“Iowa” threw so many different plotlines in the air last week that this mostly Hannah (Lena Dunham) episode felt a little isolating, though considering she just made the move from New York City to Iowa City, that might very well be the point.
This week’s “Triggering,” written by Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, feels like a series of vignettes united only thematically by big city Hannah struggling to catch a break in Iowa. She even goes on a (not well-received) rant about how TMI is an outdated term because “there’s no such thing as too much information.” Hannah is used to NYC mirroring back her over-the-top personality, but here she’s mostly met with annoyance from classmates and campus bookstore employees alike. The problem is that all of this becomes abundantly clear early on, but then the episode keeps repeating that point without progressing the narrative.
From the first shot of Iowa cornstalks blowing in the wind set to plucky guitar music, I could see what was coming – Hannah’s going to love Iowa’s quaint charms but then quite soon she will see the cornfields for what they really are. While Hannah writes short stories idealizing amber waves of grain, farmers in Iowa actually make a living off that corn. Well the first part comes true almost immediately, but unfortunately the larger perspective that Hannah could hear and then ignore does not come. Hannah loves Iowa because she can get almost a whole house for the price of a cramped New York apartment and hears she doesn’t have to lock her bike, but then her house has bats and her bike gets stolen. The fairly predictable cityslicker-in-the-country story gets belabored, which is particularly strange as Hannah is supposed to be from the East Lansing, Michigan which is, in fact, smaller than Iowa City so it frankly seems unbelievable that she is so thrown for a loop.
The closest we get to a larger Iowan perspective is Hannah’s Writers Workshop classmates who uniformly hate her short story, which in their defense is a fictionalized account of the time she took four Quaaludes and asked her boyfriend to punch her. They sound like a chorus of Girls detractors criticizing her privilege and finding it hard to discern where the author ends and the story begins. The thing is only one of her classmates seem to be any more sympathetic or thoughtful than Hannah, while the others come off as just as obnoxious as her but in a different way, though noticeably more diverse than the cast of Girls has ever been. Who knew you had to move to Iowa to find all the people of color?
Anyway, Hannah continues to make excuses about her writing and ignores claims that it is useful to hear other perspectives on her work, but how this vignette coalesces with the previous one is hard to discern. Perhaps this is just part of a long-term set up for a future catastrophe, but for now I just felt a little uncomfortable and slightly bored.
The closest we get to understanding how Hannah is relating with Iowa is that she tells her parents she is maybe thinking about suicide for the first time ever, so I guess that’s something. Then as soon as Hannah arrives home to “metabolize her notes and integrate them into her writing,” she finds Elijah (Andrew Rannells) walking out of her shower. As always Elijah ups the comedy of any scene he is in and made it so Girls isn’t just the Hannah show with a brief check-in from everyone else, but his intrusion whisks her away from any hope of a unified story. Elijah managed to find a rager on his way from the airport which leads to a fun setpiece of them dancing to “Get Low”. There are some great moments like when Hannah comforts a girl sobbing about her boyfriend cheating on her by rehashing an explicit speech Elijah likely told her to keep her head up about Adam – and then promptly cuts the poor girl in line for the bathroom.
After the rager Hannah sums up her feelings with a nice little bow, “I want to go back to undergrad school. I don’t like grad school.” Of course the party was just a way for Hannah to distance herself from her problems, but Girls just doesn’t work well when it can be summed up with couple pithy sentences and a crane shot.