“I Saw You” reminds us that everyone in the Girls universe is still uncomfortable in their skin, per usual. The big news is that Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver) haven’t actually broken up as “Role-Play” had implied. Adam is crashing at Ray’s (Alex Karpovsky) place, but he and Hannah are still dating and enjoying the occasional conjugal visit, though he insists on sleeping apart while he finds his Broadway character’s headspace. Hannah’s understandably threatened by this separation, and her more-pronounced-than-usual uncertainty is the thread that ties the episode’s vignettes together.
It’s Adam’s role in Major Barbara, for example, that clearly spurs Hannah to deliberately sabotage her position at GQ. In recent weeks, it appeared that Hannah had made peace with compromising her writing in such a cravenly commercial fashion, which is why her mean-spirited outburst at an office meeting comes as such a surprise. Everything that Hannah said to her co-workers was correct (she basically called them delusional sell-outs), but your sympathies probably extended to them because, as a viewer, you’re ready for Hannah to move beyond her “great American writer” obsession, which seems to be every bit as delusional as any of her co-workers’ aspirations. What Hannah fails to grasp, what perhaps is a bit too painful to grasp, is that her personal writing isn’t compromised by the copy she produces for GQ. Hannah once wrote self-absorbed pieces driven by an obsessive attachment to various pop-cultural minutiae, and that’s exactly what she did for GQ for a paycheck. (Hannah’s also, infuriatingly, unable to understand that most great writers would’ve killed for this job while struggling to get their work read.)
But Hannah doesn’t want to settle from her ideal as a principled writer, and maybe the disillusioning GQ experience will enrich her work; it’s long past due for Girls to wrestle with the mystery of whether or not we’re supposed to think Hannah’s a good writer anyway. The notion of settling is provided a more poignantly grounded context with the appearance of aging photographer Beadie (Louise Lasser), who memorably speaks of aging as growing to feel as if you’re a shell of yourself. Affirming this fear of personal resignation yet again is Patti LuPone, in a bit that’s broader and less amusing than her initial cameo a few weeks ago, who inadvertently confirms Hannah’s fears of becoming known as little more than Adam’s less-talented lover.
“I Saw You” is as repetitious as it sounds. We’ve been here already. The refresh button has been clicked on Hannah so as to keep Girls from moving too far away from the awkward millennial shtick it’s often transcended this season, and this sense of repetition is heightened by the episode’s disappointing reliance on the kind of pat humiliation scenes that Girls has otherwise outgrown. Hannah has drinks with Adam and his theater colleagues, and she blurts out that she got fired, only to be met with just the sort of pretentiously inhuman reactions you’d expect from theater stereotypes. After working on her voice with Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) the last several weeks, Marnie (Allison Williams) finally performs a set that’s promising, but her blossoming confidence is quickly dashed by Desi’s predictably smug girlfriend, Clementine (Natalie Morales). Marnie returns to Ray for a hook-up, but that, too, has to be tampered by humiliation, as Hannah obnoxiously insists on investigating the obviously coital sounds coming from Ray’s room, rather than receiving compensatory head from Adam in the next room over. “I Saw You” isn’t bad, just mediocre, and it’s still worth watching for Lasser, but it’s a marked step down from the recent high-water marks of the series. Let’s hope that this was just a bit of inelegant bookkeeping that had to be resolved so as to properly pave the way for next week’s finale.
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