Girls, Season 4, Episode 2: “Triggering”
Hello readers, and welcome to another recap of Girls, wherein I attempt to suppress my intense dislike of Jessa’s hippie dippie ways and attempt to deconstruct what was going on in Lena Dunham’s head this episode. Did you guys have a good week? I unfortunately got what I assume is bronchitis and spent the entire weekend coughing into a handkerchief like someone’s uncle Morty. Also this week I discovered that the most amount of money I’m willing to spend to work in a coffee shop without sheepishly looking at baristas is $29. Past this monetary point I feel comfortable enough to squat at a table for hours while the staff clean around me and politely remind me that they’re closing and have to go home to their families.
Now, onto the recap!
This week we open in up Iowa, which is apparently the Hawkeye state, which is pretty terrible. Come on, Iowa, really? The Hawkeye state? You could have been the Black Widow or Hulk state and you chose the lamest Avenger to nickname yourself after? Minus points, Iowa.
Anywhoo so Hannah is off finding a place to rent in her new city when she hits gold with a gorgeous $800 apartment that Gwyneth Paltrow would be comfortable writing her newsletters in. With her home secured, Hannah rides to school on a bike, which is probably the first burst of physical activity I have seen her willingly engage in on the show. Maybe Iowa will be good for her!
Hannah, pictured here in season 3
Outside, Emo Persian-version of Hannah appears and tells her caucasian look-alike to chillax about putting locks on bikes. This is nonsense, Hannah; don’t listen to her! Rural places like Iowa have thieves too—they just happen to use overalls and a non-threatening smile to hide their deep well of mischief and secrets.
Next up, Hannah skypes with Marnie, who is knitting Desi a scarf. Girlfriend, in what world would it be appropriate even for a friend to give her male friend a gift like this? Do you want Clementine to pummel you with insults and make you cry again? Homegirl, stick to knitting impractical tea cozies for your Starbucks cups and leave the scarf knitting for men’s girlfriends. Also, you are 1000% having an affair, Marnie. Just because you’d rather use the more romantic word “tryst” doesn’t mean you aren’t fucking someone else’s boyfriend without their knowledge.
In between showing Marnie a bottle of Lubriderm and her “shelf of curiosities”, Hannah states that she’s certain she made the right decision to move, which definitely means she’s not certain she made the right decision to move. A big reason Hannah is uncertain about her decision is the fact that she and Adam aren’t talking, hinting that the two are either broken up or definitely heading towards a breakup. The writing is on the wall, friends. And that writing likely says “I’m douching it up with my actor friends and am on the search for a new lady to place my penis in.”
At the book store, we learn that shopboys in Iowa (SNL alum Brooks Wheelan) think it’s appropriate and not at all creepy to say goodbye to customers by telling them they look like they have good-smelling hair. I bet this asshole steals bikes. While he is probably a criminal, the worker definitely does not banter cynically like Ray, which is why Hannah’s mentions of undergrads sucking on their parents’ teets falls completely flat during the encounter.
At night, Hannah lets a bat into the house and runs away screaming from it. Maybe it’s my Eastern European sensibility, but my life rule is “I leave anything in nature alone, but as soon as nature comes into my house and terrorizes me, its ass is mine.” Hence, my general reaction to Hannah wailing and choosing to sleep in the bathroom instead of tackling the bat head on was one of disgust.
Hannah of course oversleeps and apparently does not have enough time to change her pajama pants. Come on, woman, jeans take 30 second to put on. You’re not an eighth grader in 2004, so get your shit together and stop wearing your night clothing in public.
At her first writer workshop class, Hannah slaps an overwrought trigger warning onto her story (even though her colleagues had already read her work), implying that her work will move the shit out of you because it’s so raw and good. Oh, Hannah, never change (or actually do, because you can be an asshole sometimes).
During the season finale I remarked that Hannah’s choice of accepting a spot in the workshop was very brave because she is an autobiographical author who primarily relies on personal experience to create. In moving, Hannah bet on herself that she could stretch her artistic muscles. What didn’t cross her mind, it seems, is the fact that this venture could make her realize that she can’t write in a different style.
These worries become live when it becomes clear that Hannah’s first piece for the class is not a work of fiction. Ironically, the piece’s basis in reality makes it that much more skillful, as the story proves that Hannah can articulate her feelings in an incredibly precise way. Scoff if you must, but the story teaches the audience with only a short snippet that Adam’s kinks appealed to Hannah because they allowed her to let go of her insecurities. It may not be fiction, but it sure is compelling.
In a meta twist, Hannah’s piece draws a direct parallel to Dunham, whose writing talent, much like that of David Sedaris, lies in observation and biting storytelling. The disgusted classmates here are thus surrogates for Dunham’s critics, some which offer useful advice (like the importance of understanding how your work is perceived by readers), and others that engage either in histrionics or dismissal of her work as mere ramblings of a privileged girl. Dunham pokes fun at herself here too, having Hannah conclude that only a sufferer of abuse could find her work insensitive.
After the reading fails to reassure Hannah that she’s doing the right thing by moving to Iowa, she collect-calls her parents and lies through her teeth about how sad she is. During the call it becomes clear that Hannah feels like she’s stuck, going back being a disappointment to her parents and an admittance of defeat.
After a walk home likely set to the tune of Charlie Brown, Hannah finds that her home now has a half-naked Elijah in it. Tired of feeling like an artistic failure, Elijah left New York in favour of spending time with his bummed out friend. Invigorated by the surprise visit, Hannah and Elijah go to a rager filled with handjobs, crying women, smurf-festish porn scenes, and 28-year-old actors trying to pass for 19-year-olds. Who knew that Iowa parties would be like a scene from Skins? While Hannah seemed to be having fun, I couldn’t help but think she was going to this party just so that she’d have one more story to add to her roster.
Overall opinion: This was probably one of my favourite Girls episodes in quite a while, primarily because it was both smart about the way it addressed the show’s criticism and also comfortable in crafting more laugh-out-loud funny moments. The workshop confrontation was particularly great, with Hannah’s defensive one-liners being the clear stand out.
I also enjoyed how throughout the episode, Dunham made her main character consider why the hell she likes New York and its disgusting stoops so much anyway. Iowa is not only cheaper, but it also has its own brand of pretentious assholes, all ripe for the confronting.
Lastly, I think we all know that Hannah won’t be staying in Iowa for the full season because it would draw away from the central dynamic of four-girl main cast. Despite knowing this phase will come to an end, I’m really enjoying seeing the new characters Hannah will interact with for the next couple of weeks. Judging from this episode and the gushing Hannah has received about her work in the past, I don’t think our heroine will take too well to the incoming criticism.
Marnie: “This is why I didn’t want to tell you about us.” / Hannah: “Is it because it’s an affair and those are usually kept secret?”
Iowan: “You should come to Battle of the Bands tonight! I’m drumming! In both bands!”
Mrs. Horvath: “Honey, what happened to your phone?” / Hannah: “I dropped it in a creek… because I was creek-walking with a group of my new friends…Shannon, Jeff, Jonesley, Ramtiony. Nagasaki and Cher.”
Hannah: “Is it normal when you move to a new place to think about suicide for the first time?”
Hannah: “I have a self-defence keychain that I bought illegally and I can slice you from top to bottom.”
Elijah: “On my way here from the airport two people asked me if I was Blake Lively’s husband. Iowa is amazing!”
Possibly gay Iowan: “I’m not gay…” / Elijah:“Yeah me neither brah.” / Possibly gay Iowan: “Is this what happens at every party?” / Elijah: “Every party I’m at.”