This blog post is for people who have been watching Season 5 of ‘Girls’ – it contains spoilers, obv.
Somebody has been watching too many Julia Roberts movies. Yes, ‘Love Stories’ turns out to be a wholly appropriate title for this penultimate episode of the series, largely because it seems to take much inspiration from 90s rom-coms.
Most of this entertaining cheese comes courtesy of Elijah, in what may be his finest episode yet. Upon hearing his trademark bitchy put-downs when walking with Marnie (“What’s wrong with me?” “Your sandals, for a start.”) you might not have thought that Elijah would conclude this episode with such immense pathos. Naively, Elijah thinks that the solution to his polygamy problem with Dill is to ‘Pretty Woman the shit’ out of a clothes store with the help of gal pal D’Emelia (another week, another horrible name), in one of many re-brands in this episode. Shoshanna’s plan to reinvent Ray’s coffee shop as an anti-hipster establishment for people with jobs (finally, some celebration of the white collars) provides the literal umbrella for this week’s theme, and another hilarious encounter with the gender neutral hippies at Helvetica. Shoshanna’s plan to wear Inspector Clouseau’s coat and do some reconnaissance in the guise of creating ‘found word’ poetry was this week’s comedic gold. For LOL-value, her plan was perhaps only surpassed by the aforementioned hippies’ response to it: ‘cool’.
Anyway, back to Elijah. Adorned in a 60% off blazer, he storms into Dill’s studio (so he’s on a sensationalist news channel!) and what follows is as passionate as it is depressing. Just as he could not mince his words regarding Marnie’s sandals (which, btw, we never see), Elijah tells it straight to Dill: he is surrounded by ‘fucking men’ who will tell him whatever he wants, and in contrast, Elijah doesn’t want Dill’s ‘stuff’, that is, the perks that come with being the star of ‘Dill Harcourt Investigates’. There is something of the cliché about Elijah’s outpouring, and here again he channels Jul-Rob, this time in ‘Notting Hill’. His is, after all, a boy, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love him. Of course, this ain’t no quaint London bookshop, but a cold TV studio with all the signs of fakery. Dill wears tissue round his neck so as not to get make-up on his shirt, while a runner fiddles with his earpiece just as Elijah starts to cry. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so heartbreaking. Most gut-wrenching of all is Dill’s warmly sinister realisation. He realises that, yes, he should be with someone ‘special’, and Elijah’s face crumbles as he reads between the lines. Dill, clearly not one for ambiguity, twists his knife with benign evil; he is looking for someone ‘less aimless’ than Elijah. Ouch, and indeed, wah.
Someone who has realised their aimlessness is Hannah, and we open the episode with her making some actual decisions about her actual life that might actually be an improvement. Seeing something of myself in the rational, polite educator, I cannot hate Fran, nor can I believe that he is a ‘secret dick’. Still, props to Hannah for getting rid of a man who is totally not right for her, what with him being so moralistic and all. Boyfriend dumped, next thing in the firing line is the teaching job, which Hannah confidently quits, thus saving the teenage years of a handful of privileged young New Yorkers. Curiously, Hannah makes the comment to her Principal that she is trying to find a place where her ‘proverbial outfit’ is appropriate, so she’s leaving her square job which, you know, pays well and has great holidays. Yet again, we have an issue here of branding and re-branding. Hannah, unlike Elijah, doesn’t want her clothes to fit her situation, but her situation to fit her clothes, which is typical of such a self-obsessed creation who firmly believes that the world should turn for her.
As has been the way with much of ‘Girls’, a new dilemma means a returning character, and this week it’s Tally Schifrin, once friend and nemesis to Hannah when she was still plugging away at that e-book. As you’ll remember, Tally has achieved fame in the literary world thanks to her books of essays and a novel (and a collection of poetry, she is keen to point out) which makes Hannah very much covet her neighbour’s ox. In truth, Tally is yet another cringe-worthy ‘Girls’ caricature, spouting out wildly satirical First World Problems and seeing beauty/truth in Hannah’s general lassitude. Gag. It is most telling that when Hannah does something spontaneous (what else is new) and steals a poor commuter’s bicycle, Tally is quick to note that the escapade was ‘inspired by me’. Double gag.
After said liberation city-ride, Hannah and Tally smoke a joint, speak candidly and almost give us Hannah’s second lesbonim experience of the series (thankfully, Hannah realises the stupidity of her suggestion that she have sex with Tally almost as soon as she says it). Both Hannah and Elijah in this episode have encounters with famous people, and both realise the pitfalls of celebrity. For Dill, it meant a life of sycophancy, and for Tally it means self-obsession and boredom. She spends all day Googling herself, claiming that ‘I need to see how other people see me because it’s the only way I can see myself’. There’s something about this weed-induced maxim that reeks of an Instagrammed quotation, but at least Hannah gets a glimpse at what she could have won. Still, I would bet anything that she would trade everything to be in Tally’s position. Once again I was reminded here of Julia Roberts in ‘Notting Hill’, in particular her touching speech about the torments of recognition in order to get the last brownie at a dinner party. Of course, in ‘Girls’-world, Hannah nods understandingly at Tally’s anxieties and perhaps has a moment of epiphany; in Richard Curtis’s London homes, the listeners scoff and rightly note that X million in the bank isn’t going to win you the brownie. Ah, good old UK cynicism.
We are still in the realms of branding, here. Both Dill and Tally are bounded by an untruthful façade that is good for their personal brand, or rather their proverbial outfit. In the end of the episode, much aided by the fumes of the fatty jay, Hannah and Tally see Adam and Jessa coming home and all the former duo can do is laugh maniacally. Partly due to Adam and Jessa’s nonplussed expressions, it’s another unnerving end, and all the time you are waiting for Hannah’s chuckles to turn into sobs, but no, the laughter holds out for an uncomfortable time until the credits roll instead of tears. This is a love story, ultimately, and should end happily ever after… for now.