'Girls': How are we supposed to feel about Adam?

girls-adam-driver

Image Credit: Jessica Miglio/HBO

Adam in the Girls pilot to a just-fired Hannah: “You should never be anyone’s f—ing slave, except mine.”
Adam in the Girls season 2 finale when a distraught Hannah whimpers ‘You’re here’: “I was always here.”

In a show called Girls, last night’s episode seemed to have a lot to do with boys. Marnie  is now back with Charlie and there’s this uncomfortable feeling that she believes this solves everything — including the fact that she saw her career prospects go to shambles this season. Shoshanna breaks up with the guy she lost her virginity to — at least this feels like growth. And Adam and Hannah… well, I’m not sure. What was with that rom-com ending? Were we supposed to be left satisfied or weary? And how are we supposed to feel about Adam? Is he violent, misunderstood, kind, cruel, or some mixture of all of these. Let’s dive in.

In the pilot of Girls, Adam seemed more like a cautionary tale then a fully formed character. In the book of Hannah’s life, he’d be the guy she was with before she became the self-actualized woman she was meant to be.  He was the guy who tried to debase Hannah by making her act out scenes from porn movies he had watched. He was the guy with the murderer’s apartment.

In episode four when Hannah delivers her rom-com style monologue to Adam — “I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time and thinks I’m the best person in the world and wants to have sex with only me” — I expected that to be the end of his character. It seemed clear that he wasn’t going to be able to give her what she wanted, even if she wasn’t fully aware of what that was, and she was going to move on to a more mature relationship.

But then suddenly at the end of episode 7 of season one, she’s smiling in the back of a cab because Adam is now her boyfriend. As this whole scene between the two of them unfolded, I found myself wondering “Wait, this can’t be the same guy who told Hannah he wanted to send her back to her parents covered…” well, HBO might be unrated, EW.com is not.

Now, I have a hard time changing my stance on characters once they’ve been introduced one way — needless to say, I was a fan of Walter White for way longer than was appropriate — so I’m still not sold on this damaged, but loving version of Adam.

It’s true that he has some pretty endearing traits and a intriguing back story of his own. In “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a the Crackcident,” one of Adam’s friends tells Hannah that he’s in AA. It’s a shock to her and to the viewers. And we’re supposed to believe that he never told Hannah about his past because she never asked. Even if you don’t buy that she never gave him an opportunity to talk about himself, it’s at least endearing that he was too afraid to say anything without being prompted. He didn’t want to bare his soul before he knew her feelings were real.

Once it was established that their relationship was official, we got to see Adam in his element. In “Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too,” he storms out of his play after his partner, Gavin, embarrassingly overacts a scene. The first time I saw this I remember thinking that this just proved how annoying he was as a character. “I can’t explain basic truths to him. It’s too draining,” sounded like another excuse of Adam’s to give up on something without really trying. But then again, that was Hannah’s problem a lot of the time too, just not putting forth enough effort. When she sweetly told him that his play was great and he should still let Gavin perform it, they were helping each other.

By the end of season one, I was convinced that Adam really cared for Hannah in his own strange, but intense way. Too bad Hannah had to mess it up. In general, it seemed more like an out-of-character turn for Hannah, who desperately wants to be loved, to be slowing things down with Adam. Still, it was Hannah who destroyed Adam’s open heart.

But the main problem with Adam, and also what makes his character complex and intriguing, is his anger issues. Adam Driver plays the character’s tics, outbursts, and rants superbly. He’s uncomfortable to watch at times, because he can so quickly move from being charming to being aggressive. There is rarely a time that he’s on screen that I’m not afraid he’s going to go off. Every sex scene he’s in feels dangerous. In his play from season one, Adam talks about having sex with a girl junior year who rejected him in 6th grade. “That’ll teach you” he says as he mimes the act. Sometimes it seems like that’s the attitude Adam takes with all the women he beds.

In the penultimate episode of this season, perfectly titled “On All Fours,” Adam messes up (but strangely doesn’t ruin) his relationship with Natalia by asking her to submit to him. She doesn’t like it and she tells him in the end. We see them having sex again in the finale and she’s making him go slower now. He doesn’t like it this time. He doesn’t like it so much that he violently destroys a wood project he’s been working on at his apartment later in the episode. Adam wants to be in charge and more than that, it seems like Adam thinks he deserves to be in charge. He wants to “teach” the people he has sex with that he’s a powerful guy.

To be fair, another reading of the scene where Adam gets angry and destroys the project in his apartment is that he’s so upset about his feelings for Hannah. He’s so distraught after seeing her that he drinks even though he’s in AA. The way he bluntly and tragically talks about her OCD shows that he knows her well and wants her happy. When he calls her “kid” in “On All Fours,” she smiles appreciatively, and it’s sweet, unless you consider how infantilizing that whole “kid” nickname actually is. So his intense passion can be used for destruction or intense love. But I’m still not sure that makes him likable.

So, about that rom-com ending? I get that almost everyone has fantasized about a guy running to see them. But still, is the idea of him forcibly breaking down her door to then hold her in his arms like she’s a baby really all that romantic? Isn’t it just him being the dominant person again? Is that the only kind of relationship he can actually thrive in? And didn’t Marnie come offering help too, but with less brutal force? Is it okay if right before the romantic gesture the female has to say “Don’t yell at me, this was a huge part of the problem in the first place”?

I don’t know, PopWatchers, and I’m getting frustrated. What do you think?

Read more:
Is Girls still a comedy?
Girls recap: A Rom-Com Ending
Lena Dunham keeps her clothes on for Playboy interview

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