Standalone, and standout. These are the series-defining episodes you must see.
Outside of Ray’s curmudgeonly tirade at the start of the episode, the entirety of “One Man’s Trash” takes place in the stunning Brooklyn home of an attractive 42-year-old, recently separated, doctor named Joshua. When Hannah goes to apologize for dumping Cafe Grumpy’s trash in the sexy stranger’s bins, the two end up spending a steamy 48 hours together. Not only is this episode made great by Patrick Wilson’s complex performance, but the intimacy forged between two strangers of different generations, and the sharp rug pull when they realize they exist on completely different planes, provocatively underscores Hannah’s naivety and disillusionment. After living in Joshua’s charmed bubble, Hannah states, “Please don’t tell anyone this, but I want to be happy,” as if her desire for material comfort instills shame.
In “Beach House,” the girls get together for a weekend of forced fun in the North Fork of Long Island — which is for people who find the Hamptons tacky. When they run into Elijah and his friends in town, a wrench is thrown in Marnie’s plans and the tension bubbles over. The best part of this episode is how “Marnie” Marnie is, as she tries to will the girls into having fun and reconnecting. “Like a mean, skinny Miss Hannigan,” as Elijah puts it when he invites himself and his friends to the house. When emotions peak, a drunk Shoshanna delivers what might be the most brutally honest and hilarious speech of the series — driving home the painfully honest fact that things might never be the way they were.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: An almost all-Shosh episode. Who knew all Shoshanna needed to thrive was a relocation away from all her problems? This episode shows Shosh’s Japan as an adorable, glitter-filled snowglobe, only to see it burst when she is “managed out” of her job and told she needs to return home. A wounded, pink-haired Shosh uses her unemployment and uncertainty about her “kind of” boyfriend back home to flirt with her boss, Yoshi, with whom she has one final Japan adventure. The “almost-ness” of this episode is unbearable; it reinforces the unique torture of coming so close to happiness only to know it can’t last. But while Shosh does return to America in another episode, she does so with a newfound sense of independence and fight.
Combative, cold, self-centered and an example of privilege unchecked, Marnie might be the girl hardest to relate to, but the episode’s inclusion is a testament to the excellent writing and Allison Williams’ spot-on performance. In “The Panic in Central Park,” Marnie’s perfect facade becomes difficult to uphold when she realizes the mistake she made in marrying Desi. In a classic Marnie flurry of emotion, she storms out of their apartment and takes a walk, where she runs into a post-startup, hardened Charlie. In denial of her current unhappiness, Marnie follows Charlie on an adventure in his new — pretty dangerous — life as a drug dealer, relaxing the reins for once. The fantasy screeches to a halt with Marnie’s realization that Charlie has become an intravenous drug user, but propels her to “do the right thing” and end things with Desi.
It goes without saying that this episode came ahead of its time. A tense debate over the sexual power imbalance and the “gray areas” of dating, mating, and everything in between arises when Hannah visits acclaimed author, Chuck Palmer. The author — whom Hannah once admired — sets out to tell “his side” of the story after accusations of inappropriate sexual relations with college-age women. The uncomfortable, frank conversation raises the complex distinction between affirmative consent and implicit pressure from individuals in positions of power; it also finds a way to unpretentiously examine the debate over separating an artist from his work. Despite the serious subject matter, this episode sustains its humorous buoyancy which builds to a pretty appalling, but maybe humanizing, twist at the end. Watch and assess for yourself, but this is an unskippable episode, especially in the wake of #MeToo.
Stream all episodes of Girls on HBO