Girls Season 5 Episode 6 Review: The Panic in Central Park

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Well, that was beautiful and heartbreaking. Hello and goodbye again, Charlie!

Girls Season 5 Episode 6 was Marnie-centric and almost felt like a little short film, self-contained (something that Lena Dunham mentioned in the post-episode recap). Marnie has never been the most likeable character, but "The Panic in Central Park" truly made you feel for her.

And you can't help but cheer for her moment of growth, breaking up with Desi and realizing that she has a lot of issues to get over. Finally!

Blowing Off Steam - Girls

The great thing about Girls is that, despite the fact that each of the characters are clearly imperfect and often quite despicable, they each have moments that humanize them and almost force you to root for (or at least feel for) them. That's the strength of the writing of the show and the strong performances.

The kickoff to Marnie's little adventure was a fight with Desi, over going to get scones (of all things). It's doubtful that these two self-involved narcissists could make it work in the best of circumstances, but being in a cramped studio apartment with the remnants of a wall-in-progress caging them in certainly did not help the situation.

Desi's default setting is whiny man-child demanding comfort, and Marnie just wanted space, leading to a screaming match between the two and Marnie storming out.

Desi: Open your heart to me. Bella, open your heart to me now!
Marnie: It's fucking OPEN!

Marnie walked aimlessly throughout the city and encountered, of all people, her ex-boyfriend Charlie. Poor Charlie. We (and Marnie) haven't seen him in about three years, and those three years were tough on him.

Christopher Abbott is a wonderful actor (always thought so). Like Marnie, I did a double take when I saw him sitting there in that group of catcallers. He looked like a completely different person. I actually paused and went to check IMDb to see whether it was actually the same actor.

As a performer, Abbott made several subtle but important choices in the way he played this drastically changed Charlie, above and beyond the changes in physique (which were probably unrelated to his return to the role) and his voice/intonation.

Right off the bat, Charlie's face when he realized it was Marnie walking by hits hard. It's a perfect mix of "Oh crap" and being happy to see her. He also remembered both of Marnie's uncles, which was a small but significant detail that underscored how much he'd legitimately cared for Marnie – despite the fact that most of what he told her is called into question, when his drug use is revealed in the end.

Marnie: You have an accent that you didn't have before. You talk differently.
Charlie: No. No, you just don't remember me right.

Marnie became aware pretty quickly that Charlie had changed drastically but, being Marnie and being as self-involved as she is, she couldn't manage to put two and two together and realize what Charlie's erratic behavior and repeated "running off to the bathroom" meant.

Marnie's obnoxious confessional to the deeply uninterested shop girl really underscored that – instead of wondering what's going on with Charlie and his mysterious champagne party uptown, she gushed about all of the exciting and varied life experiences she's had at the young age of 25 and a half. Groan. So perfectly Marnie.

When the two got to Charlie's party, Marnie found out that Charlie was selling cocaine. Oddly, this didn't seem to bother her much at all. She was basically fine with that. Her non-reaction to that was especially odd when juxtaposed with her much more extreme reaction to later finding out that he's shooting heroin (or coke or something). 

Marnie's brief stint as "Magita Perez" was hilarious. It was a little difficult to suspend disbelief enough to think that this old rich guy would just drop $600 with no actual guarantee of action later in the night, but hey, I'm not a old rich guy, so what do I know, right? Plus, leave it to Marnie to somehow pull that stunt off successfully but in the most ridiculous way possible (Magita? Really?).

The sequence of scenes immediately following the party were all kinds of heartwrenching. Gorging themselves and dancing in the restaurant, walking through the park, tipping over the boat while kissing.

Lena Dunham & Co. did a fantastic job of demonstrating Marnie's desire to see Charlie as the one that got away, as the man she was "meant" to be with, while still threading the whole adventure with this pervasive sense of wrongness, a definite tension. Capsizing the boat mid-kiss and landing in the disgusting Central Park pond water was one such obviously metaphorical moment. (Girl, why on earth would you open your eyes in that water?!)

Speaking of Marnie underwater: Allison Williams has never been the strongest actress among the main four, but she did an incredible job throughout this entire installment. Marnie's face bobbing around underwater, amidst the pond scum, was clearly a moment of realization for her. Marnie's breakup scene with Desi was also a very strong performance from Allison, particularly in that palpable sense of relief on her face when she realized that Desi's personal growth was no longer her problem.

Charlie: What if we ran away? I'm serious. What if, like, the last few years were just a bad dream and we ran away? And opened up a general store. Somewhere where they need a general store. I got cash. I got a bike. We can go wherever we wanted. Wouldn't have to tell anybody if we didn't feel like it.
Marnie: I don't need any of my stuff. I don't. I don't really need any of my stuff. I hate all of my stuff.
Charlie: I'm serious. As soon as the sun comes up, let's go.
Marnie: But what about all of the time, hmm?
Charlie: Doesn't have to bother us if we don't let it.

Back at Charlie's shitty, garbage-bag-curtains apartment, one gunpoint robbery later, Marnie and Charlie fantasized about running away together. At that point, it became exceedingly clear that these two weren't going to work out.

I totally bought that Marnie, in her current state of mind, would go right along with Charlie's plan to open a general store in a little town somewhere, leaving all of her stuff behind, but come on – we've known Marnie for five years now, and there's absolutely no way she'd enjoy that kind of life. Again, it was clear that she was allowing herself to get caught up in the imperfect fantasy of what could be for her and Charlie.

So of course, that illusion was shattered irreparably once Marnie found Charlie's needle and realized that he was a junkie.

Talk about heartbreaking. I really wish we would've gotten the remainder of that confrontation scene. I feel like something more had to have happened between Charlie lamely claiming that he was diabetic and Marnie walking home from his gross apartment, hair dripping wet and shoeless.

Arriving back at home, Marnie confronted Desi and gave us what I think I can say we've all been waiting for. She called him an asshole and broke up with him – but not even in a mean way. It was very un-Marnie and surprisingly mature.

I was really rooting for her by that point, and I could hardly believe she actually went through with it. It was clearly the right thing to do, and it was clearly going to happen sometime this season (based on what went down in the Girls Season 5 Premiere), but I didn't think that Marnie would end it so soon. It's only just past mid-season!

"The hope of the beginning"? You mean when you had a girlfriend and I saw you like twice a week and half the times we fucked you covered my face with a pillow because you couldn't handle the guilt? Do you remember that? Jesus Christ, I have some, like, serious shit to work out. So do you. I'm not sure you're capable of it but... that's not my problem anymore.


Regardless: three cheers for Marnie's character development!

Other thoughts:

  • This was a really strong installment and Charlie's story was an important and devastating one. I'm sure we're not going to see his character ever again after this. That said, I'm a little disturbed that this is it for him. Even if Marnie realized she couldn't run away with Charlie, would she really just leave him alone in that apartment and not try to get him help? Tell Ray or something?
  • For a minute, I thought that Charlie might have been in on the robbery (particularly when he handed over the earrings, unbidden). Like maybe he'd called a junkie friend when he realized that Marnie had valuables and they planned to split the loot. On a second viewing, it appears that that scene more likely is meant to show that despite all of Charlie's new tough-guy, drug dealing, knife-having posturing, he's still the same old "soft" Charlie on the inside.
  • Marnie letting herself into Hannah's apartment and climbing into bed with Hannah and Fran gave me all the BFF feels.
  • Ray will be over the moon to hear about this divorce development. Probably not so over the moon to hear about his former best friend's descent into drug addiction, though. (Seriously, I feel like Marnie has to tell Ray about this.)

What did you think of "The Panic in Central Park"? Chime in by commenting below and watch Girls online here at TV Fanatic if you missed any of Marnie and Charlie's reunion!

The Panic in Central Park Review

Editor Rating: 4.75 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (44 Votes)

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Girls Season 5 Episode 6 Quotes

Desi: Open your heart to me. Bella, open your heart to me now!
Marnie: It's fucking OPEN!

Marnie: You're playing aggressive guitar at me.
Desi: There's nothing aggressive about that, it's a ballad.