Girls Season 4 Episode 3 Review: “Female Author”

Girls Season 4 Episode 3 Review: “Female Author”


Tonight’s episode of Girls, “Female Author,” penned by Sarah Hayward and directed by Jesse Peretz, opens with one pajama-clad Hannah Horvath Skype-ing with Jessa. The former tells the latter that because the frequency of her class is once weekly, free time abounds. However,  instead of dedicating her spare days to writing, she has been excelling at procrastinating. Her excuse for making brownies instead of focusing on her craft is that she is in a pre-writing phase. Jessa barely reacts to that statement, perhaps because she is used to Hannah acting that way, or she may still be harboring resentment to her friend for leaving, or maybe, just maybe, Jessa just does not care. She is a hard character to fully read, which, incidentally, is one of the most interesting facets she has displayed throughout the first four seasons of Girls.

Even though there is no follow- up question to Jessa’s initial inquiry, Hannah changes the subject by asking her friend, who is increasingly disengaged from the Skype session, if she has talked to Adam. In a casual demeanor, Jessa lists all the occasions she has been in touch with him, which are many. Again, it is unclear how deliberate the character is being by revealing that information like it is meaningless, when it could never be. Not to Hannah. Taking into consideration that Jessa also starts to move around the room, unfastens her Kimono, doesn’t look at the camera in the computer (which does equal breaking virtual eye contact), and plays music in the background, practically burying Hanna’s voice, it is safe to say that whether she is trying to hurt or not, she is disregarding not just feelings but history. This is amplified by her frigid dismissal; “Not at all,” she tells Hannah, when she wonders if Adam has asked about her. In Jessa’s lightness of treating matters of the heart, there seems to be darkness wearing a disinterest, well-crafted costume. 

The conversation between the two friends ends on a funny, yet awkward note, with Jessa literally pointing her butt at the camera and by default, at Hannah. This very action adds to the paradox that the relationship between the two girls is. Skin exposure between two people is usually an intimate action, yet in this particular case it operates as a maneuver to cease dialogue.

Meanwhile, in New York, in the confines of Ray’s apartment, Marnie is voicing  her thought process when it comes to confronting the reality of her entanglement with Desi, which basically is a hot mess. She is, in a juvenile way, defending intentions, and holding on to breadcrumbs such as texting one another “Goodnight,” having met his cousin, etc. While her desperate attempts to remain in denial as to her “other woman” status are obvious, Ray bursts her bubble in a gentle way. With an approach that is diametrically opposed to Jessa’s, he points out basic facts: Marnie is the other woman, Desi is not to be trusted, and he has a character flaw; he has not chosen Marnie. Ray shedding light (pun very much intended) into the situation, plus his compliment to Marnie, causes her to straddle his lap and kiss him. The dynamic between these two on and off (sort of) friends with benefits, moves at an intriguing pace, though the direction, if any, is questionable. For one reason or another, every relationship with a man that Marnie starts appears to be destined to fail miserably.

While her ex-boyfriend makes out with her frenemy, Shoshanna nails a job interview at Ann Taylor/Loft. She has clicked with the interviewer, and they are talking like buddies. However, hope does not last long, since in a no filter fashion,  Ms. Shapiro decides to blurt out that she had no intention of taking the job in the first place. Instead she was testing the walkability of her shoes, her handshake and such. It’s a cute scene that, for the 100th time, cements how out of touch the character is, and how unrealistic her expectations are when it comes to finding employment in the 21st century. Despite Shoshanna’s novel intentions by not settling for a position that seems unfulfilling to her, crashing and burning an interview shows poor judgement, especially considering that not that long ago, she was worried that Ray had no future.

Later on, Desi and Marnie are at a meeting with a music label. While three executives are listening to their demo, Desi acts touchy-feely towards Marnie, which is a jerk move and unprofessional behavior in equal measure.  The feedback the duo gets from the label employees is that there is a big ball to get rolling, then the conversation takes a turn when Marnie and Desi are inquired about their relationship. Desi “pulls a Jessa”  and replies that they are not a couple and that he has a girlfriend; he even tag lines Clementine. Marine’s increasing tension is evident, so much so that she even asks for a cigarette, but Desi practically decides for her that she won’t smoke. The whole scene is awkward, alas telling. 

Once the casual meeting at the label is over, Desi confronts Marnie. She makes clear how thrilled she is about their potential musical development; however, she expresses her discomfort towards being his mistress. I believe this is the most articulate she has been while talking to anyone of the male gender. In response, Desi delivers a very polished  douchebag speech. Like most proficient players, he makes a few good points, even though he is being condescending and insensitive to Marnie’s feelings. Instead of falling for Desi’s spiel, she says she knows what she wants, only he’s not offering it to her. For the first, and hopefully not last time this season, Marnie vindicated herself.

Jessa and Adam, whose bond has solidified, have a heart to heart about their respective sobriety birthdays. Their new friendship makes total and absolute sense, and they hit that sweet spot where they are not sugar coating anything but are not being cruel to each other either. Their dialogue seems to flow organically.  On a different note, within their conversation, there is a brief mention of a “whatsherface”; however, that is pretty much all that is revealed, since Jessa has the urge to pee and does so on the street, only to be caught by the police. In true Jessa fashion, she rips her $50 fine and citation and is subsequently handcuffed. Because she resists the arrests and exaggerates the whole situation, she gets Adam to react. Bottom line: they both get a ride to the precinct. There is a look in Jessa’s eyes, while she is being held against the police car, that unveils her thrill-sealing nature; in parallel, Adam seems concerned.

Back in Iowa, Hannah and Elijah attend to a poets’ party. While he seems to be the life of the party and takes pics of everyone and everything, Hanna’s sidekick explains that. for a change, instead of taking selfies, he is trying to see what happens when he turns the camera around. Hannah doesn’t listen to what are, quite possibly, the most inspiring words she has been given in a long time, and instead complains that everyone says she is privileged to be there, even though she is not inspired. Her words have a whiny tone to them, yet it is in plain sight that she feels pressured by a  basic problem: writers write. She is a writer, who is not writing.  Having given the best insight he could have offered before he knew it was needed, this time Elijah simply confronts her, promising that in the end everything works out the way it should.

Subsequently, Hannah feels uncomfortable yet again among her workshop peers, which leads to her starting a rant about the excessive expectations put on female authors.   Her rhetoric escalates to the point where she ends up doing a live verbal takedown of every single member of  the writers workshop. Hannah’s actions prove to be a debacle of epic proportions, but that doesn’t register with her while she is digging her own grave,. In fact, she seems to be enjoying critiquing her classmates for no good reason. Like Taylor Swift would state, she is behaving “casually cruel in the name of being honest.” Afterwards, she claims that she wants them all to be honest together. Her suggestion is met by radio silence. The unlikely heroine takes that hint and leaves. The group, breaking the grace of their initial silence, deem her their own Lindsay Lohan.

A furious Ray bails Jessa and Adam out and gives them a speech about civil conduct. Traditionally, he calls them colorful terms such as goons and barbarians before taking off. His words do not resonate in Jessa’s ears. The rebel, instead, makes jokes about the police. The lack of admittance of her wrongdoing, however, upsets Adam, who calls Jessa out.  He tells her to grow up, while he labels her manipulative and a bad influence. He also admits that he has been empathetic towards her because of her addiction, but that the fact that she is sober and still causing trouble is concerning. Then he proceeds to ask what she is trying to provoke by acting the way she does. Adam’s tough love moment is not only raw and meaningful; it is glorious. Moreover, his words move Jessa, who begs for his friendship. The scene is perfect from start to finish. A humbled Jessa is a beautiful sight to behold.

Right after burning bridges with her fellow classmates, Hannah is yet again without transportation. Her bike was taken, and somehow she winds up riding a buggy with an Amish man…in Iowa, which Hannah had previously called a “one horse town.” Even though it is doubtful that Hannah would be getting the bonnet that Jessa said she wanted while they were having their Skype conversation at the beginning of the episode, the Amish element finished tying the episode together and bringing it full circle.

In my opinion, the leit motiv of “Female Author” is that there’s no such thing as mistakes, just the universe giving feedback after actions are executed. The episode is rich in confrontations, some more relevant than others, yet all of them valid. Every character, in one way or another, speaks their mind. Perhaps that unfiltered honesty is suicidal in Hannah and Shosh’s cases, but at least they take the “take no prisoners” approach. On the other hand, the boys, Elijah, Ray, and Adam, do a great job at being the voices of reason, while Marnie seems to be getting stronger and more mature. Jessa is still a dark horse, and it works that way. On a side note, Jessa has always been my favorite character. She’s like a wild creature. She urinates on the sidewalk, for crying out loud. 


– Jessa and Elijah’s disdain towards one another is delightful to watch. Their exchange of benign insults mirrors two territorial cats hissing at one another, and it’s brilliant.

– Elijah becoming Iowa’s favorite adoptive son was a very nice touch. At the same time, one can only wonder what he actually does for a living.

– Desi’s charming-douchebag speech was perfection. Ebon Moss-Bacharach nailed it.

[Photo via HBO]

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