Girls: “Panic in Central Park”

By Ellie Wilkin-Smith on Mar 29, 2016 to Girls

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Lena Dunham tweeted earlier this week that this episode of Girls is “one of the most personal things I’ve written” because through Marnie we are taken on a journey that is so painfully recognisable to so many people by representing a generation’s existential crisis with who they are, what they are doing here and facing the bad decisions that have made up to making his realisation. Marnie’s life is put under the spotlight and given centre stage as it is dissected for all the world to see.

This week’s Girls was a welcome change of pace as we had an entire episode devoted solely to Marnie, who didn’t appear in last week’s episode at all. Episodes like this are few and far between but when they do come, they are always perfectly executed. Marnie’s episode took place over the course of one night and despite her unbearable neuroticism, she actually showed the vulnerable and naïve side of her, the un-controlling Marnie, the heart on her sleeve Marnie. I’m going to fight Marnie’s corner here because even though for the last two seasons she has been the most irritating and self-obsessed character on the show (except for Hannah sometimes) and every time she opened her mouth and her shrill voice came out either through song or some other self-indulgent exposition it made my skin crawl. She has been a horrible character for quite a while now, the singing thing was the worst thing and even though she was clearly very happy, I hated her.

The thing about Marnie is, that she has had absolutely zero support from any of her friends or her mother since breaking up with Charlie. Hannah was too obsessed with her relationship with Adam, Shosh has never really liked Marnie that much especially considering Marnie slept with Ray and Jessa has never really connected with her either. Her mother is ten times more controlling and self-obsessed than she is and any man in her life has either broken her heart or been hugely unstable. The most distinctive traits of Marnie’s personality are her obsession with perfection, her constant need for self-assurance, her need to be loved and looked after, and her never-ending search for approval all of which are negative qualities I recognise in my own personality. We can all be a little narcissistic sometimes but these qualities are so over the top in Marnie that they are slapping us in the face “LOOK HER FLAWS ARE THE SAME AS YOUR FLAWS”. It makes her very easy to dislike and her vulnerability makes her an easy target.

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This episode put her under the spotlight and gave us an opportunity to see what is really going on with her. Since she married Desi she has been a little under the radar and the whirlwind of drama circling around Hannah, Shoshanna and Jessa has somewhat shadowed Marnie’s problems into not really materialising yet. So it seemed really fitting that this episode was dedicated to her story, because it’s a big story and highlights problems that a lot of 25 and a half year olds are facing. Desi has pretty much built a cage around her bed in an attempt to divide their apartment to create more space and the claustrophobic environment makes Marnie storm out to get some actual space from him. On her stompy walk around her neighbourhood she walks past a group of burley men hanging out on the street, one of whom catches her eye because it is none other than her malicious ex-boyfriend Charlie who, in their last meeting, told her he had never loved her. After being a little stand-offish at first she soon gets whipped up in Charlie’s new persona as a drug dealer for rich New Yorkers and attends a lavish party with him in a low cut red dress he buys her from a second hand store. While he ‘goes to the bathroom’ for the second suspicious time since he came back on the scene, she fleeces a guy out of $600 by pretending to be a hooker and then running away. Their night from there accelerates into a high gear as they whisk about town, eating lots of tasty food, dancing in a bar, hijacking a boat in central park and taking the subway back to Charlie’s dump of an apartment where they sleep together.

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Their night together is very much of the fairy tale ilk, where all the great and amazing things happen under the cover of darkness, but come day break the illusion is shattered and the sunlight exposes the situation for what it really is. It’s Marnie’s one crazy night where she acts out of character and does things she can’t explain. She lies about being a hooker, she eats a crazy amount of food, she steals a boat, swims in the river and cheats on her husband with her ex-boyfriend. For this one night she enters a world where she isn’t crippled by her own narcissism or held hostage by Desi’s cage, she is free for one night and for once she takes the bull by the horns, praying she doesn’t die in the process. Even getting mugged and her wedding and engagement ring stolen, she didn’t seem phased. This new Marnie is almost unrecognisable until she arrives at Charlie’s apartment and comments on how horrible it is and says “I’m not here to change you”.  So why is she there?

She notices that Charlie has changed, he talks differently, he hangs out with drug dealer gang members, he has bad tattoos which look like they were done in a prison, he’s dealing drugs and he has really bulked out. He is not the same guy we know and love but we love this Charlie too, because its Charlie. Even though Marnie notices these changes in him she doesn’t really question it because she really likes this new Charlie who is a little rough around the edges. He is a guy who has lost his way in life and has gone from being a successful app developer to being a drug dealer, from living in a nice apartment to living in a squat apartment. He is a bit more daring and a bit more dangerous to Marnie and he sweeps her off her feet and welcomes her into his world for this one night. He tells her he wants to run away with her, leave everything behind and open up a general store together. Its almost like every other aspect of Marnie’s life melts away and he teases her with overly romanticised ideas of running away into the sunset and never looking back. The reality of his proposal hits her hard when she discovers a heroin needle in his jeans pocket the following morning and she walks home, barefoot and broken to the life she almost left behind.

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Marnie is in the midst of an existential crisis and only now has she realised it. As she comes home to a crying Desi, she tells him she can’t be married to him anymore, that she doesn’t even know what she wants or what she is doing in her life. Her self-assurance that everything is fine and great and she is doing brilliantly and achieving all she has ever wanted to do is a veil that has been lifted, exposing her and her truth. In this moment, she is the voice of a generation of twenty somethings who have no idea what their place is in the world and she is showing them that it’s really okay to feel that way, some people take a little longer to find their fit. She thought she was there, but she isn’t and her journey of self-discovery is actually only just beginning. The episode ends as she walks away from her husband and her home and creeps in bed beside Hannah, who notices she is there and lets her get to sleep. Marnie’s magical night led her to an epiphany and has taken her back to the beginning – sharing a bed with her best friend.

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Hannah and Marnie coming together again could be exactly what they both need. Hannah has been horribly lost in the same way as Marnie has, last week saw her engaging in sex with a woman she met at the retreat with her mother. They have both exorcised their curiosities by cheating on their partners and come to realise that its not really what they want to be doing. Hannah is yet to take the leap and break up with Fran, which feels inevitable if she can’t pull herself together a bit and appreciate a drama-free love life. I can see a change on the horizon that might bring us back round full circle and salvage the lost friendship of Hannah and Marnie.

Take a look inside the episode for more on what Marnie’s story means here:

Can’t wait until next week? Check out the teaser for episode 7 here!










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