Due to its 30-minute runtime and its 10-episode seasons, “Girls” is a show that frequently struggles to give each of its many main characters their own complete story arcs. The first two episodes of this season were so strong because they had a sense of focus and efficiency; while the premiere confined all the characters to one convenient location, the second episode dropped Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, “Mad Men”) and Marnie (Allison Williams, “Peter Pan Live!”) entirely to focus on the other characters.
This week’s episode, “Japan,” might’ve worked better if it had focused on Shosh for the entirety of the episode. The change of setting works great for “Girls,” and it’s fascinating to see Shosh flourishing in an entirely new environment, making friends with a pair of Japanese girls and crushing on her boss, Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima, “Black Butler”). Even more pleasantly surprising, Shosh makes the choice to stay in Japan, going against “Girls” ’s tendency to reset the status quo every time there’s a change of scenery (see: Hannah’s brief stay in Iowa last season). If we’re lucky this time, we’re in for some more episodes set in Japan.
Instead of confining the whole episode to Japan, there are two subplots crammed in. Adam (Adam Driver, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke, “Tiny Furniture”) are developing some really nice chemistry, so the lack of progress in their budding romance is forgivable. The subplot involving Hannah (Lena Dunham, “Happy Christmas”) discovering naked pictures of Fran’s (Jake Lacy, “Carol”) exes is less substantial, though it still leads to some great moments of comedy as Hannah makes Ray (Alex Karpovsky, “Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Elijah (Andrew Rannells, “The New Normal”) take nude pictures of her. There’s also the Skype call between Hannah and Marnie, whose pronunciation of ‘Ecuador’ is such a brilliant and hilarious encapsulation of her character.
Despite lacking the focus of the first two episodes, “Japan” tells an unusually effective Shoshanna story and provides plenty of comedy to go along with it. And, if nothing else, you can replay the clip of Marnie saying “Ecuador” a hundred times like I did.