Girls: “Old Loves” Season 5 Episode 4 Review

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Aside from the obnoxious Marnie and Desi subplot, “Old Loves” was a masterful episode of Girls. The fights between friends and lovers, the advice people shouldn’t be giving, and sex as a narrative device made this the closest Girls has felt to its landmark first season in years. It call all be summed up in just one scene, where Hannah, Marnie, and Jessa sit in a room, complain about men, look at Tumblr, nag each other, and just all around act like friends. “Wedding Day” tried desperately to recapture this magic, but the setting was far too large. Here, our main characters just shoot the shit on the couch and display how Girls can still be as sharp and relatable as it once was when it wants to be.

Actually, the episode almost acts as if Girls stayed as good as it was up until this point. The show hasn’t felt this confident or genuine since it first season. That is, except for any scene involving Desi, the embodiment of everything wrong with the show at this point. He misunderstands Marnie saying she “needs space” and tries to build a wall between her bedroom and kitchen. Marnie naturally freaks out and yells at him. But even when she goes off and figures out her issues with her friends, Marnie feels genuine. It’s really just Desi bringing her down and making her arc on the show over-the-top. The irony of the end result of Marnie’s conversation with Hannah and Jessa is that she gives great advice to Hannah but then applies it to her own problem, which it is bad advice for. Marnie thinks she has the answer to everything because she thinks she more mature than her friends because she’s married. As the show is (hopefully) planting the seeds for their divorce, Marnie will (hopefully) have to question her go-to solutions and be more flexible afterward (hopefully).

Hannah, meanwhile, is fighting with Fran about how she assigns her students essays. This fight likely felt incredibly real for anyone who’s dated someone who works in the same field as them. Fran’s seemingly minor criticisms of her methods indicate a larger philosophical difference between the two, as does his meddling without asking. Girls handled fights between Hannah and Adam incredibly well during its third season, showing how both sides contributed to the mess that became their relationship and making us believe every move they made. The same tactics are at work here, with Fran initially going too far and Hannah going even further the next day in school. The silence they share at the close of the episode doesn’t bode well for them. I’m with Marnie, I hope Hannah can find a way to work things out with Fran.

But the biggest fight of the episode was between Hannah and Jessa. With the former being the reason the latter can’t be with the guy she wants to be with, there’s bound to be some resentment. Jessa’s at her least mature when it comes to her own feelings, so it’s believable that she would simply try and get Hannah to hate her so she can go date Adam. Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke played the scene in the yogurt place perfectly; as Hannah pushed harder to get to the root of the problem, Jessa just got more defensive and cruel. Of course Hannah isn’t mature enough to just walk away and leave it be. She has to have the last word, and “c***” is a pretty nasty one to leave on. Dunham’s rushed, choked-up delivery was an emotional and effective touch too.

Then there was Elijah, who seems to be on the date of his life for most of the episode. Corey Stoll plays a seemingly unattainable fantasy man for most of it, which ends up working in his favor. Having Elijah realize he shouldn’t have to settle for what kind of relationship he wants was also really emotional. We’ve seen him date a lot of crappy dudes, but here’s one who respects him, complements him, and teases a life Elijah would love to live. Then they have some confusing sex and bring things right back down to Earth.

With Elijah’s great date as a foil to Jessa’s overall terrible day, the final two sex scenes were so smartly juxtaposed. As Jessa and Adam struggle to work out the kinks of what sex between them is going to be like, they ooze chemistry, with Adam jokily asking “Is that what bad sex is like?”. Girls found a way to make bad, awkward sex a happy ending. We know they’ll work it out because they’re just so damn happy to be with each other in that moment. Meanwhile, Elijah gets some very loud, confusing instructions during sex with Dill. After everything seemed to be going so well, Elijah now has to face a relationship where the sex needs work. He and Jessa are in very similar positions, but likely with very different attitudes toward it. This is Girls at its best, showing us the nitty gritty facets of the start of a relationship from different but equally valuable perspectives. If the show can keep this up in the coming weeks, season five could pick up some serious steam. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Jemima Kirke was brilliant when Jessa arrived at Adam’s door. Shaking uncontrollably in anger that she let Adam come between her and Hannah and then the instant switch to infatuation once Adam expressed concern. The slow camera close-up was cheesy, but Kirke continues to be the unsung hero of this series.
  • This episode was smart not to include Shoshanna. The scene between the three girls was probably the best of the season and was made so for how it affected their individual stories for the rest of the half hour.
  • Corey Stoll’s delivery of “You shouldn’t” made me faint.
  • Marnie really sounded like she was doing her best there to convince herself this marriage was the right thing for her. I have a feeling it’ll last the season, but would love to have it end sooner.

By Matt Dougherty

 

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