Ahh, the beach house. It is one of the great symbols of East Coast privilege and wealth, a place where city dwellers can escape their ridiculously overpriced apartments for the weekend in favor of even more overpriced pieces of real estate on the seashore. For those who may have forgotten the privileged background of the characters in Girls, here is an episode where they all hang out in a beach house. A fairly large beach house, it seems, and one with a swimming pool. In other words, the sort of place most of us would gaze at longingly on our way to the Super 8 hotel down the street.
“Beach House” is an episode that Girls desperately needed. It gives the writers an excuse to put all four of the main characters in one place together, rather than focusing mostly on Hannah and leaving Shoshanna and Jessa on the sidelines. As a result, it’s one of the strongest episodes so far this season, and also one of the most emotionally harrowing.
Here’s the thing about these four girls: their various dysfunctions mean that when two of them are together there’s generally going to be some kind of friction. When all four of them are together, there’s enough friction to start a fire. By the end of this episode, the embers of interpersonal conflict have been fully stoked, and the fire is burning bright.
There are a few factors at play in driving the conflict in this episode. The first is Marnie’s desire for control. We saw it back in “She Said OK” when Marnie commandeered Hannah’s birthday party and made her do karaoke against her will. Here we see it in details such as her putting name cards in the various bedrooms of the beach house in order to designate who will be sleeping where. Secondly, there is Hannah’s ever-present narcissism and lack of empathy, which begins manifesting itself when she invites her old college boyfriend/gay roommate Elijah and his friends to party with the girls. That invitation, of course, completely derails the control Marnie had over the weekend and sets off the central conflict between her and Hannah.