Be warned, the following review has spoilers strewn about like New York fire hydrants. So if you haven't seen the episode, try not to trip over them.
Why so glum Marnie? Headphones on and laptop out, it looks like she’s giving a guitar-playing Desi the cold shoulder. “What are you staring at me about?” she asks as he gives her the hurt, puppy dog eyes. It’s apparent they’ve had quite the barny. We’ve been predicting for some time that relaxed, chilled out Marnie is a myth: a person she concocted purely to make her ‘worthy’ of Desi. But it looks like she’s finally about to snap when Desi accuses her of being cold: something we know she is often very guilty of. Cue Desi reaching out for some physical contact and Marnie recoiling, leaving her husband a curled up crying mess. Turns out that argument was all because of a scone. Looks like the honeymoon period is finally over.
And so starts a really interesting showcase for Allison Williams who, let’s face it, hasn’t had a grand amount to do so far this season. Episode six finally lets Marnie face some hard decisions and more than one fork in the metaphorical road. And in total clickbait style, ‘you won’t believe why’! Yes, who’d have thunk it: Charlie (Christopher Abbott) has returned after a considerable hiatus, seemingly modeling his new look on Shia LaBeouf and his new accent on, well, we have no idea. All beard and short hair (and ogling pals), Marnie’s hardly eager to make small talk with her ex.
“Wait, so you got married? That’s beautiful.” Charlie’s sudden appearance isn’t the only thing to shock Marnie (and us) - it seems like there’s genuine weight to his reasons for making their separation final. Things don’t look all that rosy for Charlie, currently, his business long gone due to “some weird legal shit”. That and his father killing himself. Now things are starting to become a little clearer...
Episode six finally lets Marnie face some hard decisions and more than one fork in the metaphorical road.
In true Girls style, he invites Marnie to a party (remember these two haven’t seen each other since he said he’d never loved her) and a spontaneous, momentary, well-needed burst of fun is injected into season five. But it doesn’t take long for Marnie to briefly lapse into her unbearable self when using a shop assistant as some kind of shrink. (“I feel like I’m looking out the eyes of a woman at hands that have touched and have been touched, does that make any sense?” No.) Thankfully Charlie saves the poor woman and the pair’s mysterious adventure continues.
It turns out their night is to revolve rather heavily around drugs: Charlie selling cocaine under a pseudonym, Marnie roleplaying as a call girl. Turns out she’s pretty good at swindling money for no services rendered. The pair may not know each other and are culturally worlds apart, but they relax into their old ways, incredibly comfortable and allowing the viewer to feel exactly the same. By the time they get to eating spaghetti and dancing, you’ll want in on the party. In fact, Marnie is the most relaxed we’ve seen her in a long time. And by ‘relaxed’, we mean ‘natural’. We were starting to forget who she really was.
“My album’s about you. Desi thinks it’s about him… It’s about what it’s like to lose something or someone and you have no idea why.” Well how’s that for a bombshell. If this is an episode that’s purely about giving Marnie the closure she never received, well, we’re onboard. If this is an episode that’s going to see Marnie given a rude awakening and shook to her bones, we’re also onboard, because the girls need to - and for the most point are starting to - grow up. As we’ve repeatedly said, being with Desi was an infatuation that centred around the idea of being with him. But was Charlie always true love? As the pair fall into the water after kissing in a little wooden boat, Marnie opens her eyes underwater - and it seems like she might finally be seeing clearly.
There’s no hesitation from Marnie when it comes to being physical with Charlie.
"What if we ran away?" Charlie asks. "I’m serious. What if the last three years were a bad dream and we ran away." What a dreamy proposition. There’s no hesitation from Marnie when it comes to being physical with Charlie here and we can’t imagine her doing this with anyone else over Desi (sorry, Ray). But this also means we have no idea how this surprise meeting will pan out, ultimately feeling like quite a lone episode, similarly to the way the Lena Dunham/Patrick Wilson one did. But then she sees a needle. Charlie’s response? “I’m diabetic.” And with no fuss, no nothing, Marnie walks out of the door, straight to her apartment, finding a very sleep-deprived Desi waiting in the stairwell.
But Marnie isn’t here to make up (which means there’ll be plenty more Desi tears before bedtime). We may have expected an apology, but instead, she tells him she doesn’t want to be married to him anymore. “I knew I shouldn’t marry you, I just didn’t want to give up on another dream… I’m like a ghost of myself, I don’t know what I’m doing here or anywhere else, but I don’t want to be married to you.” That’d be pretty definitive, then. Desi naturally starts crying again (“try to remember the hope of the beginning, you know?”) while Marnie mocks him about how they met and they share a bittersweet giggle. The pair sign off with surprisingly placid ‘okay’s and the realisation that they are just not meant to be. And we thought Hannah and Fran would implode first…
Talking of that other unstable couple, the episode’s closing moments cut to Hannah and Fran in bed, Marnie crawling in beside her friend, Hannah hardly batting an eyelid. She’ll ask tomorrow. So is this set to be a Marnie and Charlie reunion? The former might be getting to a place where she can be the person he previously needed - but now she might just have to change him. Knowing Marnie, she’ll enjoy the dramatics of the project, but she certainly won’t let Charlie feel good about it: it’s going to be painful and traumatic and who knows what else. Christopher Abbott’s enjoying a blossoming film career, but Adam Driver (he and Jemima Kirke are absent this week) manages to be a series regular, so who knows what next season has in store. We’ve still got another half of this season to get through first - and who knows if Charlie will even make it to the end. He’s certainly got a lot of demons to deal with.