In general, Girls straddles the line between comedy and drama. It’s a space that’s been occupied by half-hour premium cable programs for a while now, and when it’s done right, as on the most successful Girls, it can be very powerful, making the comedy funnier and the drama more compelling. It is, however, also a tricky balance beam to walk, and sometimes, like in “Bad Friend,” the tones get all jumbled up, and things come out uneven and lumpy in places.
Let’s start with the not-so-lumpy, which is Hannah’s side of things. The episode starts with a pitch-perfect parody of internet magazine sites; jazzhate, all-lowercase, seems like a mash-up of Vice and Thought Catalog, what with the drug-use essays and the arrogant youthful voice they seem to be looking for. The editor’s insistence on the meaningfulness of her inane wall hanging was great, too, and the whole thing led to an incredibly fun club sequence. It was all very silly, of course, but Andrew Rannells and Lena Dunham gave it a really fun energy, and the sight gag of Hannah, bra-less, in a mesh shirt only got better as the episode went on and moved into weirder territory. The introduction of Laird, too, was done fairly well, although they breezed past some of the darker shades of his story, like the fact that he had bought heroin again. That’s all possibly excusable by the fact that we are, as viewers, following Hannah and Elijah in their coke-addled experience, and so sadness isn’t really permissible from that point of view.
Less excusable, however, was the weirdness of the Marnie storyline this episode. Marnie’s downward spiral is, thematically, an interesting road for the show to take, and it’s clear that she’s drifting at the moment, but it just doesn’t match up to the level at which she’s treated by Booth. Also unclear is what the show wants us to think of the sequence in which Booth locks her in his latest art installation; it’s edited together like it wants us to laugh, especially sidled up next to Elijah and Hannah on coke, and yet I could never get past the completely horrifying nature of it. I mean, he locked her in a tiny chamber, without her consent, and forced her to watch nasty imagery. Of course, the joke is that she walks out and loves it, which might have worked if we knew anything about Marnie’s internal life at this point. What’s her relationship to art? Why is she so attracted to this asshole? We weren’t given any clues, and the whole thing was sloppy.
Fortunately, “Bad Friend” picks up again with the final confrontation from which it earns its title, where Hannah, overconfident and angry, insists that she’s the “good friend,” and Marnie, still wallowing, completely agrees. It’s uncomfortable, and emotionally honest, and still funny, considering Hannah has yet to cover up her nipples. It’s exactly what the show is built to do, and why I look forward to watching it every week. Of course, the ending also brought about the (inevitable, considering his lead role on The New Normal) exit of Elijah, which is disappointing, but overall, Girls is looking up, and heading into interesting territory in its second season.