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Girls Takes Another Stab At Death With “Flo”

by Aly Semigran March 3, 2014 6:00 am
<i>Girls</i> Takes Another Stab At Death With “Flo”

In case you hadn't noticed, I wasn't the biggest fan of the episode "Dead Inside". I thought it was cruel and ugly and unfunny and used a death as a way to challenge viewers who don't like these characters. I understand not wanting to conform to what's expected of you, but rubbing everyone's face in their heartlessness seemed like a surefire way to turn off even the most fervent supporters. (See: me.) Since that fateful episode, in which Hannah whined more about the fate of her book than the actual passing of her editor David and all of her (female) pals talked about loss and death with nothing more than eye-rolling boredom and snark, things have been on the upswing of late. Both "Incidentals" and "Beach House" began to make these characters human, and even likeable again. But, if like me, "Dead Inside" still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth (I'm still convinced that Hannah is a sociopath), "Flo" probably remedied that. Instead of a detached, mean-spirited look at loss, "Flo" was sensitive and personal and was reminiscent of Season 1 depth.

"Grandma's going to die." That's how the episode opens, with Hannah's mom Loreen (Becky Ann Baker) alerting her daughter that, if she cares, she should get on a train and come be with her family and prepare to say goodbye to her grandmother Flo (Oscar nominee June Squibb).

Hannah goes home to pack, where Adam apologizes for not being able to go with her because he'd be missing the first week of rehearsals. Hannah is understanding and then says that while she and her grandmother weren't necessarily close, Flo used to "mail me Cathy cartoons on Fridays" and she was "Very neat, and had skin like a kitten's ear." Adam seems touched by the softer side of Hannah reminiscing, and honestly, I am too. It's much better to hear little anecdotes like that than, say, her declarations of "I literally feel nothing." (Granted, a grandmother and an editor you knew for a few weeks are two entirely different things, but it's still nice to know Hannah isn't a total monster.) "I miss you even when you're gone for a night," Adam tells her. That's sweet. You really do need the sweet to balance out this show, or else it's just too bitter.

Later, at the hospital (we're never told explicitly where, but it's somewhere outside of the city) we meet Hannah's aunts, Loreen's sisters, Margo and Sissy (Deirdre Lovejoy and Amy Morton, respectively). Margo is loud and brassy, while Sissy is meek and quiet, so needless to say, there's some tension and difference of opinions and weird dynamics in this family. Look, don't get me wrong, I love the Braverman clan over on Parenthood but their constant hugging and support and the fact that they almost always get along feels more like escapist fantasy than reality, so Hannah's off-kilter, bickering family was something of a breath of fresh air as far as TV families go.

After meeting Margo and Sissy, we meet Flo, who is adorable and I really sort of love Hannah's banter with her. When Flo tells her granddaughter she has pneumonia, Hannah responds with a very Hannah response: "Fuuuuuuck."

Outside of the hospital Hannah has lunch with her mother, who waxes poetic about how it's too late to have an emotional breakthrough with your parents when they are on their deathbed. An exhausted-looking Loreen says that Flo "ruined Margo and Sissy's lives" and then pleads with Hannah to lie and say she and Adam are engaged so that she can die knowing one of her grandchildren found happiness. Hannah seems perplexed by the whole thing and then asks her mom if she can eat the rest of her sandwich.

The sisters and Hannah then convene at Flo's house to go through all the unpleasant things that happen when dealing with an impending family death. Things like who gets what (including heirlooms like engagement rings), how to divvy up things like medicine, and just general things in which feelings are bound to be hurt, and are. If anyone has dealt with a crisis in a family that doesn't see eye-to-eye, these scenes hit the nail right on the head.

While Loreen and her sisters needled each other about the estate, Hannah butted heads with her cousin Rebecca (Sarah Steele). Rebecca, who appears to be the lone cousin of Hannah's on her mother's side, hates Hannah and isn't afraid to hide it. (Turns out, Hannah spilled the beans to Rebecca at a young age that her father was going to jail for insider trading and she's never really forgiven her for that.) Rebecca is a frazzled, unfriendly medical student with what appears to be no sense of humor whatsoever (even if it was inappropriate, I couldn't help but laugh when Hannah referred to her grandmother as "The Old Flo Job, just sluttin' around") or any interest in Grey's Anatomy. Still, even when she throws barbs at Hannah ("I'm not going to medical school to fulfill your dreams"), she invites her out for a drink in almost the same breath. For a season that has seemed hell-bent on making Hannah the villain, I liked that she was our heroine again in "Flo." When she mouthed "bitch" at Rebecca, it was the first time I felt like I was on Hannah's team again in a long time.

Before their drinks, Hannah calls Adam on the phone to tell him about her mother wanting her to lie to Flo and say they're engaged. The conversation quickly turns into one of those conversations you never really plan to have with your significant other and then you do and then horrifically realized you both might not be on the same page. Adam seems flustered by the whole thing and assures Hannah "I'm very committed to you at this time" (oof, the "at this time" part) but she's just as flustered and tells him, "I'm stressed and angry now" and they both get off the phone as quickly as possible.

In case that wasn’t terrible enough, Hannah goes out with Rebecca to the bar and Rebecca continues to make her feelings about Hannah known. ("I feel like a bar is the right place to go with a person like you" and "Writers are a ridiculous class of people who make things about themselves and have strange eating habits" are among some of her backhanded gems.) Hannah claims that she wants to have a closer relationship with Rebecca (or, at least, have inside jokes and "be molested by the same person") but even when they try talking about their respective boyfriends or work, the niceties last about ten seconds. Rebecca tells Hannah she's not funny and that Flo has referred to her as "loose." On the bright side, Hannah got in a choice dig after Rebecca revealed she doesn't have many friends: "I wish that surprised me more." Families, man.

After their wildly unsuccessful bonding venture at the bar, Hannah and Rebecca get into a car accident after Rebecca responds to a text message from her mother telling them that Flo had a fever and they would be on their way to the hospital. They do wind up in the hospital, just with their own cuts and neck braces from their fender bender.

Adam then rushes on to the scene. Apparently Hannah had only texted him the (I'm guessing intentionally) vague message "Car crash" and he borrowed Desi's motorcycle to get to her. "I have mother hens following me," he warns, and like clockwork, Loreen, Margo, and Sissy are tailing behind, opinions and all. Within moments the three sisters are at each other's throats (emotions are already pretty high) and make a full-fledged scene in the hall of the hospital. Again, if anyone has dealt with a high-pressure situation in a pressure-cooker family, seeing these three go from zero to sixty and spouting vitriol at each other, you could probably relate. As Adam put it, "It's like enchilada night at my parents' house." For one brief moment Hannah and Rebecca put their differences aside and watched as their mothers and aunt went for each other's jugulars at a moment when they needed each other most. The girls sat there, silent, until Hannah reached for Rebecca's hand.

After the blow-up, Hannah takes Adam to meet Flo and, man, I could have watched an entire episode of these two wildly different souls try and make conversation with each other. Of course, the Pièce de résistance of the entire scene came when, after announcing their "engagement," Flo told Hannah, very matter-of-factly about marriage, "You'll be hating him with every fiber of your being, wishing he would die the most violent death possible. It will pass." I'll leave it to Adam to best describe Flo: "She's cool as shit."

Adam heads back to the city, and when Hannah is alone with her mom, Loreen decides – again, already at a time when emotions are running high – to share her two cents about their relationship. "You're so special you deserve everything and more he's nice, but stay open to possibilities," Loreen tells Hannah, in a way that's probably far more well-intentioned than she intended. "It's not easy being married to an odd man," Loreen warns Hannah, "I don’t want you to spend your life socializing him like a dog." Hannah, understandably, does not respond well to this, but between their marriage phone call earlier and her mother's reservations, I have a feeling this is setting us up for some major Adam and Hannah drama before the season lets out.

Even after all the hurtful words were spouted ("We have to be closer" Sissy pleads at one point), everything seems to be okay the next morning when the doctors told the family Flo had beat her pneumonia and she was on the up-and-up. "I ate one cheese sandwich and I'd like another," Flo triumphantly, adorably declared. Hannah then gets a nice moment between just her and her grandmother and provided two of my absolute all-time favorite exchanges in the history of Girls:

Hannah: "I'm glad you're okay and the doctors were wrong. "

Flo: "People aren't always right."

Hannah, touching her face to her grandmother's hands: "Your hands are so soft, I don't know what your secret is."

Flo, with a giggle: "Hand lotion."

You never know when you're having your last moment with someone. Hannah didn’t know that her last moment with her grandmother would be such a lovely, special one. Hannah took the train back to New York City and as soon as she stepped back onto the streets of Manhattan she received a call from Rebecca that Flo had a heart attack and passed away and that she had to come back. Hannah didn't cry (at least, we couldn't see her when the camera panned out), but she did stand speechless and motionless as New York City swirled and carried on around her. It was a profoundly quiet, but effective Girls moment and it gave death the dignity it deserved.

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