It’s Back, or: That Which We Fear Most


March 5, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Fear is a very astounding and powerful emotion that can have tremendous influence over people both as individuals and as a group.  Everyone has fears, whether they be spiders, enclosed spaces, heights, etc, fear is something we all deal with.  The latest episode of Girls exemplifies another kind of fear, a fear that comes from within, instead of from an external source.  Entitled “It’s Back”, the latest episode portrays the sense of living in fear of something, not merely being afraid of something.

The fear displayed by all these characters is essentially a fear of regression, of going back into a dark place or time in their lives.  The fact that the episode is called “It’s Back” represents their regression back into that dark place.  I think for everyone, one of our biggest, if not repressed fears is the fear of regressing back into that dark place, or habit.  It could be a myriad of things from an eating disorder, to anxiety, addiction, depression, intense fear of a lack of control, etc.  For anyone who has overcome these tremendous hurdles, the biggest fear to live with is the fear of it coming back again, of not really gotten over it permanently.

As Hannah displayed early in the episode, reverting back into the behavior can come all of the sudden, and that is where the fear factor comes in.  For Hannah, that dark place is where her OCD takes her, specifically counting to eight or multiples of eight.  It got so bad that she would stay up all night doing her rituals of eight.  The fact that Hannah, who has been brutally honest with her flaws, and her self-perception has hid this from the audience, speaks depths about the character and how much she wants to be over her OCD.  She even tries to ignore it and pretend that everything is ok, going so far as to say “You are fine and good” eight times no less.  Because she doesn’t want to face the fact that she has reverted back into her dark place she even goes so far as to attempting to bride her therapist into giving her a false clearing.  For Hannah, her biggest fear isn’t being what the audience has already been told; it’s what she chose to withhold, something so personal and scary, even mentioning it could possibly bring it back.

The most probable trigger for Hannah’s reemergence of her OCD is her breakup with Adam, who he as well has been going through some rough waters following the breakup.  For Adam, his dark place is his alcoholism.  As he stated during his AA meeting, he’s been sober since he was seventeen, almost ten years, so obviously sobriety is important for him.  After their breakup he felt himself reverting back into those old habits and decided to go to an AA meeting to regain his composure.  Even though he never said as much, he went to the meeting because he was afraid of going back to that place that his alcoholism had taken him.  The entire episode revolves around what each character would do in order to prevent a relapse back into their own personal hell.  For Hannah it means denial, or Adam it means reaching out for aid, something he has never done before.

For the supporting characters of this weeks’ episode such as Charlie, Shoshanna, Marnie, and even the absent Jessa, we still see how they cope with the reemergence of their biggest personal demons.  Charlie has gone to such great lengths to move on from Marnie, the source of his biggest problems that he has tried to remove her entirely.  Like a surgeon trying to excise bad tissue, Charlie has tried to cut out Marnie completely; the app that he created is a perfect metaphor for this, as it is a promise one makes to themselves to disavow contact with someone who you shouldn’t talk to.  Charlie’s rationale is that if Marnie is the one bringing him down, or making him revert to the spineless and overbearing boyfriend, then he might as well cut her out.

Marnie in turn not only fears, but dreads, instability and a lack of control.  For the first time ever she has no idea what to do with her life and is desperately trying to keep her head above water.  As we learned in season one, Marnie is a kind of person who needs to have everything planned out, so as to combat a sense of perceived chaos in the world; she tries to control as many factors as she can because of all the lack of control in life.  So when it reaches a break point during her conversation with Ray, Marnie decides to let her guard down and reveal what she really wants to do with her life.  She doesn’t want the safe, predictable job that we thought, she wants to sing.  Instead of denying the fact that she might be treading through rough waters as Hannah has done, Marnie chooses to go out and brave the storm herself instead of staying on land where it’s safe.  She tries to fight through the bad feeling by being true to herself and doing what she wants to do, which is something we’ve never really seen her do before.  In the face of all her deepest fears, she decides to go out there and confront them by being herself.

For Shoshanna and Jessa, the former having a minor role, and the latter being noticeably absent, their biggest fear from within is perfectly conveyed.  For Shoshanna, it’s her immaturity.  Her naivety coupled with her youthful follies have already led her astray as we saw in season one when she did smoked crack.  This time around, it’s lead her to cheat on Ray.

Shoshanna is the youngest one in the group of friends, the little sister of sorts, but by virtue of being the youngest, she tries to overcompensate by trying to act older and more mature than she actually is.  Not only does this ploy fail, it also reveals just how immature she really is.  She gives in to the whims of a random door man, which might cost her the relationship with Ray, whom she professes to love.  For Shoshanna, “It’s Back” means the return of your youthful capriciousness, and her being and too naïve for her own good.

Although Jessa was not in the episode, her absence speaks volumes as it parleys exactly what Jessa does and why.  She runs away from her problems or when she feels herself going to a bad place.  That’s why she travels so frequently, so as to cause problems for herself.  But when problems do arise, she runs away from them.  Examples include, divorcing from Thomas John after an argument, quitting her babysitting job once she causes marital troubles for the Jeff and Kathryn, and leaving Hannah at her dad’s place.  As opposed to Hannah who denies, Jessa tries to escape by leaving her problems wherever they happen.  What she doesn’t realize is that they follow her wherever she goes.  Her travels are all indicative of her desire to flee from the dark reality that she tends to mess with people’s lives simply because she can.  Not only is this the truth, but it is a truth that Jessa knows for herself, and that is her personal dark place.  When she feels herself reverting into that place, she simply flees.

For someone trying to overcome personal problems, the worst possible thing to happen is for it, whatever it may be, to come back.  Not only is it bad in and of itself, but it also destroys the hope that you may have finally overcome it for good, that it will never return.  “It’s back” not only conveys this intangible fear of dreadful recurrence, but also how to deal with it.  Through these characters we see the good and bad ways of dealing with these problems.  In a not so implicit way, this week’s episode of Girls tells us that everyone has their own personal dark place that their mind takes them, but it’s how you weather out the storm, and get back to the good place that is most important.  Because at the end of the day, without anything to fear, there wouldn’t be anything to hope for.


2 thoughts on “It’s Back, or: That Which We Fear Most

  1. […] It’s Back, or: That Which We Fear Most ( […]

  2. […] of Hannah’s stability being characterized by men, I remember you writing something similar in your recap of the first OCD episode. That Hannah’s downward spiral was primarily the result of the Adam breakup. And I remember […]

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