“What will we do this time about Adam?” So asks the most meta-textual episode title in Girls history. It is a simultaneous acknowledgement of the character’s volatile fickleness and the audience’s mounting frustration as he fails to meet their expectations. There was always an undercurrent of potential, flowing quick and quiet beneath his overtures of passion for other women. Yes, Adam (Adam Driver) has decided to leave Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and his sex fortress to pursue something real, raw and undeniable with Hannah (Lena Dunham). Creating a film around his past relationship, trying to establish as subjective a narrative as he could around his own life to determine some sort of emotional fidelity, led him back to Hannah. And Hannah’s pregnancy presented him with an opportunity.
Leaving Jessa is the deceptively easy part. Well, they’re ALL deceptively easy parts in this episode, each dramatic turn building up stress in the show’s brittle relationships until they begin to fracture. When Adam tells Jessa he wants to raise Hannah’s baby, she seems surprisingly OK with that. There’s a brief glimmer that maybe, just maybe, she’s finally gotten fed up and will escape all these people.
And escape she must, because Hannah and Elijah (Andrew Rannells) are like a black hole of lifestyle poverty. The A/C is out in their apartment, which means the show’s natural nakedness comes back full force. Their early episode discussion isn’t as comedic this time around, as they’re struggling with the heat and Hannah’s emotionally stifling phone call with Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed). Hannah’s brief dance with maturity (“I’m not having an abortion, Elijah. I’m having feelings”) is interrupted by Adam’s intrusion into her life. She might not be backing away the second something makes her uncomfortable, but this is another story.
Driver delivers a stellar bodega speech, reminding us—as Rannells did last episode—that most of this cast can shine when given the proper tools and motivation. We know his character is an actor, but we also know Driver is the best actor of the lot. This episode lets him show it, whether it’s his oddball pronunciations, his laser-focused weirdness, or his utterly earnest care. Hannah receives that care so positively that the two rush back to her apartment to form one of the more adorably mismatched physical couplings in the show’s sexual history. With Hannah’s pregnant belly and Adam’s unkempt mane, it looks like Jesus cradling a Weeble Wobble. It’s cute and weird and off-puttingly easy: We’re not sure they deserve this.
When Laird (Jon Glaser) storms in, sure he’s meant to raise Hannah’s baby after a conversation with Jessa, it’s hard not to wonder who exactly in the show isn’t looking to raise a child as a way to smooth out and stabilize their lives. Everyone’s apparently gone baby-crazy in this particular pocket of the city, ready to latch onto a newborn at a moment’s notice. Which, as anyone who’s ever raised a child know, is goddamn bananas.
The only uninterested (and uninformed) pair is Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky). They make their long-awaited return as Ray attempts to turn some inherited old tapes into an anti-gentrification oral history. It’s a goal that he cares about and may also be achievable without being soul-sucking like his escapades in local government or small business ownership. Shoshanna, sadly, doesn’t get much to say about this—or anything at all, really. After one solid line delivery that could also double as a self-description (paraphrasing here: “you love her and she’s super great until you hate her because she never turns off.. she’s a lot”), Shosh is completely overrun by a chance encounter with her old boss, Abigail (Aidy Bryant).
Abigail invigorates Ray. There’s the same energy Shosh used to bring, but with an older confidence and self-assuredness that Ray simply hasn’t experienced in a long time. Or at least ever since he started hanging out with the Girls crew. They almost immediately hit it off and abandon Shosh after an ice-cold metaphorical diss. When asked whether she’d rather live in a pretty house with an ugly view or vice-versa, Shosh chooses wrong. Ray cuts through with the biting assessment that it means she’s “fine being structurally flawed as long as [she] never have to look at [her]self.” That’s every Girl. And what better way to reach these jaded New Yorkers than with an architectural comparison?
Maybe with a daylong excursion out into the world: That’s what the episode’s two couples, Hannah and Adam and Ray and Abigail, do. Gorgeously colorful outdoor cinematography— barges, benches, patios, and stoops—reacquaints the characters with themselves and the larger world around them. When they’re outside the constricting heat, space and history of Hannah’s apartment, the world becomes a much more hopeful place. Even when Adam’s singsong-ingly avoiding Hannah’s probing sexual questions about Jessa (who’s off having a bummer, but sober, bar hookup to combat Adam’s abandonment), it’s more hopeful. Even when Hannah grills Adam on why he’s back, projecting her well-founded worries. Adam admits he’s also here for security (he knows they don’t have time to dick around anymore,) but with something real at the core. They know they want into this club called Adulthood, but are they each other’s plus-one?
Ray’s day out is much more lighthearted (even though they ditch Shosh like week-old sushi), opening up the curmudgeon until he emerges as the talkative social communist we know he is in his heart. He even gets a kiss, albeit a bit of an awkward one. Adam and Hannah stack logistical shopping on top of serious relationship considerations until it finally crumbles in a diner. The idea of leaving their apartments is broached. Is this what growing up is to Girls? Is it getting a new apartment from the one you started the “big city” chapter of your life in? Is it getting married to Adam to make finding artist housing easier? Is it having a kid and not killing it until it can start asking some of these same questions?
The teary end to their conversation tells us that they weren’t ready to ask these questions, at least not of each other and certainly not like this. Adam goes back home—harkening back to an earlier conversation about sleepovers, “If I puke they’ll send me home and if they send me home I’m fucking nothing”—and it’s a question mark cap to an episode whose title never led us to believe any differently. Hannah doesn’t want Adam going home to Jessa while talking about all the practicalities of raising a baby. She wants him back for all the reasons they had before he left her. Despite all protest, she’s scared. Scared for two.
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.