It's tempting to paint Girls as just a show about spoiled, self-absorbed, immature twenty-somethings trying to figure out who they are — and at first glance, tonight's "I Get Ideas" offers ample proof for that argument. There are surely more mature ways to handle a breakup than Adam's decision to record an album's worth of songs about how Hannah "destroyed [my] heart." (His later arrest for unpaid parking tickets and public urination are similarly immature, and similarly unsurprising.) And Hannah isn't doing herself any favors by turning to a YouTube video that teaches you to cut your own bangs instead of, you know, spending the $20 it would take to get a trim from a professional, as most grownups would do.
Still, "I Get Ideas" also proves that Girls is a good deal more complicated than the "twenty-somethings are confused!" complaints would indicate. That's thanks to the time we got to spend with two of the show's peripheral characters: Jessa's new husband Thomas-John and Hannah's quasi-boyfriend Sandy.
Given that he's now married to one of the show's main characters, Girls has been surprisingly coy about Thomas-John, and it's still unclear how he convinced Jessa that he isn't the creep he so clearly seemed to be in his first appearance. (Let's not forget: He actually threw a tantrum when he realized that he, Jessa, and Marnie wouldn't be having a threesome in season one's aptly named "Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too.") And while Thomas-John's absurdly extravagant apartment offers convincing evidence of his success, it's also a less-than-convincing attempt to prove how mature and put-together he is.
Now, I didn't love Thomas-John and Jessa's surprise wedding at the end of Girls' first season. It felt less like an organic plot development and more like the show's writers deciding that something unexpected had to happen in the season finale. But to its credit, Girls' second season is taking pains to show just how rash the marriage really was. Upon returning to New York, Jessa realizes she has no idea where Thomas-John's apartment is, and throughout his scenes in "I Get Ideas," he mistakenly calls Hannah "Danna," apparently under the belief that stupid names are contagious. Thomas-John's rushed wedding to his self-described "little paradise wife" reeks of a midlife crisis; he may be older, but he's even less mature than Hannah and Co.
And then there's Sandy, who weathers attacks from both Elijah and Hannah by insisting "I know what I believe, I'm steadfast in it, I'm fine with it." Near the beginning of the episode, Hannah says that breaking up with Adam "opens up space in my life for the kind, sexy, responsible boyfriend I've always wanted but never had." She's referring, presumably, to the type of "kind, sexy, responsible boyfriend" who who would be willing to give her an honest critique of her writing — but by the end of the episode, after he's offered just such a critique, the two characters split.
The short-lived relationship is an intriguing story choice, since Donald Glover's Sandy feels like a character that was expressly designed to address every attack leveled at Girls' hyper-specific window into the lives of young Brooklynites during its first season: He's self-confident, he's conservative, and — despite Hannah's extremely unconvincing insistence that she never really noticed — he's black.
In an interview with NPR last May, Dunham addressed the many, many complaints about Girls' lack of racial diversity:
I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, "I hear this and I want to respond to it." [The Huffington Post]
"I Get Ideas" is the clearest aspect of the response Dunham was talking about — a winking act of self-criticism that directly references the external criticism Dunham received last year — as Hannah and Sandy have one of the most awkward breakups in TV history. The fight begins when Sandy admits that he was unimpressed by Hannah's essay because it "didn't feel like anything happened." It's a line that could have been cribbed directly from one of the more scathing reviews of Girls' first season. But it's Hannah's absolutely ridiculous claim that she "never thought about the fact that [Sandy] was black once" that most directly calls back to Dunham's real-life explanation for Girls' lily-white cast last year. And that earns Sandy's incredulous reply: "That's insane, because you should." (Her decision to respond with a Missy Elliott lyrics doesn't exactly help matters.)
In its second season, Girls has widened its uber-narrow worldview without pushing its characters to make changes they're incapable of making. "I Get Ideas" may offer proof that Hannah is incapable of taking constructive criticism — but it also shows that Lena Dunham can.