The penultimate episode of this season of Girls is a bit of a downer, leaving it open for the finale to either dig in deeper or lighten up with a birth, most likely Adam’s sister Caroline’s, next week. Hannah’s struggles can be found in this episode’s title, “Daddy Issues” but more holistically they stem from many the pitfalls members of other generations ascribe to millennials: lots of knowledge about the world without the experience to back it up, lack of boundaries due to some combo of social media and lax parenting and finally the millennial misconception that millenials are not susceptible to biases. Hannah’s struggle with her dad coming out as gay can’t logically be seen as any one of these problems, but a mix of all three and more.
At 25, Hannah is just on the cusp of being an adult, not quite 26 where she would get kicked off her parents’ birth control but far past either of the arbitrary ages of adulthood we have come up with in American society: 18 and 21. Hannah clings to her friendship with Cleo, a high school student, even though she has proven incapable of being the supportive friend Hannah needs in this situation. Cleo basically tells Hannah to grow up as their friendship just cannot extend past discussion of cute boys and Instagram to actually discussing real feelings. Instead of accepting the limitations of Cleo’s maturity, Hannah calls Cleo a “b-i-t-c-h” in the hallway, prompting Principle Tobey to have a little talk with Hannah about student-teacher boundaries.
On the other hand, Hannah’s confusion about her dad wanting to stay with her mom illustrates how black and white Hannah’s thinking can be without the experience to show her that a 30 year marriage is not quite so simple. Principle Tobey reminds Hannah she is not a kid anymore, but Tad tells her she’s “basically a child.” Who is right? Both? Neither? This episode handles the issue well neither demonizing Hannah for being self-involved, as is so easy given her personality, nor giving her a free pass to choose whichever one is most comfortable for her.
Tad’s struggles are taking place beneath the surface, which is great because we haven’t had to make this or the last episode a very special episode. He alludes to Loreen’s difficulties accepting Tad being gay, which we see in full force during a phone call between her and Hannah, but we just don’t see Tad crack. Elijah takes Tad out to buy him some more fitting clothes and get him in touch with the homosexuality Tad has been denying for decades. The show does an interesting thing here by having Elijah repeatedly cross boundaries by talking to Hannah about Tad and gay sex, but at the same time mentioning that between he and Hannah, Elijah is the only one with direct experience coming out of the closet so Hannah should defer to him on this one. Just like Hannah’s tap dance over the line between childhood and adulthood, Elijah tap dances around a set of boundaries without proving one side right or wrong.
Meanwhile Jessa’s vulnerability makes an appearance in a way we haven’t really seen since season 2’s “Video Games” where Jessa is forced to confront her flaky dad. Here, Jessa spends the day with Ace (Zachary Quinto), and we can tell immediately that she genuinely has feelings for him. While they are having sex she spouts a Jessa-ism by telling Ace she finds him attractive because he looks like her 4th grade teacher, but Ace does her one weirder and gets off in Jessa’s bedroom looking like a Tiffany music video. He is more unhinged than the increasingly staid Jessa has become and she sincerely likes him despite herself. Very quickly, Ace takes them to Mimi Rose (Gillian Jacobs) and Adam’s apartment, being completely transparent about using Jessa as a ploy to make Mimi Rose jealous. Adam tries to separate himself from the experience while Jessa tries to flee, but ultimately Ace and Mimi Rose agree they want each other back without any attempt to preserve the others’ feelings.
Everyone ends up at Ray’s election party to escape their sad personal situations, but Ray himself is devastated to hear about Marnie’s engagement despite his election to city council. Ray does the thing they do in movies where he gives a public speech but not-so-subtly directs it to Marnie, offering support if/when her relationship with Desi fails. That trope is a little silly, but luckily Marnie doesn’t pick up on his overtures and announces her engagement to the election party crowd.
This episode brings a bunch of sad characters together and we can see how they all respond to hard times. Shoshanna busies herself with party prep, never once sitting down during the episode while Adam takes a walk alone and Marnie ignores her pain for a guy who is clearly bad news. Just like the predicament Hannah has been faced with for the past two weeks on negotiating the line between childhood and adulthood, no one way is right or wrong but all have their implications.