So far season 3 of Girls has been its most fast-paced yet, both in terms of character development and in term of the sheer number of jokes fit into a single episode. There have been some fantastically quotable lines this season, the best of which so far came from Ray in last week’s episode. All good things must come to an end, though, and this week’s episode, “Only Child,” is the first sign that perhaps the momentum the show has established over the last four episodes is not entirely sustainable in the long term.
This is evident from the very first scene in the episode, which takes place at the funeral of David, Hannah’s (former) editor. It treads ground already covered in last week’s episode: the fact that Hannah very much comes across as a sociopath in her monumental self-centeredness and apathy toward David’s death. Granted, the sociopathy is amped up to 11 when she asks David’s widow if she knows of any other publisher to which Hannah might sell her book. The look of utter disgust on the poor woman’s face as she asks Hannah, “If I do give you another name, will you get the f–k out of here?” is pretty much a stand-in for the audience at that point. It’s a new low for a character who has sure had a whole lot of lows.
And that’s a real problem with this episode: it threatens to shatter any goodwill audiences might have had left for Hannah at this point. The main criticism leveled against Girls has always been how terrible and unsympathetic its characters are in the face of their overwhelming white privilege. The strength of the show for its fans has been its ability to take those characters and actually make them momentarily sympathetic despite their myriad flaws. Hannah at this point, though… well, no one’s irredeemable but she certainly has dug herself a big hole.
Another problem with this episode is that the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with all the characters who weren’t Hannah, Adam or Caroline. Jessa and Shoshanna have a brief conversation seemingly for the sole purpose of giving them some screen time. Had it been excised from the episode, it wouldn’t have been missed at all. Marnie has a sudden fling with Ray that is achingly unconvincing. It may lead to something down the road, but it seems so sudden and forced that it’s hard to imagine a point in the future in which it makes total sense.
And OK, a lot of times relationships don’t make any sense, especially in a social circle as insular as the one in Girls, but in the midst of this episode’s other shortcomings, this particular scene just seems like one more that doesn’t quite work. In retrospect, the last couple of episodes have obviously been building to a moment between Marnie and Ray, but perhaps they could have spent a little more time building to it.