“Gummies,” the comedown from last week’s heavy twist-and-shout-acular “Painful Evacuation; opens with Ray (Alex Karpovsky) dealing with death and Hannah (Lena Dunham) dealing with life. Girls, regardless of its typically callous disregard for its characters, allows them to cope in their own ways, be it obsessive Googling of a baby’s size over the course of a pregnancy (a lentil at six weeks!) or a cynical judgment of your late boss/mentor/father figure’s TV viewing habits (The Equalizer?).
While Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) helps Ray through Hermie’s (Colin Quinn) death, Hannah’s invited her mother, Loreen (Becky Ann Baker), to help her with the new life she’s planning on bringing to the world. But before the helpful forces of responsibility swoop in, we need to catch up on the more excitingly strange cast who’re still working through their ramshackle lives in oddball ways. So, of course, I want to talk about Elijah.
Elijah (Andrew Rannells) continues to be the show’s comic highlight this season, mostly thanks to Rannells’ continually tweaked performance. He seems to be on a different drug each episode (this time it’s Adderall) and somehow they all feel exactly like the Elijah we’d expect, like seeing the same sweet-hearted sass filtered through a kaleidoscope. He razzes Hannah about not treating her mom like an adult and talks at length about his and Hannah’s online escapades, which include both cyberbullying a stranger for fun (c’mon guys!) and Facebook-stalking an ex-classmate’s ugly nieces (GUYS, c’mon!). The ex-classmate in question is apparently an untalented hack whose only claim to fame before landing a role in Kinky Boots was usurping an a cappella group’s arrangements so they could only play alt-rock hits of the ‘90s. It’s just specific enough that I think I could find this guy if I looked hard enough.
The other irresponsible dreamers in the episode are Adam (Adam Driver) and Jessa (Jemima Kirk), who’ve begun shooting their film about, well, the same story Hannah turned into her “Modern Love” essay. The Hannah stand-in they’ve cast (a phenomenal Daisy Eagan) is super uncanny and it freaks me the hell out. For a good thirty seconds of her first scene, I was questioning why Adam and Hannah were back together. She not only looks just like Hannah, she acts just like Hannah—not Hannah now, but Hannah then, when she was prone to more overt breakdowns and desperation. It’s a performance good on its own, and great for fans who’ve made the journey with the series over the course of six years.
Building off her energy and the retrospective vibe of the set, Jessa takes an interesting turn. She’s beginning to get so invested in her relationship—seemingly for the first time—that she’s crafting alternative narratives around it, justifying Adam and Hannah’s past together so she can rest easier. Her snippy rationale is that, if she can convince the movie to change, her perception of reality can stay the same. If Adam and Hannah were never in love, don’t you think this actress is overdoing it? It fits into the inexperienced relationship model that Jessa would be following and nods to an audience that saw Adam and Hannah’s relationship from start to finish.
Seeing one’s current partner in the throes of their prior relationships is a shock to the system—it screws with our temporality and our ideas of fidelity. How can you still love me if you can so accurately re-enact loving someone else? It’s fascinating meta-drama that Girls seems to have been building to throughout its entire run. Plus, we get a brief cameo from Laird (Jon Glaser)! There’s some really poignant, thoughtful shot construction in this episode that separates its couples—Adam and Jessa, superficially divided on set; Ray and Marnie (Allison Williams) more tangibly/literally walled-off in Hermie’s house—while providing visual interest in conversation-heavy moments. Speaking of Marnie and Ray, thank all the cynical communist spirits that Ray pulled the plug on that toxic mess, after a hellish hangout in which Ray, trying to share things he inherited from Hermie, is constantly shut down by Marnie’s adamant refusal to think outside of herself. Did she and Hannah have that heart-to-heart in Poughkeepsie for nothing? Thankfully, the relationship seems to have sputtered to an end and we won’t have to endure it anymore, because I have a physical reaction to seeing Marnie around poor sad puppy dog Ray.
But now back to the good stuff. Hannah’s newly THC-prone mom (alcohol is all calories!) is a really great mix of a relationship-retiree and a giggly guru: basically exactly what one might imagine Hannah’s mom being like after only knowing Hannah. She and her daughter have some nice character moments after Hannah drops the pregnancy bombshell during an Emmy-worthy conversation ranging from childbirth to the intricate depressions of aging alone—all while Loreen falls progressively victim to some pot gummy worms’ haze. Then she wanders off.
This instigates perhaps the best needle drop of the series: an a cappella cover of “Semi-Charmed Life,” calling back to Elijah’s sad moment of nostalgic trashiness before he and Hannah embark on a Loreen-hunt.
Elijah may be the season’s best character because he gets all the jokes. (His elated cry of “pot stickers!” upon finding Hannah’s mother two rounds deep at a noodle shop speaks for us all.) However, when he finds out Hannah’s been hiding her pregnancy from him, his bitterness and immaturity overpower his snark and speak something that veers a bit too close to the truth: Hannah’s not ready and she’ll be a terrible mother. In the moment, it’s pettiness for pettiness’ sake, but it also doesn’t sound wrong. Then again, neither did Loreen’s excitement.
A change this major will inevitably shape the ecosystem of Hannah’s life, a life mostly composed of tenuous relationships with people that don’t seem to like each other that much—and the other characters’ responses, their ebbs and flows toward and away from this drama, point to the situation in which she now finds herself, with “friends” that fight on vacation, abandon each other in strange places and sell their intra-group sex lives to make themselves feel like artists. What better way to sum up this complex quilt than with the beautiful visual analogy of Hannah’s mother fleeing and vomiting like an infant while discussing the coming baby?
A really nice button to all this cross-generational angst matches Hannah and her doppelgänger on a stoop, talking kids, life and adulthood. It’s a reflection of the question Hannah’s been asking all season, and that’s led her to keep this baby: What could her life have been?
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.