When it comes to character development, fiction instructors will often tell students to think about what their characters do when they are alone. This will tell them a bit about personification.
Appropriately enough, “Girls” attempted to do this in the second episode of its fourth season titled “Triggering,” where Hannah makes it to Iowa and faces some adjustments in her new life smack-dab in the middle of the United States.
The episode opened with shots of Iowa cornfields and beautiful open space, a vast difference between the congested streets of Brooklyn, where the first three seasons of the show have taken place.
Hannah is counting steps in an empty house. Is this the return of her OCD? Surprisingly, no (so much for continuity). She’s just looking at apartments and surprised by how cheap the rent is for the amount of space one gets. “Two thumbs the fuck up,” she says.
Of all the episodes of “Girls,” this one might be the most sitcom-y. In one of the scenes with Hannah riding her bike around campus, she simply falls over off the bike, like some sort of Sandra Bullock rom-com character. When she tries to lock said bike before one of her workshops, a jaded fellow writer/hipster offers her advice.
“Don’t bother. You’re in Iowa. No one locks their bike here.”
Clearly, Hannah is not in Greenpoint anymore. In Iowa, bats enter your house and randos walking by will tell you why your phone is in a dead zone before inviting you to a drumming party.
And yet, for all of its sitcom tropes, this episode feels like what the show has been building up to for three seasons. Hannah is finally finding her way as a writer, immersed in an environment with people who can challenge her.
None of the other Girls are involved in this episode, except for brief appearances. Really, what Hannah is doing is more interesting anyway. When Marnie calls via Skype, the program freezes at just the right time when one of her Desi stories was about to get boring and self-important.
But is Hannah still with Adam? It sounds as if they’ve broken contact, especially when she tells Marnie, “I’ve 100% moved on.” Have they stayed in touch?
Speaking of touch, “Contact” is actually the title of the work Hannah reads to her fiction group, about when she took a bunch of Quaaludes and let Adam punch her in the chest. The group is less than enthused (I mean, she’s not DeAugust, who everyone wets themselves over): “It’s about a really privileged girl who decides she’s going to let someone abuse her.”
Despite being told to absorb the criticism and feedback, Hannah keeps interrupting the discussion.
“What’s working?” says the instructor.
“I’m really struggling with how to talk about this piece,” says the jaded writer who told her not to lock her bike. “She is very much this character.” After all, the main character is a girl with a lot of tattoos named Anna who likes to snack a lot (Hannah is even snacking during the class).
After a less than stellar session, workshop-favorite DeAugust invites her out, telling her to suck it up and not take the negativity too seriously. And then, in true sitcom fashion, Hannah’s bike gets stolen, which contained all of her stuff—including her phone.
But what’s weird is that DeAugust isn’t the one Hannah gets to know at the bar, the one who will inspire her to write better and open herself up to constructive commentary. It’s the blonde classmate who looks like one of Meryl Streep’s daughters.
“You can’t go to everyone’s house individually and defend your work,” says said blonde.
Hannah assumes that the reason why Blondie was offended by her story was because she was a victim of abuse, something the girl neither confirms nor denies. However, this scene doesn’t offer much in the way of development, other than a few nuggets of ironic wisdom (“TMI is such an outdated concept. This is the information age”).
Since she doesn’t have a phone anymore because her bike was stolen, Hannah calls Shoshanna and Jessa collect, but they don’t answer because the concept is foreign to both of them (plus, Quinn on television is more interesting). Her parents do pick up, and when they ask how she’s doing, Hannah lies, making up a slew of fake friends with names like Shannon and Jonesly (“Is it normal when you get to a new place to think about suicide for the first time ever?”).
When she gets back to her house, the door is open. Someone has broken in. And in more sitcom fashion, it’s Elijah, who just hopped on a plane after getting tired of running into people in New York that he’s slept with. So far, he’s lovin’ Iowa.
“Two people asked me if I was Blake Lively’s husband. Iowa is amazing!” – Elijah
Elijah popping up feels very unnecessary, even if actor Andrew Rannells is a breath of fresh Iowa air in every scene he’s in, whether it’s New York or otherwise. But one can’t help but think. . .why? Does he really need to be here? Isn’t this Hannah’s journey? For some reason, it feels more necessary to see Hannah flourish on her own, without any crutches from home.
Although, without Elijah, Hannah probably wouldn’t attend a rager and dance to “Get Low” before getting ditched for some bathroom action with a college cutie. Doesn’t Elijah know you can run into people you’ve slept with in Iowa City, too—on an even smaller scale?
“I’m not gay.” – Cutie at Party
“Me neither, bro.” – Elijah
While Elijah is raising some Iowa corn in the bathroom, so to speak, Hannah comforts a girl who thinks her Iowa State boyfriend is cheating on her (“I’ve seen a lot of things. I’m 25 years old”) before engaging in some girl-on-girl wrestling in a baby pool of blue paint (“Scissor her!” – Elijah).
In the morning, Hannah awakes Elijah from a hungover state on the porch and they trek across campus, Hannah’s once black and white dress now a black and blue, just like the bruises Adam inflicted on her in the story she read earlier in the episode.