This season of Girls has been partly about constructing a situation for each of the main characters that could presumably hold steady after the series ends next year, and “Japan” tucks Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) cosily into her totally Shosh-friendly Tokyo apartment, whose brightly colored façade makes it look like one big piece of playground equipment. From the moment she wakes up, to an alarmingly cute alarm clock, it’s clear how well suited she is to her new city, from its love of all things young and perky to her doting boss, Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima), a curly haired cutie who sees her as “a shiny star.” When the two of them eye each other shyly in the company cafeteria, Shosh and her Japanese female co-workers holding cones of cotton candy while Yoshi and his boys lick ice cream cones, the stylized middle-school vibe is both touching (because it feels so right for Shoshanna) and sweetly absurd.
Hannah (Lena Dunham), though, seems to be headed in the opposite direction, losing her sense of sexual security with Fran (Jake Lacy) after learning that he jerks off to naked pictures of his gorgeous exes on his phone. This leads to a swift referendum on Hannah by her crew, as she complains to them about Fran’s refusal to “just use porn like a normal human male,” and they all promptly reply that she should get over herself, be good to her boyfriend (the first good one she’s had, they all agree), and appreciate the fact that, as he claims, he doesn’t like porn because it exploits women.
But when Hannah’s real problem with the pictures is finally revealed, she wins Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Elijah’s (Andrew Rannells) sympathy by delivering a classic Hannah line, something so frank and funny that you almost forgive all the whiny self-involvement that preceded it: “I’ve worked very, very hard to overcome the challenges of my nontraditional body type and accept myself for who I am, and I’m not going to be edged out of my own life by girls who don’t even have any interesting fat deposits on them.”
Elsewhere, Adam (Adam Driver) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) feel as right together as Shoshonna and Yoshi, but Jessa is still resisting Adam for Hannah’s sake, sticking to a newfound resolve not to hurt other people. And the dance she and Adam are doing around one another becomes almost literal after he tries to kiss her. Driver delivers one of those moments of goofy grace that adds complicated layers to his often blundering, sometimes unintentionally cruel character. Collapsing in a lovely, wordless comic swoon, he does a slow, smitten half-spin before falling out of sight.
But this is Shoshanna’s episode. She may have felt instantly at home in Japan, as she tells her work friends, but, like any major life change, this one isn’t all talking alarm clocks and cotton candy. First, there’s the millennial rite of passage of her abrupt and awkward firing, as Abigail (Aidy Bryant), her boss back home, tearfully assures her via video messenger that they’re not firing her at all, just engineering “a very light ending of a relationship and a business partnership and a salary.” Then, a skeezy work friend of Yoshi’s nearly convinces him that Shosh must be promiscuous, like all Americans, and she almost blows her chances with her shy, sensitive boss by trying to be a good sport when he takes her to a sex club.
Shosh makes her discomfort so clear that Yoshi finally sees her for the innocent and modest woman she is and rescues her from his friend, and from the club. She wins her true love, like any fairy-tale heroine, by doing the Girls version of slaying a dragon: trusting her gut and staying true to herself.
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