I was blown away by last night’s episode of GIRLS. That is such a cliche way of saying I thought it was brilliant. But sometimes it’s just best to cut to the chase when it comes to admiration.
In the episode, the nostalgia factor was at a fever pitch. And a majority of the decisions made were wrong in morality (by the characters), yet were carried out through an honest to God desire to live in the moment. Another cliche catchphrase I pulled out of the sage sayings treasure box, it rings so accurately in this case.
When the credits ran at the end of “The Panic in Central Park”, showing that Lena Dunham had written the episode, I shivered out of envy and praise. I felt like we all had witnessed her writing blossom. Her words and the scenes imagined never translated so authentically as they did in this episode. The Dawson’s Creek-like mad-libs, that continue to find a home within the jargon of pop culture inflicted ’90s children, was held at a minimum. She wrote the script so close to how people who know each other really converse but made sure to include the natural nuances between said people when so much time has passed. During its 30 minute frame, it flowed like a short film instead of multiple vignettes. And all great short films have that distinct quality in that they always end sooner than you want. “Panic” was also unique for GIRLS because it solely focused on one character for the entire episode. This time being the easy to loathe Marnie, played by Allison Williams.
Marnie has become so polarizing (though character Jessa is giving her some competition with her liaisons with sudden boyfriend, the former ex-boyfriend of Hannah, Dunham’s character, Adam), viewers of GIRLS just tolerate her. Last week’s sneak peek alluded that Marnie would be prominently featured because of her reaction to a certain someone from her past. And yep. That person was, of course, Charlie. Once Chris Abbott‘s face appeared huskier, fuller, and hairier than the last time we saw him (his voice, or accent, had also altered. He’s like a Mexicana ragamuffin now. So that explains why some seasons ago Marnie told him she wanted to “have his brown babies.”), there was no un-glueing the eyes from the screen until the episode chose to end.
It’s hard to say if Charlie alone made this episode remarkably wonderful, but both Marnie and Charlie, three-two years older since they broke up, seemed emboldened and enlivened by each other. After their chance meeting, he abruptly invites her to a party uptown and offers to buy her a dress to wear for it from highbrow vintage shop Amarcord. He then whisked her off to The Plaza Hotel (I used to be a hostess at the restaurant downstairs. It was awful). I was thrilled and nervous watching Marnie at this high society, clearly full of shit people, fete. What was Charlie doing bringing someone he hadn’t seen or spoken to in over two years to a place like this? And why hadn’t he dress up for the occasion too?
Marnie was, however, heads up to the crooked agenda and with her quick-thinking is able to afford an expensive pasta dinner for both her and Charlie courtesy of a real sleazeball. I’m not going to give away any spoilers from here because you really should watch “The Panic in Central Park” when you can. Yet before the revelation of what Charlie’s succumbed to since they last connected, he takes her on a boat ride, cut short when they accidentally tip it over by trying to kiss (also in season 5 of GIRLS, cheating has been nearly normalized. While with Charlie, Marnie is still married to possibly even more annoying than her, husband and music partner Desi). The camera shows Marnie floating underwater in her ruby slipper material dress and you can tell that she was thinking about how her day went from lame to unexpected. Though minorly unhinged about Charlie, she has also welcomed the turn of events.
I’m still not quite sure how to put into words how the episode made me feel, but “nostalgic” absolutely came to mind. It’s not just because of the classic New York City mainstays of Central Park, The Plaza, and the restaurant they ate at (that looked to be one of Manhattan’s hole in the wall gems) that were featured. It merely reminded me of my own days in New York. I refer to these years time and time again and always will for they shaped me more than high school or college ever did. Five out of the six years I was there, living and loving in the Bronx and working in Lower Manhattan, there were too many days and instances to count in which I had no idea what I was doing and how naive I was being. Somehow, those days remains as the ones I look back on and acknowledge how much I miss them.
I miss feeling alive. I miss how in the moment I was where as of now, I can no longer afford to do as much. I’m all too aware that most people will let you down. Love is fleeting and sometimes goes unnoticed. With every day that passes, I am ashamed to admit that I do get emotional about getting older and miss the days when life and pop culture weren’t so hardened. I am Baz Luhrmann “Wear Sunscreen” personified.
I’ve had days that turned into early mornings like Marnie and Charlie whether with friends or someone I thought was special. In a way, that was what I wanted when I moved to New York three months after my university graduation. Looking back, I would not have known how to buy a clue if it was being offered to me in spades. For a long time, I painted the streets green with my youth and cavalierly. The memories alone make my 29-years-old existence cry in minutes.
It’s hard to believe that I won’t see certain people again. The same who are at the core of these memories. We don’t know if Marnie will see Charlie again, but he’s so much a part of her past that even when he’s not physically present, indirectly he affects her choices intermittently.
After the credits cleared, HBO aired its usual behind the scenes look with Dunham narrating. She revealed that “The Panic in Central Park” was inspired by the 1971 film, The Panic In Needle Park, starring a then unknown but bubbling Al Pacino. Pacino and leading lady Kitty Winn play lovers and heroin addicts. “The Panic in Central Park” lifts specific story points from the film and I have yet to see it, but Dunham’s reimagination for GIRLS are how tributes are done right. And “needle park” was the former nickname of Sherman Square, by 72nd and Broadway on the Upper West Side. Another post of my New York past. I used to shop (at a now closed Urban Outfitters), eat, and go to the movies around that area a lot. I just can’t seem to escape my recollections of a city I love and hate. This episode was heartbreaking.
Here’s what Rebecca Fishbein of Gothamist had to say at the end which I agree with: “But what happened to Charlie is heartbreaking. If Marnie’s Desi-dream is shattered, Charlie’s whole fucking life is shattered. His dad killed himself, his career imploded, he’s self-destructing and sleeping in a shithole. And Marnie, who loved him once, can’t ever have him back, because the Charlie she knew isn’t even really there anymore.”
Over at Jezebel, in Kate Dries review: “How exactly Charlie got to this place is never really made clear, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. What seeing him does for Marnie—wake her the fuck up—certainly is. At the end of their day, the two of them are mugged, losing all their possessions (including her engagement ring), but Marnie doesn’t seem to care. She’s too jazzed on escaping herself, and the relationship she ran into in which she ignored the signs that her husband is self-involved, but more importantly, insufferable. Marnie spends the night with the newly-tattooed Charlie, and the two of them talk about running away together. You know she’s in deep fantasy land when the material possessions-obsessed character starts talking about how she doesn’t even need to bring any of her stuff.”
Brokelyn, somehow managed to still make fun of this episode for their review, but that’s just what GIRLS does to some critics.