Review: Girls – “Boys” (S2E6) and House of Lies – “Sincerity is an Easy Disguise in This Business” (S2E5)

18 Feb

“She’s like a carnival game, you know? It all seems so simple, but you can’t get the ring on the bottle because it’s fucking rigged. So you try and try and try until you drive yourself nuts. Then, finally, when you walk away you realize you didn’t even want the crappy prize to begin with. I realize that’s what Hannah is: a giant Tweety doll I would have been stuck carrying around a carnival all night. I’m happy to be over it.”

“You’re a poet. You know that?”

[The boys: Adam and Ray]

The “you either love it or you hate it” cliche has been applied to Girls since it first aired. But in no other episode has that claim been more appropriate than last week’s “One Man’s Trash.” One reviewer wrote that fans of the show wouldn’t have to worry, because years down the line, we’ll be thinking about that episode and saying “Remember when Hannah spent a couple days having sex with Patrick Wilson? That was weird, huh?” If we are talking about Girls years from now (and I, personally, think that’s more likely than not), we can look back on “Boys” as the true sequel to “It’s a Shame About Ray” and the episode that cemented Girls‘ second season as a genuine upgrade from its impressive debut season.

Shoshanna and Jessa are in the background here, but Shosh’s boyfriend – Ray – features heavily. He asks Hannah to return his copy of Little Women with his grandmother’s linear notes, but she left it at Adam’s house and they haven’t spoke since Hannah unintentionally had Adam sent to jail. Ray arrives and finds himself coaxed into taking a trip with Adam to Staten Island to return a dog that Adam stole from a cruel owner – Ray calls it Adam’s break-up dog. On the way, the two get into an argument about Hannah, and Adam storms off, leaving Ray to make the rest of the journey alone. He winds up being verbally abused by a young girl and sits with the dog on a bench, crying. Back in Manhattan, Hannah is given an e-book deal with a one-month deadline, and Marnie attends a Booth Jonathan party. Neither fares much better than Ray, as Hannah can’t find the inspiration or the emotional support she needs to write and Marnie discovers that her relationship with Booth isn’t a real relationship at all.

“Boys” does a lot of things right, and the most enjoyable of them to watch is throwing Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky onto the screen together and letting them go at it. They’re not that different, Ray says, but some key differences expose themselves in their heated discussions. For one, Adam has a low-to-no-bullshit tolerance. He may be willing to give people a second chance, as his defense of Hannah’s character foreshadows, but he will not be a part of something if his heart isn’t in it. Ray doubts himself – he calls it intellectualizing, which is probably a way Hannah would describe her own ways – and he lets that shatter his confidence. If Shoshanna hadn’t said “I love you” first, would Ray ever have said it? The depths of his character have been the most interesting thing in this season so far, just as Adam’s development over the first season was one of its strongest points, and it almost feels like they’ve barely been addressed. Just as Mandy Patinkin’s smile was the last scene we saw at the end of Homeland‘s second season, Girls lets one of its subsidiary characters play us out in this episode (and Ray’s scene is absolutely as powerful as Saul’s).

When “Boys” isn’t following the boys, it still manages to hit the right notes, with three scenes carrying a lot of weight. The first two parallel directly with one another: Hannah is trying to tell Jessa about the early stages of struggling with her book and Jessa isn’t listening, and Marnie is asking Shoshanna about wardrobe choices while Shosh is holding back a full-blown Ray tirade. It’s great to see all four girls being used, which hasn’t been a common sight lately. Even if Jessa has the least to do here, her depression is exactly how we would expect a Jessa depression to look and sound like. The third scene is played against Ray’s final scenes, with Hannah and Marnie talking on the phone together. Both are lying about how well they’re doing and what a great time they’re having. For two characters who used to be best friends, their love-you-bye’s say everything that has happened to lead them to this. And the misery is only likely to continue. Hannah will still need to get this book out in a month or else have yet another failure on her hands, and Marnie will have to deal with the after-effects of Charlie in addition to Charlie continuing to screw things up.

There’s only so much crap that can happen to these people before something gives. The return of Adam may signal that catharsis, at least for Hannah, but it’s still probably a few episodes away. Even then, it’s great just to see him back in the mix.

House of Lies is dealing with its plotlines a little more lazily, but that’s always been the case with this show, which doesn’t have as wide a range of appeal. What this episode does well, though, is set up the events that will lead to the season finale, and it doesn’t do it in a forced, expository way.

On the peripherals, Marty’s brother comes to visit now that their father’s health has taken such a decline, and Doug and Jeannie find success and failure, respectively, with an assignment involving creating an online dating profile. The core of the episode follows Marty, and partially Clyde, as he visits a client with political aspirations. One of the members of that client’s office is a banking executive who takes to Marty (most women do) and eventually tells him that his boss, played by Bess Armstrong, said not to hire him (earlier in the episode, she told Marty that he needed to make this deal work for Galweather).

If we’ve learned anything from the first season of House of Lies, it’s that you don’t want to fuck around with Marty, especially when he has the means and intelligence to bring you down. How that’s going to happen this time around has yet to be seen, but the fact that Marty’s family drama is finally getting interesting means that it’s going to be a lot tougher to wind up on top. Add to that the unresolved romantic drama with Jeannie, and we go into the rest of the season with some things to look forward to.

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