Girls has never cared if its characters are likeable. That’s a simple fact. But, it does want the audience to be able to sympathize and maybe even empathize with them. And, usually it succeeds in that. At some point or another in this series, you’ve felt for one the show’s core characters even if you can’t stand them.
“The Panic in Central Park” is a Marnie-centric episode — her own “One Man’s Trash” in a way — that makes you understand and feel for Marnie, a character who, for some, is sometimes the walking personification of insufferable. Last season, the show lost track of Marnie as a character and she became kind of like a punchline, but this episode reclaims her and reminds us that she’s more than that.
Marnie’s journey to enlightenment begins in her apartment. She and Desi are seated on their bed; their wall remains incomplete. She has headphones on and is moodily browsing her laptop while Desi is playing guitar. At one point, she finally takes off her headphones: “Why are you aggressively playing guitar at me?” she asks. It turns out they had a fight and because of their small living, they have been stewing in their own tension. Not able to deal with Desi’s annoyingness, Marnie storms out of the apartment.
She walks through the city listening to her headphones and eventually passes a group of men who cat-call her. And lo and behold, one of them turns out to be Charlie (Christopher Abbott, still sporting his Whiskey Tango Foxtrot beard), you know, her ex-boyfriend. Last time we saw him he was running some app or something, but some “legal s—-” (his words) happened and now he’s no longer part of that. At first, Marnie ignores him and keeps walking, but he chases after her.
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Obviously, Marnie doesn’t really want to talk to him since he said some pretty mean stuff the last time they saw each other. But, after catching up a bit, she agrees to go with him to a party uptown, which will require her to buy a dress. Our first clue that something sketchy is going on is when his friends come up to him and say he’ll make enough money to cover himself for a while.
They head uptown to this fancy party, where Charlie is supposed to sell some guy cocaine. The guy buying the cocaine assumes Marnie is an escort and propositions her. Marnie says she’ll meet him upstairs in the hotel, but requires payment upfront and manages to get $600 off of him. Guys, Marnie is living right now!
NEXT: Marnie’s big decision
Obviously, Marnie has no intention of going through with it. Instead, she and Charlie take the money and spend it on expensive pasta. Their romantic evening continues as they stroll through the park, and she tells Charlie half of her album was actually about losing him. They decide to take a boat out for a midnight row, which leads to them making out and eventually falling into the water. Marnie definitely gets a bit swept up in this romantic fantasy with Charlie, but it makes sense given how unhappy she’s been with Desi this season.
However, the tone of the episode quickly shifts when they make it back to Brooklyn and are mugged. “I didn’t know people get like robbed anymore” might be the most Marnie thing Marnie has ever said (#PeakMarnie). That’s the first thing that jolts Marnie back to reality. From there, the night slowly starts to lose its appeal for her even after she sleeps with him. He’s using trash bags as curtains. He shares a bathroom with his floor. And, she finds a needle in his room, which he claims is for his diabetes.
She walks home wearing last night’s dress and when she gets back to her apartment she finds Desi sitting on the stairs waiting for her. Marnie tells Desi that she doesn’t want to be married to him anymore. “I knew I shouldn’t have married you,” she says. “I just don’t know who I am right now. I’m like a ghost of myself. I don’t know what I’m doing here or anywhere else.” At first, Desi reacts with anger and says she’ll get herself murdered because she has very little sense about the world. “Maybe you’re right,” she responds because she doesn’t care and knows she has some “serious s— to work out.”
After packing up some things, she heads back to where it all started: the apartment she used to share with Hannah. Fran and Hannah are still asleep in bed and she crawls in next to Hannah. In this sweet moment, she and Hannah are like the Meredith and Cristina of Brooklyn.
While I don’t think this episode is as good as “One Man’s Trash” or most of this season’s episodes, I still really enjoyed it — it reminded me that Marnie is more than just her ridiculous idiosyncrasies, and it forced me to take her seriously. Also, her realization that she has some personal stuff to work on brings us back to the season’s tagline: “Finally piecing it together.”