Girls, Season 2, Episode 3: “Bad Friend”
Written by Lena Dunham and Sarah Heyward
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO
“What does cocaine make you feel like? It makes you feel like having more cocaine.” – George Carlin
Coke is the ideal drug of Girls. When Hannah excitedly enters a pretentious internet publication’s spartan offices after hearing they’ll pay for contributions, she takes with her an eagerness to write about any and all new experiences. (Well, except maybe having a threesome.) So when she’s asked to write about doing cocaine, she sees it as yet another opportunity to transgress and excavate. Why not?
One of Girls’s most persistent themes is that of the avoidance, or utter denial, of consequence. For Hannah, coke is just an unexplored country, as well as a potential launchpad for thousands of (paid!) self-fixated words. She has no interest in the ramifications of the drug, only how to procure it and the finished product once she’s had her fun with it. So when ex-junkie Laird (Jon Glaser, fellow TV-series creator) mentions his newfound sobriety, and warns her to stay away from it, his warning falls on predictably deaf ears. And so our self-perpetuating protagonist obtains a workable quantity of a famously self-perpetuating drug.
In a post eulogizing the just-nixed Ben and Kate, NPR’s Marc Hirsh notes that that series’ notion of friendship was remarkably straightforward – its characters all genuinely enjoyed one another’s company – where most series tend toward adversarial pairings. He didn’t mention Girls, but this second season has driven even more of a wedge between our Brookylinite heroines. By the end of “Bad Friend,” Marnie and Hannah are once again on the outs, while Jessa and Shoshanna (barely glimpsed this week, hopefully to be remedied soon) are off in their own be-coupled corners. And to make matters even more fractious, Hannah decides to kick Elijah out of her apartment. This leaves room for Adam to return after his legal troubles are through, yes?
“Bad Friend” continues to toe a line that this second season feels very conscious of, whereby virtually all of our characters act purely out of naked self-interest, but we (hopefully) remain attached either because the viewer can or has recognized these tendencies in their own lives, or simply because it’s remarkably funny. By the second criteria, “Bad Friend” isn’t nearly as successful as last week’s “I Get Ideas,” which probably counts as one of the series’ two or three outright funniest outings yet, but “Bad Friend” does find room to delight in its characters making obviously foolish decisions they’ll come to regret if they’re not too self-interested to pay attention. Marnie shuns work and goes home with the truly loathsome Booth (a welcome return for Jorma Taccone), the only character in pop-culture to ever bed a woman using only recycled televisions and Duncan Sheik. Hannah dismisses Elijah after he reveals that he had sex with Marnie, deciding instead to return to her apartment building to awkwardly have sex with Laird, who is endlessly grateful and a little confused. (Glaser’s comic acting is consistently great, but never moreso than when he waits for permission to “kiss back.”)
There’s reason to hope Booth sticks around for an episode or two. He uses his nostalgia for the 80s, a decade he probably has no recollection of (also, notably, coke’s heyday), and distate for the 90s as an indicator of his cultural superiority, which is precisely the sort of arbitrary cultural division we see Hannah making all the time. Booth is a great foil for Hannah and Marnie: he has done away with the insecurities that hound them, and in turn attained the kind of success they spend much of the series dreaming about, but he’s also a supremely hollow cad. (He also works as a kind of dark mirror of Adam, with whom he shares a facility with his hands and a possibly-sinister streak, but none of the genuine affection.) That Hannah and Marnie may have more in common with Booth than they would like to admit might be fertile ground to explore.