Girls, Season 4 Episode 2: “Triggering”

“Triggering” is the episode of Girls that was most discussed by critics before the fourth season started because of its meta-like qualities. I think the scenes with Hannah highlight that getting into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is just the next step into her becoming a writer, and of course parallels criticisms people have made of the show itself. It took me a while to watch this episode because I decided to wait until Bernard Tomic lost his tennis match (tennis really does take over my life in the second half of January), just in case my brother comes home and asks me what the result was. Overall, “Triggering” was a good episode of Girls, even if some parts of the episode weren’t particularly subtle.

The most glaringly obvious problems with the episode were the “This is Iowa!” moments. I learned that the show didn’t have permission to film on location in Iowa, so they had to use parts of Brooklyn, so the establishing shots of the Iowa cornfields seemed really obvious. And then Hannah couldn’t believe that the place she was renting was only $250 a month, and neither could I, because I can’t imagine any real estate in Australia for that price that would be worth living in. Also Hannah doesn’t need to lock her bike because this is Iowa! And then it got stolen anyway.

It seemed strange to me that the trailer showed Elijah joining Hannah in Iowa and not Adam, since Hannah was so worried about the long distance stuff, but it made much more sense when I found out that Eijah just showed up on his own, because that’s who Elijah is. After Hannah’s “ordeal” (that’s what she thought it was anyway) of her story being workshopped, seeing Elijah, or at least someone from home, is exactly what she needed. And it seemed like she almost forgot about Adam because Elijah made her go out and enjoy herself. Then she told the other girl (“I’m 25, I’ve seen a lot of things”) not to worry about her boyfriend cheating on her, so that girl she was trying to comfort at the time was basically her subconscious. Still, Hannah having fun at a party is better than Hannah trying to manipulate Marnie into talking about Adam. Props to Marnie for knowing exactly what’s happening there, but she really shouldn’t be knitting that scarf for Desi.

And now for the meta of it all. Hannah’s story is about a girl who had an abusive experience with her boyfriend, and her classmates called her out for being a priviliged girl and trivialising the actual issues of abuse, which is not too different to criticisms that have been made of Dunham’s writing on Girls. Hannah is a less actualised version of Lena Dunham, and as I said earlier. Later at the bar, Hannah asks one of her classmates if she really believed what she said about the story, and she did. Hannah is so myopic that she just assumes that this classmate is a victim of abuse. Then her classmate tells her that these workshops are just a small scale version of what happens to a writer when their work is published to a wider audience. I don’t know exactly what Dunham thinks of her critics (given her friendship with Taylor Swift, I’m sure she doesn’t mind that much), but these scenes seem to indicate where she was when she first heard the criticisms of her show compared to where she is now that Girls is in its fourth season.

Other thoughts:

  • Hannah’s card didn’t go through, and she dropped her phone in the creek in addition to her phone being stolen.
  • Hannah was running late for class, so she went in her pyjamas! I wish I lived close enough to campus to be able to do that when I was doing my Masters
  • I love that Hannah’s parents are really involved in their scrabble game
  • Elijah on Iowa, proving that he’s the best: “On the way over from the airport, two people asked me if I was Blake Lively’s husband. It’s so exciting!”
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All the TV is back this week! And good news from the TCA

I had a really weird day at work today; I was bitten by jumping jacks and had to get to the doctor, and then it took two hours to get home instead of the usual 45 minutes. Consequently I haven’t had much time to watch or read anything for a review. So I’m going to go through some of the television shows I’m excited to see that have just returned or are returning soon, and I’ll highlight some of my favourite panels that were held at the Television Critics’ Association Press Tour throughout the month.

As I hinted yesterday, there’s a large amount of television shows returning to Australia this week. Justified’s final season begins Wednesday January 21 on FX Australia, and the second season of Broad City is slightly delayed and begins on the same day. In addition, Olive Kitteridge, Girls and Looking all began on showcase. I have no idea how I’m going to watch all of these shows now that Jane the Virgin is also back on, given that they all seem to be on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s going to be an interesting time – I have begun to prefer the shorter seasons: Girls, Looking and Broad City are all half-hour shows with ten episodes each, Olive Kitteridge is a four part miniseries, and Justified is an hour long (plus whatever FX gives Graham Yost) thirteen episode season. Jane the Virgin has been given a full 22 episode season and a renewal for a second season, which means there’s slightly more commitment involved, but I’m getting used to it.

In other news, one of my favourite twice-yearly events is the Television Critics Association Press Tour, with one held in January and another held in July. All of the American television networks are invited and hold press conferences about the state of their network as well as panels for individual shows. There are some arguments that this particular form of promotion is outdated, but with the rise of cable television at the end of the 20th and original scripted programming on streaming services since 2013, the press tour has been a useful promotional platform for emerging networks and streaming services. One of the big things that happened during Press Tour is that SO MANY RELEASE DATES were announced. Here’s the schedule for April in the United States (I’ll find Australian release dates where they’re available).

April

  • Saturday 4th: Outlander Season 1 Part 2
  • Sunday 5th: Mad Men Season 7 Part 2 (last 7 episodes ever!); Wolf Hall
  • Friday 10th: Daredevil (Netflix)
  • Sunday 12th: Game of Thrones Season 5, Veep Season 4, Silicon Valley Season 2
  • Saturday 18th: Orphan Black Season 3
  • Sunday 26th: Penny Dreadful Season 2

That’s going to be a busy month, even if I don’t watch Penny Dreadful and I’m not particularly excited for Daredevil (I’m not a big fan of comic book shows).

I’m also quite lazy tonight, so here are some links to some of my favourite panels that were held during the tour (Thanks to Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg over at Hitfix for live-blogging the panels).

Programming Note: I’m trying to figure out how to have a job, write job applications because I’m halfway through a six month contract, and review pop culture at the same time. I have a long weekend coming up, so I hope that I’ll be able to write a few drafts in that time.

Girls, Season 4 Episode 1: “Iowa”

I watch so many television shows that I have very little time for Girls nowadays. Not because I like it less than I used to (which is also true), but mainly because I live with three other people, two of whom don’t like the show very much. So I watched “Iowa” five days after it aired, thanks to DVR magic. I haven’t watched Girls since last year’s phenomenal “Beach House”, but I basically knew what was going on with all of the characters with the exception of Jessa, because no one ever knows what’s going on with Jessa.

The thing that struck me most about “Iowa” is that it was structured really well. The first scene of the episode is a call-back to the very first scene of the series, except instead of Hannah’s parents telling her that they’re cutting her off, they’re toasting her success at getting into the Iowa Writers Workshop. And Adam is there! All of this highlights how far Hannah has come since the pilot – she’s still broke and will have even more student loans, but it’s a step towards what she wants to be doing, and she has a great boyfriend. She’s still pretty selfish, but so are all these girls. Speaking of Adam, he’s getting acting jobs in commercials, but he doesn’t seem to like doing them very much (that anti-depressant ad was pretty awful, and I still find it strange that prescription medication is allowed to advertise on television in the United States). Adam is making money, but he doesn’t like the sorts of jobs he’s doing to make that money, which seems a lot like where Hannah was when she was working for GQ.

One of the reasons I don’t like Girls as much as I used to is because the characters aren’t as relatable as they used to be. I like that Hannah is trying to have a long distance relationship with Adam, I’ve been through long distance and it sucks, but Marnie is so far gone from where she was at the beginning of the show that I barely recognise her. In the first season, Marnie was in an unhappy relationship, and even though she wanted to break up with Charlie, she found it really hard to be single after having been in a relationship that long. Girls is the only show that I’ve seen that recognises that even if you don’t want to be in a relationship anymore, it’s really difficult to not have that person around all the time and it’s incredibly lonely. Now Marnie is sleeping with a guy who has a girlfriend (did she think they broke up?), and she got freaked out by some kids who were running around at her jazz brunch performances. The best part of this storyline is that Elijah (Andrew Rannells is now a series regular!) told her that if she wants to be in this business, she needs to develop a thicker skin. How had no one told her that before? I also think, based on the previews for next week’s episode that Hannah is going to learn a similar lesson.

So it was an okay episode! I didn’t love it the way I loved the first season, but the commitment of sending Hannah to Iowa is something I’m really looking forward to.

Other thoughts:

  • We meet Shosh’s parents! They’re called Mel and Mel, and I just had to say that this show has been so good at casting parents; when I heard that Rita Wilson was Marnie’s mother, that was perfect, and Ana Gasteyer is equally perfect.
  • Shosh also displays some degree of self-awareness when she apologises to Ray, which is interesting. Perhaps her issues with failing some of her final semester subjects actually led to some introspection, which is more than can be said for the other three girls.
  • I really don’t have much to say about Jessa, except everything she ever says is full of shit. What does she even want? It feels like she’s just there for no reason.
  • I’m really sad that Hannah didn’t even wake Adam up to say goodbye to him, that’s not what I would have done. Based on my experience, I would have been inconsolable.
  • Hannah and Marnie seem to have moved past that Elijah argument.
  • I think it’s a real problem that the most interesting characters on a show called Girls are all men.