“On All Fours” must be the most painful episode of television I’ve watched in recent memory. It’s an episode of Girls, a show that is still nominally a comedy, in which the only laughs available are dark and horribly depressing, more of a defense mechanism than actual laughter. Which is all to say, this works, and it works incredibly well. The show got to me, physically and emotionally, and often both at once.
We’ll start with the lightest half of the episode, centering around Marnie and Shoshanna. And when I say “lightest,” I mean that it still involved a singing scene that I had to watch through my fingers, it was so painful. And it ends with Marnie making another horrible mistake in a long series of recent horrible mistakes, right after an impassioned plea that her life is, in fact, completely together.
Shoshanna and Ray hover around this side of the episode too, attending the same party, and Shoshanna is dealing with her doorman fling from last episode. There’s a moment at the end there that could be read a number of ways, so I’ll just offer mine: I think Ray knew exactly what she meant when she said she had “held hands” with someone. Maybe it’s just me seeking out one single ray of hope in this dismal half hour, but I truly believed that their relationship was, for now, completely stable. But there’s still next week to prove me wrong.
The real pain, however, comes from a familiar source: Hannah and Adam. It’s a strange arc for both of them. Adam has, recently, been on the upswing, and Hannah has been sinking lower and lower. And when, tonight, they meet for just a moment, it manages to send both of them into a tailspin. Adam starts to drink again, and it ends up in the most upsetting sex scene this show has ever featured, which gives “On All Fours” its title. The show continually sends our sympathies for Adam on roller coasters, but this dive feels deeper than ever before.
And Hannah, after her entire ordeal struggling with writing on a deadline, and going to hospital for puncturing her ear drum, goes home and shoves a Q-Tip into her other ear, so that she can be balanced. It’s grim. It may be the grimmest thing Girls has shown us yet, and I have no idea where we’re going from here, either for next week’s season finale, or the next season. Here’s hoping it’s a little easier to watch; this episode was powerful, and incredible, but I can only handle so much.