I'm one of the few people who isn't horribly annoyed by Hannah as a character or Lena Dunham as an actress, so the fact that she was front and center in this episode didn't bother me -- especially since it meant we got to see her parents again. (Raise your hand if you thought there'd be more exploration of her dad allegedly being gay!) What I didn't like about "The Return," however, is that the quality of its writing felt more like a student film -- especially in its pacing -- and that I instantly compared it to last year's dark comedy Young Adult. I know it's my own fault, but when you're writing about an unhappy and sexually frustrated young female writer coming back to her hometown from the big city with hopes to confront a few demons, it's hard not to draw a few comparisons. Unfortunately for Dunham, she's no Charlize Theron (to say the least) and so indulging in a proverbial trip home wasn't as powerful as it was supposed to be.
I really enjoyed every moment of Hannah's first encounter with her parents, including the Angelina garbage bag, her dad holding up a picture of bananas instead of her name (adorable!), her mom trying to pitch her a few job ideas and the very inclusion of rice pudding (is this a thing?). As a writer, Dunham is so much better at these scenes, which she clearly takes from her own life than she is at cynically looking at others' emotional responses to death and tragedy. But we'll get to that.
The awkward sex scene with Hannah and the guy from the pharmacy was also pretty great, given that it let us see that maybe Hannah isn't that much weirder than Adam and maybe what she's looking for isn't quite as simple as someone who thinks she's greatest person in the world. I'm glad that they had Adam call her at the end of the episode, giving us a glimpse that maybe these two aren't doomed to unhappiness after all. Juxtaposed with the scene of her parents having very unsuccessful shower sex and then having her mom offer her more money that she turned down, we're actually seeing personal growth in Hannah. For the first time, she's making decisions for herself and actively pursuing her own happiness without it being entirely at the expense (be it emotionally or monetarily) of others. At the end of the day, maybe she's weird and immature, but she's scrappy, resourceful and basically knows how to have fun. She'll figure it out.
As I was alluding to before, I think the kidnapping benefit storyline fell really flat. I get what Dunham and co-writer Judd Apatow were trying to do, but I don't think the skill level is quite there yet to create a truly dark and strange scene that has nothing to do with sex. It was funny to hear the chain of events from Hannah's bubbly blonde friend Heather, but once the dancing and the music started, it quickly became an easy device for Hannah's mortification and self-reflection. I do like that the party scene opened with Edwin McCain's "I'll Be Your Crying Shoulder," though. That's just a plain accurate to the time period.
Also, anyone else really hate that Adam calls Hannah "Kid"? Just when they share a nice moment, they've got to throw in this dumb pet name... especially when she calls him "Grown Up."
Pep Talk for Your Monkey-Meat Heart
"You are from New York, therefore you are just naturally interesting. Okay. It is not up to you to fill all of the pauses. You are not in danger of mortifying yourself. The worst stuff that you say sounds better than the best stuff that some other people say."
The Best Coast
"She's gonna go to L.A. and, like, live in some shitty apartment and feel like scared and sad and lonely and weird all the time."
"I'm tight like a baby, right?" "Come on!"
Full Frontal Father
"Of course you're embarrassed because this is horribly embarrassing to everyone involved."
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