Reflecting on the tonal shift that characterised “On All Fours,” Girls’ darkest episode yet, it occurred to me that the show has been a generally optimistic show. Its characters haven’t always shared that positive outlook, but the overall feeling has been hopeful, that these crazy kids will sort out their problems.
That’s why the relentless pessimism of this week’s episode was startling. Sure, the secret theme of season two has been “Marine is actually terrible,” so seeing her embarrass herself with a dire performance of “Stronger” was par for the course, but the surprise was Charlie giving in to her advances. Hannah, meanwhile, continues her descent into anxiety, spending the episode alone aside from the company of a poorly-placed Q-tip and a brief, pitying encounter with Adam on the street.
Speaking of, Adam has seemed on the up-and-up this season, but Hannah triggered a lapse in his alcoholism and returned him to the erratic immaturity of early first season… then something darker in a confronting sex scene. Similar cracks appear in Ray and Shoshanna’s partnership, which seems on the verge of collapse. All this is portrayed with detached cynicism, a sobering descent compared with the measured optimism of season one.