Girls has always been good at profiling so-called ‘First World problems’. In combining the television genres of drama and comedy, Girls has refused to err too far into schlocky melodrama or, conversely, into pratfalls and poop jokes. Breakups and growing pains are more Girls‘ speed and this week’s “Cubbies” features both, with Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) all navigating those ordinary problems that still feel extraordinary to anyone who goes through them.
This episode feels particularly disjointed with each character’s story arc seeming to exist in a parallel track from the others without intersecting in any fluid way. A scene early on where Marnie tries to solicit feedback on her new song from Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna highlights how much Hannah is the center of their friendship. Perhaps it’s the camera decisions that make the table all three sit around seem giant, or the surreal aspect of the bar being obscenely quiet, but none of them seem to be connecting. Even Marnie acknowledges her need for Hannah to come back in the mix so she can actually get real feedback. Or at least more constructive feedback than the earworm diagnosis Jessa and Shoshanna agree upon.
Luckily, Hannah seems to have come to the very same conclusion. Hannah stuffs her version of an apology for her tirade from last episode into her classmates’ cubbies, where she describes the class conditions as a minefield where she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to write. Hannah casts herself as the victim, issuing a celebrity apology where she uses the word “sorry” a lot without actually apologizing for anything. The move feels insincere until she meets with her professor and says point black, “for a second I thought I was getting kicked out and I was so happy.” She’s been sabotaging herself in an immature attempt at getting booted from Iowa. It’s moments like these that remind us why this show is called Girls not Women, because Hannah keeps seeking validation for quitting the program that apparently no one quits.
Peter Scolari stands out as Hannah’s dad this episode who gives her the parental go ahead to quit if she wants. He channels a dad who loves his daughter enough to allow himself to be used by Hannah for advice, even though it’s clear he wants a more sincere connection. Hannah’s whole progression is certainly important as it brings her back to New York, and back to her apartment where Adam (Adam Driver) has been shacking up with Mimi Rose (Gillian Jacobs), but here the dialogue in her scenes seem less well chosen and consequently don’t contain the dramatic heft they should.
While Hannah’s once-promising writing career hits another snag, Marnie is somehow succeeding with the singing career I for one never thought would come to fruition. Marnie’s ultimatum last episode for Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to leave Clem or stop the sex sounded like she was clearly standing up for herself, but now it’s harder to tell. A well-chosen reaction shot stays on Marnie’s face as her uncertainty about Desi’s decision to break up with Clem shifts to an irrepressible smile at having Desi finally say “I love only you” and maybe actually mean it. Her momentary catharsis feels as though it’s the beginning of a slow burn, but Marnie hasn’t had too many wins in the past few episodes.
Shoshanna has suffered from two weeks of job rejection with a particularly bitter and personal one starting the episode off. As a result, she seeks out Ray (Alex Karpovsky) to regain the sense of self she seems to have lost since their break up. The writer of this episode, Bruce Eric Kaplan, who cut his teeth writing for Seinfeld, really inserts some of that New York-centric humor with Ray screaming at the drivers outside of his apartment for honking too much. Shoshanna accompanies Ray during his errands and these two have the most fulfilling arc of the episode in my opinion. In a fitful monologue full of Shosh-isms, well delivered by Zosia Mamet, Shoshanna relates to Ray that maybe she was the problem in the relationship. She shows a lot more maturity than any of the other ‘girls’ on this show and drops a hint of inspiration with Ray to grow up and stop yelling at drivers on the street and actually take the problem to city government like an adult.
I knew something would bring Hannah back to New York because as she said, “I thrive on the streets. I always have.” Just kidding, I knew she would be back because she is like the sun and the rest of the characters on Girls orbit her. The uneven tone this episode might be due to Hannah’s story line taking up so much time despite being paced slowly, but hopefully her return to New York will even out the pacing.