‘Cubbies’ & ‘Sit-In’
An overarching theme of Girls Season 4 has been the girls leaving their comfort zones: Hannah leaves Adam and New York and relocates to Iowa, Marnie attempts to make it in the music business and assert herself in her relationship with Desi, Jessa tries to stay clean and Shoshanna attempts to find her feet in the ‘real world’.
Episode 4 opens with Shoshanna once again interviewing for a job. This time it’s at McKinsey, where she hopes to work with Chelsea Clinton, whom she has always admired: “because she is such a strong woman struggling so nobly with her very curly hair.” The interview is far from a success and when Shoshanna asks her interviewer for some constructive criticism things go from bad to worse. “Why does nobody tell you how bad it’s going to be in the real world?” she later bemoans to Marnie and Jessa. “Yeah they do,” replies Marnie disbelievingly, “That’s pretty much all they tell you.”
Marnie has gathered her friends together to play them a demo of her latest track. Shoshanna needs only hear a few bars before she knowingly declares it the perfect pop song: “The first time you hear it you hate it and then they play it on the radio a billion times and then you love it,” she explains, not entirely reassuring Marnie.
The last episode saw Marnie finally stand up to Desi and end their affair. In ‘Cubbies’ it quickly becomes apparent the end of their affair is taking its toll on their working relationship. To Marnie’s surprise, however, a sobbing Desi makes a surprise visit late at night to her apartment, declaring he’s left his long-term girlfriend Clementine for Marnie. Initially gleeful, Marnie becomes suspicious that in fact Clementine dumped Desi and she is the second choice. Despite her initial wariness, she soon cannot help but be happy. Alison Williams does a fantastic job of portraying Marnie’s conflicting emotions in this scene, the slow and steady grin that spreads across her face as she realises what Desi’s breakup means for their relationship is realistic and endearing, even if the viewer is dubious about Desi and his intentions.
Meanwhile Shoshanna finds a refuge for her job-hunting woes through helping Ray go shopping. The dynamic between these two conflicting personalities has always been a sweet one and this episode sees the two properly repair their friendship, with plenty of humour along the way. Shoshanna eventually acknowledges she had hoped to bump into him to properly apologize for her behaviour: “People always say love is the strongest emotion, but sometimes fear is stronger,” she says sadly and the two agree to be friends.
The crux of ‘Cubbies’ is Hannah’s dilemma in Iowa: should she stay and stick out the remainder of this prestigious two-year programme, or should she leave content with the acknowledgement that she has made the right decision for her emotional health, and knowing academia is not for her?
Hannah’s emotional trajectory in this episode is deftly handled by Dunham; from her misguided attempts at an apology letter to her classmates, to her revealing evening out with her father, who argues that Hannah must make the decision that is right for her, whatever that might be. “No one else has to live in your mind, only you,” he says wisely. Hannah’s eventual decision to return to New York is satisfying and a great relief. We’ve seen Hannah in a bad place many times before and her decision to leave shows an emotional maturity that seems to indicate a new phase in her character development. She realises the situation is wrong for her and gets out of it.
Hannah’s scenes with her father, played wonderfully by Peter Scolari, are perfectly observed, from Hannah’s passive aggressive comments to her dad’s emotive attempts at reasoning with his daughter, whom he loves and supports through anything and everything: “You can’t think of what anyone else would say,” says Tad, “You have to do what’s right for you.”
So Hannah gets on a plane and returns to New York. The shots of her in a cab driving across the bridge are exhilarating, gorgeously filmed and perfectly capture the thrill of returning home. The only question left unanswered about Hannah’s Iowa experience is what’s Elijah going to do? He seemed far happier than Hannah in Iowa, despite not actually being a student there. This plot strand, mostly played for laughs by Andrew Rannells, was nevertheless well observed: so often when we are in a new place or new situation, we think how much better it would be if an old friend was there with us. Elijah’s presence in Iowa highlighted how this doesn’t really guarantee happiness; rather than providing Hannah with encouragement and helping her settle down, Elijah’s immediate happiness only made Hannah’s unhappiness all the more apparent.
Hannah returns to her building and to her apartment, only for the episode to drop a bombshell: a girl answers the door, clueless as to whom Hannah is. Eventually Adam appears alongside her, and Hannah stares in shock at her flat, which no longer contains her couch or her TV. Adam has a new girlfriend and she has moved in.
Adam seeing someone whilst Hannah was away was not a complete surprise: it was clear they had left their relationship in flux and Jessa dropped a hint earlier in the season that Adam had met another girl. The fact Adam had actually moved this girl into his apartment is still a shock, however, both to Hannah and the audience and the episode ends on this cliffhanger, as Hannah stares in disbelief at the situation she has walked in on.
Episode 5 ‘Sit-In’ continues where ‘Cubbies’ left off. Hannah is stunned at the news that has greeted her and is even more shocked at the fact Adam has moved his new partner into their apartment. Hannah reacts to this, irrationally but sympathetically, by shutting herself in her old bedroom and refusing to leave. This sets up the premise of the episode: Hannah refusing to leave and her friends coming round in turn to try to comfort her and persuade her to leave. Funny, moving and realistic ‘Sit-In’ deserves praise for the way the end of Hannah’s relationship with Adam is handled with both humour and heart wrenching empathy.
Adam reacts to Hannah’s decision to stage a sit-in by calling all her friends, acknowledging it’s necessary because “she’ll stay in there until we have a new president. She’s stubborn as f**k and likes to be in a bed a lot.” Shoshanna arrives straight away, dressed to the nines and declaring to Adam’s new girlfriend: “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care to know!” Shoshanna’s attempts to comfort Hannah with promises of tea and cyber-stalking Mimi-Rose, Adam’s new girlfriend, are not especially successful. It soon becomes apparent Mimi-Rose is a successful art graduate who gives inspiring visiting lectures at colleges.
Jessa’s visit is even more disastrous. To Hannah’s horror it becomes apparent that Jessa actually set up the new couple. Meanwhile Ray cooks Hannah bacon and rants about the traffic issues in his neighbourhood, and Adam’s eccentric sister Caroline and her partner Laird tell Hannah that Adam really ought to have stayed with her because: “He’s really at his best when he’s nurturing the poor, the lost, the profoundly damaged. Which is why you were so perfect for him.”
Lena Dunham wonderfully depicts Hannah’s vulnerability and her emotional trajectory in this episode, rendering Hannah perhaps the most sympathetic and the most mature she has ever been. Alone in a room that is no longer hers, returning to a boyfriend, an apartment and a life which has moved on without her, the viewer cannot help but feel empathy for Hannah. The way her friends all try to comfort her is also really touching, especially after a season in which they have all been apart. The scene in which Marnie eventually arrives and tells Hannah, gently yet directly, “I want you to be happy, which is why I think you need to let Adam go” is a real highlight. The friendship between Hannah and Marnie is expertly drawn, the writers and actors perfectly capture the way an old friendship can endure and how much friends mean to you.
The final scene, in which Hannah and Adam confront the issues within their relationship and finally agree to move on, is also very moving. Hannah spends the whole conversation on the verge of tears, trying to hold it together, yet rather than shouting or confronting Adam, she listens to what he has to say and makes the mature decision. Her final line to him, “Thank you for stopping by,” is really poignant and reflects the importance of their relationship in her life.
Hannah and Adam’s relationship has never seemed perfect and in the last season there were several times the viewer rightly wondered whether they were on the verge of a break-up. Watching the two part ways now, when it has been a long time since the viewer actually saw them together, meant the episode didn’t quite pack the same emotional punch as if they had broken up earlier in the show’s run.
Nevertheless, ‘Sit-In’ truly was a great episode because it did what Girls does best – realistically depict human relationships. The episode set up an interesting situation for the future of the show and Hannah’s career and personal life. How will Hannah proceed from here? Will she carve a new life for herself back in New York, now that she feels as if she knows what she wants? Check back after next week’s episode airs to find out.