March 1, 2015, 9:00 p.m. (EST), HBO
From a tonal perspective, Girls has a nice unpredictability that often serves it well. Sometimes the show is a dreamlike short story, sometimes it is dark drama of interpersonal conflict, and sometimes its just a sitcom with a wider than normal emotional palette. “Ask Me My Name” fits into the former camp, an episode focused more on comedy than on any of the show’s other emotional wavelengths, and one that comes upon its character moments subtly and from odd angles, finding them amid the laughs found when Hannah and Mimi-Rose are thrust together for a weird evening.
The episode begins by implying Hannah is well-adjusted and maybe in her element. She has a job as a substitute teacher, a date with Fran (Jake Lacy), and fun masturbation-banter with Elijah. It seems like, after a tumultuous period, everything is coming up Hannah. But those early scenes lull us, like Hannah, into a false sense of security. Everything seems to be going fine, so we start to think everything is going fine. Until Hannah drags Fran to Mimi-Rose’s show, gets into a confrontation with Adam, scares Fran off, and then proceeds to climb in a cab with Mimi-Rose, mostly just to piss Adam off. Hannah really thinks she’s over Adam. These early scenes convince us in a way that let’s us know Hannah isn’t just lying to others to cover up for her pain. She’s lying to herself, and well enough the delusion sticks until it is shattered completely by her encounter with Adam.
Its not only conceivable that Hannah would take Fran to a place she knew she would run into Adam, it is exactly the sort of self-destructive flurry we should expect at this point. Using Fran as a chess piece (to coopt Ace’s language) is completely bonkers, the sort of deeply inconsiderate and borderline insane thing only Hannah would think was socially acceptable, but it reveals just how deeply wounded she remains over her breakup with Adam. Over the course of the episode, she comes to a sort of peace with the whole thing. It isn’t that Hannah magically gets over Adam. She just learns what he sees in Mimi-Rose, and why he might need to pursue things with her.
Along the way, though, the episode is a comedic tour-de-force in the way Girls can be from time to time but rarely fully goes in for. From Hannah’s opening lecture on Oedipus Rex to the ridiculous façade of Mimi-Rose’s art show, from the charming banter of Hannah and Fran’s early date, to the hysterical moment when Mimi-Rose befriends someone and writes them a poem in the two minutes it takes Hannah to use the restroom, “Ask Me My Name” is a piece of pure comedy that let’s its deeper resonance remain an undercurrent. The episode also deftly turns Mimi-Rose from a caricature into a human being, exposing her self-doubt and her willingness to glibly manipulate (her offer to “give Adam back” is distasteful in several senses of the word), while ingratiating her to Hannah in ways that feel realistic. Hannah comes up against the possibility that she simply isn’t talented enough to be the artist she desires to be (a revelation that would carry more weight if the show could figure out how good Hannah actually is), and against the fact that Adam’s new girlfriend is a real person, not some idealized alternative to Hannah whose perfection cannot be pierced. It’s a weird night for Hannah, the kind that will make a good story some day, but ends in the moment with a resigned falafel and seltzer.
The episode throws Marnie and Jessa into the mix briefly in ways that barely make sense. I guess Marnie and Desi might be at this art show, though it seems like something Marnie might at least consider avoiding due to the Hannah-Adam break up. And Jessa’s revelation that she set Adam and Mimi-Rose up to win over Ace just makes absolutely no sense, another out-of-left-field moment for a character who increasingly has nothing else to offer. Jessa hasn’t made sense in seasons now, and seems to exist only to say cruel things, do weird shit, and then disappear again until the show decides to try to make a grand thematic statement about her character, which is thinly shaded in at best. Sending Hannah to Iowa was an opportunity to develop all of the show’s characters outside of their toxic interpersonal struggles. But instead, this season seems to have lost the thread with everyone who isn’t Hannah. Jessa is a chaos demon, Ray wants a turn signal added to a traffic light, Shosh just goes on job interviews now…are any of these people really characters on this show anymore? Or are they like the actors at Mimi-Rose’s art show, just there unable to break script, whether or not it makes sense in a larger context?
In any case, “Ask Me My Name” side steps the season’s larger concerns by just being very funny and by telling a story of true character progress for Hannah that isn’t too focused on the permanence of its epiphanies. Girls is at its best when it isn’t trying to move mountains, and while Hannah comes up against hard truths this week, the show isn’t making grand statements so much as some silly jokes rooted in Hannah’s deep emotional crisis. When the show makes me laugh hard enough, it almost makes it possible to forget all of the ongoing problems that plague this season of television. It’s easy to be early-episode Hannah when there’s enough to distract you from the problems at hand.
- “Simon, you are the funniest person I’ve ever met, you should write for SNL.”
- “If you want him to think you killed your kids and have been living in the Florida panhandle, knock yourself out.”
- “Now get out of here, I have to masturbate. That’s what you do before a date. To cut the sexual tension so you can think.” “Ugh. You’re so loud when you do it…I’ll do it too!”
- “I’m over it. You’re not over it. Otherwise you would not have noticed me in this crowd of 40-70 people!”
- “Shall we into the night?”
- “I was in the bathroom for less than two minutes.” “It’s actually a really great poem, you want to hear it?”
“Ask Me My Name” is an episode focused more on comedy than on any of the show’s other emotional wavelengths, and one that comes upon its character moments subtly and from odd angles, finding them amid the laughs found when Hannah and Mimi-Rose are thrust together for a weird evening.