In episode 3 of Girls’ fourth season, Hannah continues her attempts to adapt to her new college life in Iowa: alienating her new classmates, unable to commit to her writing and struggling to adapt to the very-different cultural landscape of small-town Iowa. This week’s episode of Girls also devotes an equal amount of time to the NYC misadventures of Shoshanna, Marnie and Jessa.
Fresh from graduating from NYU, Shoshanna has her first job interview. She’s interviewing for the role of junior accessories buyer for Ann Taylor Loft, a job that sounds perfect for trend-defying Shoshanna. The meeting seems to be going swimmingly until Shosh interprets the interview’s success as a sign she should turn down the role, because she doesn’t feel “passionate enough” about it. The viewer groans in disbelief as Shoshanna happily rejects the offer, naively envisaging her dream job as being just around the corner.
Meanwhile Marnie and her song-writing partner Desi are sharing their music with a record company. Sitting side-by-side on a sofa, Desi caresses Marnie’s back and the pair gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes. The recording executives love their sound and want the couple to return for a future interview with a company bigwig, so all is going well, that is until the executives ask the pair how long they’ve been together. Marnie’s face visibly drops and Desi is quick to jump in and explain they aren’t an item, describing his oh-so-perfect long-term girlfriend, Clementine.
The awkwardness of the meeting prompts Marnie to finally address her issues with the relationship. She shares her concerns with Ray, who advises her that she cannot remain in her current situation. Despite Marnie’s initial reservations (“I’ve met his cousin!” she exclaims when Ray points out the fallibility of their relationship), she eventually agrees the situation has to change.
Ray and Marnie had a surprising liaison last season and this episode hints that there might still be a connection between them. Ray sweetly advises Marnie that whilst Desi might seem perfect, he has “one massive character fall, he hasn’t chosen you”. Ray also continues to have some of the show’s funniest lines, his deadpan sense of humour perfectly juxtaposing with Marnie’s haughty arrogance.
It is satisfying to finally see Marnie confront Desi. She rarely stands up for herself and it’s great to see her acknowledge what she wants and acknowledge it isn’t what Desi is giving her. People who are in love don’t sleep with other people argues Marnie, only for the ingratiating Desi to reply “I think that’s a very culturally specific statement”. Whether this truly is the end of their affair is hard to judge, but it was good to finally see this strong-willed and decisive version of Marnie.
In ‘Female Author’ Jessa is also forced to acknowledge the need to change her attitude. Her lack of respect for “common civility” results in her getting arrested and once again it is the male characters of Girls who are the voice of reason. Adam tells Jessa that whilst he had sympathy for her in the past when she was an addict, now that she’s five months sober he cannot understand why she continues to act the way she does. He attempts to wash his hands of her, telling her to “grow up,” but Jessa’s moving plea that she “needs friends” seems to convince him he should give her another chance.
The scenes with Jessa and Adam also plant a seed of unease within Adam and Hannah’s long-distance relationship. Adam complains about Hannah’s uninspiring phone conversations, to which Jessa knowingly asks him “How have your nights been with what’s her face?” Is Adam seeing someone else? It’s deliberately vague, but it’s evident that there are some issues within Adam and Hannah’s relationship.
Hannah is still struggling to enjoy her new life in Iowa, despite the fact she does now have Elijah rather inexplicably living there with her. Elijah’s easy going personality and ability to get on with everyone means he is far more settled into life at the University of Iowa than Hannah, despite not even being enrolled there, an issue which is bound to become a topic of chagrin between the two before long. At a poet’s party, Elijah experiments with taking artistic photographs of his newfound besties: “I realised I got so good at taking photos I wasn’t feeling challenged anymore,” he explains, “I thought, what if I turned the camera eye around. It was a real epiphany for me”.
Hannah, meanwhile, frets about her inability to write anything. Hannah has always struggled with self-motivation and this week we learn her procrastinating habits were honed during her undergrad years, when Marnie apparently wrote most of Hannah’s essays. Now Hannah’s inability to put pen to paper is getting her down, she points out to Elijah that she’s at school doing the only thing she actually wants to do, so she should be more motivated than ever. “How come the only thing I want to do is Google the one month where Woody Harrelson and Glenn Close were a couple?” bemoans Hannah, giving voice to procrastinators everywhere.
The crux of Elijah’s argument is that if Hannah truly feels this way, perhaps she isn’t meant to be a writer after all. This is a bold move: from the first episode Hannah has been defined by her status as a writer. The decisions she has made, both her career and personal life, have had that end goal in mind. Perhaps the horror of imagining a life without writing will spur Hannah on to start up her writing again? Time well tell, but in the short-term our protagonist takes out her frustration in a hilarious, yet cringe worthy scene in which she insults all the students in her seminar class one by one.
Next week Hannah acknowledges that “academia is not totally natural to me, I thrive on the street” and she has a hard-talking pep talk from her father (who is always played with pathos by Peter Scolari.) Will Hannah stick it out for another episode in Iowa, let alone two years? Check back after next week’s episode airs to find out.