The penultimate episode of Season 2, “On All Fours,” suggests a sturdiness of an Ikea table. Idiomatically, to be “on all fours” means that one has fallen from her natural bipedal state. The episode in fact has all its characters crawling “on all fours” to the precipice of certain collapse, as if the season’s slogan “Almost getting it kind of together” didn’t insinuate that this unstable place is precisely where the characters, along with the audience, would be at this point in the season.
Crawling on all fours, the toddling pace with which we have approached the cliff has rendered it easy to see what lies beyond the edge: our three intrepid female friends are all about to “pop”—if the bookends of the literal popping of Hannah’s poor eardrums (one popped, the second about to be) didn’t say it all. Even Shosh’s hair-bun was lopsidedly placed on top of her head. Need we mention Marnie’s atrocious, if-only-my-ears-were-popped/plugged, slowed-down rendition of Kanye’s “Stronger” at Charlie’s MAUs-party?
I literally squealed when she sang “you can be my white Kate Moss tonight.” Pop my ears, and pop out my eyes, please, even though Kanye is the perfect Mirror of Delusion of/for Marnie. This episode had an awkward rating of 8 out of 8 wedgies.
And knickers weren’t the only thing getting stuck in Hannah’s ass. Shimmying across the floor is fraught with potential danger in any old Brooklyn apartment; the size of the splinter that tacked itself into her cheek made me clench my butt.
Both Hannah’s back-butt and front-butt ladyparts are in a jam this week, even her publisher (John Cameron Mitchell) thinks her creative juices have been tampooned: “Did your hymen grow back?… Where’s the sexual failure? Where’s the pudgy-face flecked with semen and sadness? What I’m getting here is a lot of friendship. It’s very Jane Austen.”
(And for those of you unfamiliar with the literary writer, in my opinion “Jane Austen” is no compliment, and I don’t care how many times Eve Sedgwick masturbated to her.)
Whether it’s Marnie’s Kanye-like obliviousness or Shosh’s “geisha”-like attentiveness to Ray’s sweetener preference, the theme of this week’s episode was restraint, and more specifically modalities of restraint, which have a lot to do with control and how we get off on or fetishize control as an expression of power. Hannah’s OCD, while extremely serious and extremely detrimental to her health, is a pathologized form of restraint and, more precisely, the inseparability of pain from pleasure—which is why she it is inevitable that she’ll use the same bloody Q-tip (different end) to pierce her other eardrum. Enforcing restraint on one’s self and then testing the boundaries of that restraint is an expression of control (over one’s self). And being able to control one’s self is immensely pleasurable. It is therefore not surprising that Hannah’s OCD manifests at this particular juncture in her life: when her career/writing is out of her control (she has a looming deadline and a particular non-Austen-esque style being contractually imposed on her) as is her personal life. All those scenes of her sitting alone in her apartment are terribly depressing; these days her apartment carries the air of Adam’s, no?
While she reaches for the dirty Q-Tip after accidentally running into Adam on the street, he, a recovering alcoholic, reaches for a glass or five of booze back at the bar with Natalia (who wrongly began drinking earlier in the evening even though she knows Adam is in recovery). Drunk, Adam spirals back into a dark place, and it is clearly symbolic that the two return to Adam’s dank, dark, “serial killer” type of ramshackled apartment at the end of the night. (FYI: these apartments exist in droves in Brooklyn, especially Bushwick.) As for the final scene, undeniably rapey, some may say that it was Adam’s kinky side—his love of restraint and expressions of power in sex—that took control of him, that he could no longer suppress the weird, queer part of him. Others may read the scene as a willful attempt, perhaps subconsciously so, to sabotage his relationship with Natalia, because it is too sweet, too nice, and too normal. Natalia herself is too normal, too perfect, and for Adam this kind of partner as a mirror to his self is just too overwhelming.
Of course, the episode’s conclusion sets up the ideal reunion between Hannah and Adam, whose power dynamics, and love of kink, seem perfect complements. Not to mention that Adam figures as a kind of muse for Hannah—he is the inspiration for the type of “semen-flecked” writing that needs to fill the pages of Hannah’s manuscript. (Shortbus, anyone?)
Each relationship creates and works from its own power dynamic. Problems emerge when there is a power shift that isn’t recognized and accepted by both individuals in that couple. So with Ray and Shosh, for instance, the original power dynamic of Ray as Shosh’s sexual awakener slash “crack spirit guide” no longer holds; Shosh has been awakened (“Like, I am woman, hear me roar”). The problem is that Ray needs Shosh to remain in a weaker power position because, well, his ego depends on it—he is unemployed and homeless…and wears horrible, cheap pajamas. Shosh has already outgrown him, in large part because he isn’t fostering his own personal growth.
This coupling is nicely counterbalanced by Charlie and Marnie, the latter of whom gets off on being dominated. Last season poor, demure, Charlie could barely arouse a fledging ladyboner from Marnie, who saw him as sad and pathetic, with his puppy-dog eyes. (Oh, Charlie!) Now, however, as founder of 20,000 MAUs “FORBID,” Charlie has the ability to dominate Marnie in the way (the bougey, douchy, masculine Booth Jonathan way?) that turns her on. The question is whether he is willing to renegotiate their relationship—only next week’s season finale will shed light on their future, as well as the futures of the rest of the Girls gang.