Girls: Captain Phillips in Poughkeepsie

(Episode 6.02)

TV Reviews Girls
Girls: Captain Phillips in Poughkeepsie

Girls can often spread itself too thin when focusing on its menagerie of millennial messes, but the problems in “Hostage Situation” stem from the tired trappings uncovered when the series’ focus is tight. The episode hinges on two social kidnappings: Hannah (Lena Dunham) accompanying Marnie (Allison Williams) and Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to their Poughkeepsie retreat and Elijah (Andrew Rannells) impersonating Shoshanna’s (Zosia Mamet) personal assistant at a professional mixer.

Both of these events occur after the episode jumps through a few narrative hoops so the logic works out (have Elijah and Shosh ever even spoken before?), though the new motif of opening each episode with a self-congratulatory conversation between Hannah and Elijah has the potential to be an extremely bitchy good time. Hannah’s agreed to go with Marnie on a road trip so poor Ray (Alex Karpovsky) doesn’t suspect his girlfriend is having hate-sex with her ex-husband, while Elijah’s agreed to go with Shosh… for reasons that are unclear. What’s clearer is why Jessa (Jemima Kirke) wants to tag along when she finds out about the networking event. Shosh tells her the plan after the cousins record a video message for their grandmother’s birthday, which is cute, awkward and indicative of how few opportunities the show takes to remind us that these two are related.

Aside from Jessa’s instinct for shoulder pads in a delightful ‘80s Kate Beaton webcomic riff, there’re very few moments of humor in “Hostage Situation” that land. Instead, Girls falls back on presenting caricatures while making its own ridiculous protagonists the straight (wo)men. While Marnie and Desi fight outside, Hannah browses an antique shop whose owner (Joy Bryant) is everything terrible about the idea of a “goddess.” She spins an incredible tale about leaving New York that involves absorbing all the shock of the subway’s third rail and being rescued by Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth. Hannah’s mixture of admiration and incredulity isn’t necessarily the punch line we’re hoping for, especially when swooning over the self-proclaimed psychic’s mystical gift of a tea set.

The only good thing to come out of this long, deadpan scene is Hannah’s observation that running in “a psychosexual hamster wheel with a fucknugget” is Marnie’s entire life.

In the episode’s other Captain Phillips situation, Elijah’s sexually carnivorous Bond villain white turtleneck/double-breasted blazer combo (and entirely relatable crush on Justin Trudeau) is worth the price of admission. The mixer, a for-women-by-women entrepreneur shindig, is hosted by Shosh’s ex-best friends (Barrett Doss and Annie Q.) and provides a “grass is always greener” moment for the perennially stray lamb.

The mixer features the same kind of broad, point-blank absurdity as Hannah’s exchange with the antique shop owner, as Shosh’s old friends excruciatingly lament the hardships of running a successful business and finding a networking event location on the cheap. Shosh swoons, Jessa smirks, and Elijah cruises a waiter. Nothing interesting or out of the ordinary.

Something else neither interesting nor out of the ordinary is Desi’s sloppily revealed love of Oxycontin. Desi can’t just be a dick, he has to be an addick… ahem, addict. What was a masturbatory exercise in Marnie’s poor decision-making U-turns into angry, desperate Desi scrounging on the floor for his strewn pills. At least Charlie seemed like he had the malleability for drug abuse in last season’s “The Panic in Central Park.” Desi’s so one-note that his morph into a violent addict induces nothing but chuckles. Kicking him out of the cabin so he can roam around outside, turning the whole trip into a poorly-shot parody knock-off of something like last year’s Hush, allows Hannah and Marnie to have a real talk now that Marnie’s dude troubles have provided an ice-breaker (among the other things Desi breaks).

Their heart-to-heart, during which Hannah uses her newly enlightened tranquility to put Marnie’s selfishness on blast, stumbles without closure, not because of a naturally awkward joke, but a line (“he looks like someone from the Pacific Northwest knit a man”) that sounds like a throwaway from a minor Judd Apatow-directed riffing session. Confrontation, when it’s finally escalated to that point, has always been a strong component of Girls, even if these confrontations often fall into the more realistic quagmire of compromise or uncertainty than the cut-and-dried arguments dramas typically condition us for.

When Shosh confronts her old homies, they blow her off for abandoning them for Jessa back in the day, which only amplifies Shosh’s rage. Her anger at Jessa, compared to the episode’s cabin conversation, seems particularly real because of its irrationality. Jessa got in the way of her friendships with her two successful, objectively terrible idols. Shosh wants to yell and fight and resist the fact that time has passed and that her life has been irreversibly changed from what it could’ve been, so she expresses it the only way she knows. When world-weary Jessa yells at her to “grow up,” it’s less of a clapback than a tired fact. Shosh seems to be backsliding from a girl that knew who she was and what she enjoyed to another depressed New Yorker, hamstrung by her own unreasonable expectations.

The ones actually maturing this episode, forced into it (yet again) by drug addiction, are Hannah and Marnie. If they’re any example, the characters have to go through hell and back just for a single step towards sanity. They throw Desi’s junkie ass in the back of the car and head home, with Marnie finally, finally taking the wheel of her life.

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.

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