IT BEGAN WITH a butt-plug and ended with a snot-rocket: I will go out on a limb and say that this episode’s theme was shame. Marnie was shamed for being a hostess; Ray, for being homeless; Shoshanna, for being clueless about Ray being homeless (and for not knowing what a butt-plug is). After “Bad Friend,” which was an unusually eventful and manic episode, we return to the show’s comfort zone, but with a difference: there seemed to be more vulnerability, self-consciousness, and self-recrimination going on than usual.
The star of “It’s A Shame About Ray,” title notwithstanding, was Jessa. I’ve been fairly open about Jessa being my least favorite character — not only is she the least likable, but I’d previously felt that she was underwritten, a bit of a cipher, a “bad girl” for the sake of balance, a Samantha, if you will. But she had three amazing scenes this week that, while entirely consistent with her backstory to date, deepened and redefined the character. First, the dinner with Thomas-John’s parents, played by Griffin Dunne and Deborah Rush, who shamed her for not working, for dropping out of Oberlin after seven months, for her heroin habit, and for being a gold digger. “You certainly have lived a lot. It’s very impressive,” Thomas-John’s mother remarks acidly, and in her next scene — the wrenching break-up with Thomas-John — Jessa develops the theme:
I have been living this life for 25 fucking years. I am going to look 50 when I’m 30. I am going to be so fucking fat, like Nico*, and you know why? That’s because I’m going to be full of experiences.
Jessa has always stood apart from the rest of the Girls, her superior libertinage putting their petty “mistakes” to shame, and this is usually played for laughs, especially when she’s interacting with the impossibly innocent Shoshanna. Here, though, this distance between Jessa and her peers is played not for comedy but for tragedy, as she offers herself up as a kind of martyr to experience: she is living mistakes so the rest of us don’t have to, sacrificing herself for the sake of a good...read more