My prediction that Girls was slowly turning into the Elijah (Andrew Rannells) show in its final season seems to be holding water—and will as long as Rannells slays the most interesting writing and funniest jokes. “The Bounce” could be his spin-off’s backdoor pilot. His interplay with his co-worker, played by Jasmine Cephas Jones, could be a standalone sitcom, especially if he continues to allow homeless women into Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) apartment. Hey, “she was fun.”
As he goes out on his first audition in years (for a musical adaptation of White Men Can’t Jump, no less), he is supported by another self-assured woman of color: Athena Dante (breakout Latisha Di Venuto), she of the badass name and badder-ass charisma. She whips Elijah into shape and stops him from running away from his creative fears. Maybe all Elijah needed was to get away from all the white girls in his life?
He proceeds to drop a bombshell from Bombshell, which is itself from the late NBC series Smash: the belted closing bit from “Let Me Be Your Star.” The goose bumps he generates with his talented pipes are immediately undercut by apathetically deadpan casting directors. It’s bliss. It’s cringe comedy poking and prodding at sublimity, the kind of naggingly human behavior getting in the way of art that’s been central to Girls’ aesthetic since everyone watching it realized that it was beautiful to look at but hard to watch.
Those still lingering in the mess (and Elijah’s shared apartment) are Hannah and Dill (Corey Stoll), because, just like Patrick Wilson in “Painful Evacuation”, everyone’s older mistake-ex is rearing his head as we barrel towards the series’ conclusion. The two are both mid-crisis, dampening Elijah’s sunny bitchiness with their weepy realities. Hannah’s contacted her impregnator, Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed), while Dill’s in the midst an adoption paparazzi snafu (well, he got caught trying to buy a white baby on the black market). Thankfully, he’s not in the market for Hannah’s baby. It wouldn’t be white enough for him, anyways. Stoll is hilariously petty, ruining days, drinking LaCroix and solving breakfast cereal mazes with a slobbery desperation that immediately ices over when the topic shifts away from him.
He bogarts the aftermath of Hannah and Paul-Louis’ conversation, during which Paul-Louis accepts Hannah’s offer to not be in the baby’s life and also makes my choice between “Papa Was A Surfin’ Stone” or “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stoner” far easier by rolling a joint as he finds out he’s going to be a father. The conversation, between a clueless bro living on a lark and a young woman whose exterior confidence is only masking the same inner apprehension and uncertainty that everyone in Girls has had for nearly six full seasons, goes about as poorly as you’d expect. Even Daddy Issue Dill gets weepy about it.
As for things that haven’t changed in six seasons, “The Bounce” has some Marnie (Allison Williams) segments. Marnie is broke and evicted because her bandmate has a crippling drug problem and she’s spent all her cash on workout classes with names more complicated than the prescription painkillers he’s on. She tries to pawn her locket, finds out it’s worthless because her mom is a liar, and gets some hokey wisdom from a pawnbroker that might as well be a magical fortune teller machine named Zoltar. Why is this the exchange that affects her, despite having heard it in one form or another from literally everyone else in her life? Who knows? It was just her time. She calls Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to spill the same self-aware speech that seems so at home coming out of her mouth, but it has as little impact as ever—especially considering the far more interesting stories of the characters around her. The most entertaining part of these Marnie segments is that it gives us plenty of time to wonder, “Where the hell are Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet)?”
Luckily, “The Bounce” is almost entirely focused on the Rannells-aissance. Elijah doesn’t know anything about basketball, which gives us some great over-the-top physical humor as he ruins his audition, and buoys us in the heavy river of tears streaming from the father-scorned duo back at his apartment. Upon his return, Elijah turns his pure confidence, confidence one can only attain by acknowledging a fuck-up, into telling Dill off—and then inviting him (and pizza) into his bed. Listen, if Elijah were perfect, the show would be boring. Confidence springing from mistakes, the freedom achieved from bottoming out or facing your challenges even if they disappoint you: It’s a moral the show’s danced around for a while but seems to be taking seriously now that its stakes are higher and the escape hatch from these character’s lives is right around the corner. And maybe good things will come from it. Elijah got the callback, after all. Maybe (Elijah and Girls) you can screw up a bit as long as you have a certain je ne sais LaCroix.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.