Girls Season 5 Episode 8: ‘Homeward Bound’

This blog post is for people who have been watching Season 5 of ‘Girls’ – it contains spoilers, obv. 

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This week, Hannah et al are going Neanderthal and following their instincts, although it does not always help their survival in (and out of) the urban jungle of NYC.

We start with Shoshanna, who is bumped on an airport travelator while looking like a character from Yu-Gi-Oh. Her complaints about the rudeness of Americans might be well founded, but surely her views on Japan are tinted with the rose colour of the cherry blossom? Anyway, she questions ‘why am I here?’, and I suppose the main answer is that the writing requires her to be in New York for the final few episodes of the series. On a whim, she moved to Tokyo, thus ignoring her instincts, and this season we have seen more and more that Shoshanna is just another spoilt Jewish Princess: she wants is a stable job and a professional husband, but it’s taking her a while to admit that. Ultimately, she has struggled with the fact that she tried something different and she failed. Failure, for the intelligent, educated Jewess, is not an option; she has been disorientated by the Orient, and very much come home (hence the title of the episode – eh, eh?) ashamed and unmotivated.

What she really needs is friendship (as does Hannah throughout the episode) but instead she turns to Scott (Scott! That’s his name!) who gives her some lovely home truths. Shoshanna’s half-baked decision to go on welfare is flat-out offensive, and Scott rightly calls her out for it, reminding her of her privilege and over-dramatisation of what is really an easy problem to fix. Shoshanna is qualified and able; she should be able to get any job, even if it’s not in brand management or whatever the fuck she does. She needs to realise that, despite her nice upbringing, life is actually very difficult and she is in the fortunate position where she can do something about it. There is a lot in this episode about men looking after women, which seems very anti-Lena, but it is just a fact this season that while Adam, Ray and Fran appear to have grown up, the girls are still behaving like undergraduates. Perhaps it was the excessive pink or the Blanche DuBois-style rambling, but in this episode Shoshanna reminded me of Vicky Pollard – maybe she should be on welfare or summing or nuffing.

Phew, let’s get onto Hannah and Fran. There was the excellent decision made this week to have a break-up at the beginning of the episode, and crucially the beginning of summer. Fran’s chilling statement that the road-trip would be ‘just us’ rightly freaked out Hannah, who is so terrified of being with someone mentally stable and nice that she runs away from him like he’s wearing a Scream mask. Seriously, there were lovely parallels here with classic horror films: an isolated woodland setting; a vulnerable, chased (unchaste) girl, a comedic trip over a log.

And here we have more ‘instincts’ at work. Through fab dramatic irony, we have known this was coming long before Hannah did, but her break up with Fran is good for everyone, especially him. As Fran notes, it’s difficult to see Hannah as anything more than rude and immature (this second adjective features in spades during this episode and the season in general). True to form, Fran is a nice guy until the end, offering to drop Hannah back in the city, but Hannah is so adamant that she wants out, she cannot even see the logic of sticking with Fran for another hour or so. Really, this all poses the question: who do we call in times of need? As aforementioned, Shoshanna’s first port of call should have been her girlfriends, but she probably would have been met with the same indifference as Hannah. Marnie, who is recording her album of love/hate songs with Desi (also petulant), wants to ‘hear all about it later’, while Jessa doesn’t bother picking up her phone, possibly out of fear that she’s going to be interrogated about her relationship with Adam. Of course, the only character with any brains or compassion saves the day. Ray is easily the most saintly of the characters: he is genuinely selfless and appropriately acts as a parent to anyone who needs it. In a show that is so noticeably lacking in parental guidance, Ray’s is a vital voice.

Hannah is evidently still smarting from being called ‘selfish’ for the gajillionth time in her life, and so decides to turn over a new leaf of selfless action. Well, kind of. Her interpretation of being ‘selfless’ is giving Ray a blow-job, in what is frankly a horrible misstep in the whole show. The image of Ray’s lifeless dick flopping around in Hannah’s motor-mouth made me feel a bit queasy. It’s incredible that someone with Ray’s logic could allow such a breach of road safety to occur, and his sexual encounter with Hannah climaxes with an overturned coffee truck – metaphor much? I wonder – now that Ray has had it off with Shoshanna, Marnie and Hannah, should Jessa be watching her back (and front)?

At this point, I would like to, as I often do, have a go at liberal scum arty hippies and why they are a horrible drain on our planet. Adam turns up at Laird and Caroline’s place, only to find that Caroline has been missing for three days. Laird is initially coy about it, but superman Adam is able to be an adult and realise that clearly this is something to worry about. Incidentally, I would also be worried that little Sample (yes, the baby’s name is SAMPLE) is wearing one of Laird’s trademark, probably fair trade, vegan beanies. Actually, can we just take a moment to think about Sample? Take a sample, if you will. Why, oh why, these leftie loons think that it’s a good idea to name their baby as if she has come out of a test tube or a supermarket aisle is beyond me, but then again so is leaving your baby in the hands of Laird.

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Anyway, back to the serious issue. The writing here does something quite clever, and turns the ludicrousness of Laird’s infuriating nonchalance into a brief yet poignant exploration of post-natal depression. Caroline’s admission via a fridge note that she wants to ‘harm Sample and harm herself’ is genuinely quite terrifying, and Adam does the right thing here. Following his instincts as an adult and potential father, he takes the baby away from the situation. Adam is great, isn’t he? Weirdly, the Sith academy (not known for its wholesome family values) has taught him a thing or two about childcare. Han Solo would be proud. Adam’s super-daddy transformation also offers one of the best lines in Girls ever, when Jessa asks for help after Sample has left a sample on her. While many take delight in the show’s jokes about Uber and popular culture, it’s the harsh directness that I love. Adam, holding Sample with a Zeusian stance, gives Jessa a look of pure hate after hearing her plea for help and intones: ‘You’re an adult. She’s a baby. Why do you need more help than a baby?’ Why, indeed. Again, this takes us back to the objective truth that ‘Girls’ is becoming a wittily apt title for the show. For while it at once expresses youth, vivacity, excitement, it also curses the characters with naivety and immaturity.

Nestled into all of this we have the confirmation from Jessa to Hannah that, yes, the former is fucking Adam. It’s swiftly done: Hannah is at a loose end, stuck with Ray in the forest for 4 hours, and so calls Jessa as a kind of last resort. This time she picks up, and her admission that she’s holding baby Sample is all Hannah needs to connect the dots. Bitter, Hannah asks straight up if Jessa is fucking Adam, and puts the phone down when she gets the answer she wanted and dreaded. Turns out that Hannah desperately needs help, but not that much. Eventually, Hannah takes her chances with a latino called Hector who has a gun on the back seat. This is probably the weakest part of the episode, as Dunham shoe-horns in a ‘safe space’ discussion about male domestic violence. This felt a little bit to me like when Mimi-Rose got a secret abortion and everyone had to discuss a woman’s right to choose death without her babydaddy’s consent. As I say, it all felt a little bit like a Guardian article titled ‘We need to talk about domestic abuse against males’. Anyway, at least it put Hannah’s relationship ‘woes’ into perspective. Poor her, she has a boyfriend who likes her and treats her well – boo fucking hoo.

Speaking of phrases interjected by ‘fucking’, it’s about time we turned to Marnie Michaels. God, I loved her scene with Desi and ‘Tandice Moncrief’. Upon seeing Desi’s new Latina flame, Marnie channels Nikki Grahame in Big Brother 7 with a ‘Who are you?’ and gets even more riled from there. Her biting comment that she is ‘familiar with your very fake name’ got the biggest belly laugh this episode, and I applaud Marnie for standing up to the bullshit of liberal NYC. Tandice Moncrief (good grief) is a horrible caricature of spiritual/sensual/sexual earth goddesses who spout in whispers about ‘rage stuff’ and ‘feelings’. The worst thing about TomTom is that people like her probably exist. Again, good grief. Anyway, Marnie showed herself to be quite the wordsmith in her interaction with Tampon, claiming that she was ‘cool as a fucking cucumber’ and exiting with a fabulous ‘Nama-fucking-ste’. All this anger and cursing might disturb her aura or whatever, but it’s worth it to have green lunatics slapped in the face with reality.

Finally, it’s worth saying something about the title. Both Shoshanna and Hannah have a literal homecoming, but the title is tinged with irony. Homecomings are thought of as sweet, and often one has something for which to come home. Shoshanna and Hannah both find themselves with nothing. The former has no job and a serious case of Orientalism, while the latter has no boyfriend and has to cope with the Adam/Jessa development. It all provides a lovely contrast with Hector, who whoops with joy upon seeing NYC for the first time, claiming that it’s ‘a good place the start over’. This is an oddly optimistic end for a Girls episode, but this optimism, I fear, will be short lived. Simon & Garfunkel pine for home: where my thought’s escaping, where my music’s playing, where my love lies waiting silently for me – none of these idylls of home are true for any of the Girls.

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