THE THING THAT'S ATTRACTIVE about Girls, the thing that I think so often allows us to be moved by even subpar episodes and engaged by a series that is so often disinterested in engaging us, is that the show is always sitting on the knife’s edge between pettiness and profundity. Whole episodes can go by — “One Man’s Trash” for instance — in which every moment is suffused with a kind of Mumblecore Malick transcendence before that particular magic hour is shattered by a shamelessly tone-deaf confession of need. Or, conversely, we can have an entire week devoted to a series of escalating tempers and diminishing stakes that is punctuated by a few stunning moments of naked honesty, as was the case with “It’s a Shame About Ray.” We often find ourselves, as spectators of this show, fumbling around in a desert of pettiness and short-sightedness and willful manipulation and sniping and Mean-Girlishness, but we know that occasionally things will get so petty and low that we’ll hit something profound and true. Sometimes a total lack of perspective can generate something like insight.
We can’t, of course, trust Hannah or Jessa or Marnie or Shoshanna — four of the least self-aware characters ever created — to seize upon those insights or even to not immediately ruin them, but we can trust the show to produce them for us now and again. I mention all of this because “Video Games” was an episode that really seemed invested in embarking upon a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-style journey to map out the full spectrum between petty and profound, flaky and prophetic, the scatological and the eschatological.
The first thing about this episode that allowed us to access and have the opportunity to analyze the show’s wild vacillations between self-importance and actual importance is the extended time we get with Jessa. One lesson we’ve learned this season is that all of our heroines are living in somewhat fictional worlds. They have constructed existences for themselves as if in daydreams, adapting to changes in their actual environments — employment, unemployment, break-ups, etc. — with acts of imagination. Tensions are revealed when part of the fictional construct — Marnie’s relationship with Booth Jonathan, for instance — is exposed to its referent in real life. Echoing Lili’s theory from a couple of weeks ago, watching Girls is like reading an exact transcript of an event alongside a creative nonfiction essay about the same event on facing pages. The exercise becomes most interesting and instructive when the accounts don’t match up.
Jessa is perhaps the show’s greatest fabulator, if only because of the ambition and recklessness she shows in following ...read more