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Girls Review: "Beach House" (Episode 3.07)

February 17, 2014  |  10:07am
<i>Girls</i> Review: "Beach House" (Episode 3.07)

Between full-time jobs, live-in relationships and new friends, it’s been a slow dissolve for the four-part Girls crew, and here’s the first episode to address their crumbling relationships head-on. Marnie’s assembled a getaway trip to North Fork—which isn’t like, the real Hamptons (ya know, for people who think the Hamptons are tacky). And as any Marnie-planned event might go, she’s got expectations: There are elaborate dinners planned and bonding activities scribbled on her calendar. But more than anything, she’s looking for some healing here that extends past the four members of the group.

“I just thought this would be a nice opportunity for us to have fun together and prove to everyone via Instagram that we can still have fun as a group,” Marnie says. It’s a hilarious bit, almost too self-aware of itself, but this is a Marnie-centric episode, so we’ll let it slide. And so, as the group awkwardly navigates a rocky beach, she sets out the mission statement: “We have a lot of healing to do, and we have a lot of ways we can do it. ... I was actually thinking the healing would take place during dinner, but after that we would do facemasks and watch The Queens of Comedy, and then we could maybe write our wishes down on pieces of paper and throw them into a bonfire so they would come true. But for now, we have to go grocery shopping.” I hope there’s an extended version of the episode where she schedules the ladies’ bowel movements.

I’m not sure if what happens next was a reaction to all the “Lena Dunham’s body” thinkpieces in the world or a hilarious reference to John Updike’s “A&P,” (maybe both?) but we see Hannah (and Hannah alone) bikini-clad for the entire episode, starting with her being shunned from the grocery store for insisting this was acceptable attire in “a beach town.” The trio’s quirks are all laid out in the first few scenes—Hannah’s narcissism shines in all its seafoam green two-piece glory—does she really need to be bikini-clad in whipping winds, or after sunset? I’m all for the skin-touting Dunham scenes, but there’s something over the top about her attire in this episode that, unlike the previous naked-Hannah scenes, feels awkwardly self-aware and over-extending itself. Marnie’s nit-pickiness thunders louder than ever, again making me feel like I’m seeing a caricature of the perfectionist. Jessa—whose problems have probably been the most present on the screen past Hannah this season—is Jessa as usual, proclaiming that she can’t go into open water unless she’s menstruating and sharing all sorts of wisdom from the same rehab center she couldn’t wait to be kicked out of.

But the winner here is Shoshanna, who after three seasons, has thrown her hat in the ring as anything but the eccentric fly on the wall she’s played for years. Seriously. And instead of highlighting Shosh’s grating qualities, we’re seeing her as one of the only characters in this show (maybe past Adam) who’s progressing forward without taking massive steps back. Maybe that’s why she’s confident enough (with some liquid courage) to bulldoze her way into the climax of an already heated, post-dinner argument (sorry Marnie. Not everything, including emotional healing, can be scheduled). For me, it brought back visions of Chief Bromden raising his hand in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a character who otherwise was out of the bigger picture, but emotionally stomped into this territory.

“Seriously that duck tasted like a used condom, and I want to forget about it,” Shosh says. And I guess it really wasn’t until this point where I realized, as she’s spouting this near-hateful, wine-assisted rant at the others, how mild she’s become in comparison. Sure, she still has her quirks, like where she gives a guy the low-down on their relationship in the throes of coital bliss, but she’s got a lot more going for her: She’s liberated with dudes, still a great student and I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the “Shoshspeak” has been toned way down. While Hannah and Marnie are inspiring thousands of rolled eyes on the regular, I’ve been cheering on Shoshanna week after week. I’m hoping we see more of this from her. Anyways, the rant goes on:

“You treat me like I’m a fucking cab driver.” This is totally true. “Seriously, you have entire conversations in front of me like I’m invisible, and sometimes I wonder if my social anxiety is holding me back from meeting the people who would actually be right for me instead of a bunch of fucking whiny nothings as friends.” I’m thinking that probably felt pretty good.

This was a point that needed to be reached, and the fact that they’re yelling at each other at a vacation house in North Fork is fitting: the crew can either pretend to be as close pals as they once were two years ago or air the frustrations that has dragged them apart. And it looks like most of the ladies would like to head down the latter path.

And as satisfying as that path should have been, in all the drama-filled glory that it promises, this episode just didn’t hit the mark. It’s odd to see the ladies taken out of the show’s native setting, New York, but that shouldn’t justify free reign for them to run wild with their exaggerated quirks—I’m looking at Marnie’s scheduling that’s so over-the-top there’s no way she wouldn’t be self-aware in real life. And again, what the hell was up with Hannah chattering through the night because she wouldn’t put that wacky romper back on? Girls, for better or worse, has been satisfying in the long-term because of its brutal portrayal of honest characters (as ugly as that might look). As I’ve discussed in previous reviews, these ladies are becoming less and less like people I might bump into on the street and more like caricatures composed of “Greatest Hits”-style traits and quotes, save Shoshanna. Here’s me hoping that it was just the change in scenery that brought this out in such an extreme fashion, but the show’s earlier third-season episodes do suggest otherwise.

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