Girls 5×03 ‘Japan’: Older and wiser

Girls 5x03 Cover

The hardest part about growing up is being able to understand how you deal with a new status quo.  As you get older, people expect different things out of you.  People treat you differently.  People look at you differently.  You fit into the world in a different manner, your relationships shift, your personality shifts.  And understanding how to exist in a new capacity means figuring out who you are, or even what it means to be who you are.

Girls 5x03-1

Source: HBO

“Japan” shifts the narrative to Shoshanna for the majority of the hour, where she is living in Japan and working for a company that she  loves.  There’s something about being away from America that invigorates her.  It’s telling that she tells her “friends” in Japan that she doesn’t even think about America or her American friends anymore.  She wants to distance herself from an old life that makes her feel uncomfortable, that makes her feel like a child.  Because she essentially was the child of the group, the virginal one that everybody looked down upon.  And that’s something that she can shed in Japan.  She’s free to express herself without the boundaries of her old life.

Girls 5x03-4

Source: HBO

But when she’s told that she’s fired (in words that are kinder than the word “fired”), she’s heartbroken because she’s losing her identity in Japan and has to go back to America with her old boyfriend and her old friends.  She has to inhabit once more a personality that she’s trying to distance herself from.  But she eventually realizes, after a crazy night out and after kissing the guy in Japan she has had a crush on, that she doesn’t have to have her life chosen for her.  She might eventually end up back in America, but right now she can stay in Japan, exploring who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

Girls 5x03-3

Source: HBO

The rest of the characters are also trying to find out how they fit into their new respective positions.  Hannah is struggling with how she fits into her relationship with Fran, which she sees as an adult relationship, where they both have jobs and lives and futures and are actively thinking about their future as a couple.  But this is all threatened when Hannah sees naked pictures of Fran’s exes on his phone, which he claims he masturbates to.  The image of Fran as a “nice guy” is damaged and replaced with somebody who is flawed and, frankly, kind of a jerk.  Hannah tries to stake her place as the sexual fantasy that Fran indulges in by having Ray take naked photos of her, and by replacing the photos in Fran’s phone with photos of her.  Of course Fran having naked pictures of his exes is wrong, but Hannah feels too threatened to understand that Fran having sexual fantasies is normal.  She’s trying to navigate these adult relationships, but doesn’t really know how.

Girls 5x03-2

Source: HBO

Adam and Jessa are also trying to navigate their feelings for one another while trying to figure out how to do so in an adult fashion.  Jessa wants to keep from engaging in destructive behavior in her relationships, and she worries about hurting Hannah if she acts on her feelings for Adam.  And she clearly has feelings for Adam, as she gets extremely excited when she sees him on TV, touching him and flirting with him.  But when Adam tries to overtly come on to her, she backs up.  Flirting is something that Jessa uses to validate her feelings but keep her distance, but she’s coming to realize that she will have to make a decision one way or another, to either be with him or reject him entirely.  She’s toying with him, even if she doesn’t realize it.  But there’s something to be said for her ability to use restraint, as she has never been good with restraint.  She’s learning to navigate relationships with maturity, even if she still has some learning to do.

Ultimately, there’s no foolproof way to figure out your place in the world and your place in the relationships around you.  You have to see what works and what doesn’t, what hurts others and what doesn’t, and what makes you truly happy and what doesn’t.  Adulthood is scary and involves a lot of failure, but if the characters of Girls are learning anything this season, it’s that sometimes failure is okay, as long as you’re doing even a little better than before.  And when Shoshanna stands up her boyfriend at the airport and stays in Japan, she’s learning.  Little by little.
So what did you think of “Japan”?  Do you think Girls is on a roll?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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