love her and not fake their deaths to avoid her. It’s time for Marnie and Hannah to make up. Seriously, this has gone on too long.
ALEX: I’m rooting for Hannah and Marnie. To think, it was season one when they were actually on good terms.
SHELBY: I certainly hope we’re working toward another reunion by the finale. Marnah 4ever!