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Girls: “Sit-In”

Lena Dunham
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Under ideal circumstances, Hannah would have been in Iowa for two years. Two years. 24 months. 104 weeks. 730 days. Whatever wordy number of minutes would be in the Rent conversion. It’s a long time to be without someone. “Sit-In” reframes the ramifications of Hannah’s decision to go to Iowa by forcing the audience to see it through the eyes of the people closest to her. “Iowa” did this too, especially with regard to Adam and Jessa, who were, by no accident, the two characters who bonded most in Hannah’s absence. But so much of that episode was filtered through Hannah’s perspective, when Adam and Jessa tried to express their abandonment, anxiety, and frustration, they came across passive-aggressive, insensitive, and unsupportive. “Sit-In” forces an alternate perspective, even while allowing plenty of space to feel sorry for Hannah during her emotional nadir.

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It should have been obvious how long of a stretch Hannah was committing to, given she was heading into an intensive graduate experience. But because Girls is so focused on Hannah, it’s been obvious to the audience from the outset her trip to Iowa wouldn’t be a long one, and the writers started laying the foundation for her departure only minutes after her arrival. During the entirety of Hannah’s short Iowa stay—it was a month, total—it’s been conceivable she might depart for Greenpoint pastures. At the very least, it’s been an unpleasant enough stay that if a close friend described the same circumstances and said they were considering leaving the program, you would probably encourage them to stay, but you’d fully understand if they withdrew and you’d probably view such a decision with some compassion. But that’s the advantage the audience has over the characters. Had Adam known how terrible things were going and how likely it seemed from day one that Hannah’s return was imminent, he might have kept a torch lit for her. He didn’t know that.

Viewed through that lens, Adam’s behavior in “Iowa” comes across differently than it did at the time. When Hannah kept pressing him to come up with a game plan for their relationship in her absence, his resistance read like a temper tantrum. In light of the two-year time frame, it’s reasonable of Adam to resist Hannah’s demand for reassurance. It really should be against the law to tell someone you’ll always love them, because who knows? But even two years of jogging in place is a really tall request. It’s understandable why Adam would react so coldly to that decision. To the person being left, it feels like, “You know good and damn well we might not be in the same place two years from now, and you’re leaving anyway, so the outcome must not mean that much to you after all.” That’s a bitter pill to swallow. Then Adam met Mimi-Rose—through Jessa, no less—and just like Hannah, he saw an opportunity that seemed promising and took it. It could have easily ended up the other way around, with Hannah taking solace in the arms of some emotionally shrewd writer-type while weird, aloof Adam galumphed around Brooklyn awaiting the guillotine.

The final scene between Hannah and Adam is wrenching, thanks in large part to Lena Dunham, who delivers at least one of the top three performances she’s given in this show, if not the best one. Credit also goes to Paul Simms and Max Brockman, whose finely-tuned script allows the audience to walk through Hannah’s thought process as Adam explains to her that what seems like a gut punch is actually a foregone conclusion. Adam has had as much time to think as Hannah has during her absence, but while she was wrestling with whether she ought to be so focus on writing, he was wrestling with whether he ought to be so focused on Hannah. He concluded he shouldn’t.

The one component of “Sit-In” that feels off-pitch is Mimi-Rose’s YouTube speech about how she learned at a young age she was willing to sacrifice a romantic relationship if there was any chance it would hinder her creative pursuits. It’s a bit convenient and on-the-nose for Hannah and Shosh to stumble upon a speech by Hannah’s romantic rival extolling the virtues of putting artistic aspirations ahead of romance. But it’s an expedient way to explain why Mimi-Rose might be right for Adam in a way Hannah isn’t. In cake-and-icing terms, Mimi-Rose sees a creatively satisfying, artistically fruitful life as the cake, and the partner to share that life with as the icing. Hannah sees it the other way around.

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Last season, the same considerations eroded Hannah and Adam’s relationship when he landed the role in the the play and she tried to take up the slack when Adam wanted space to prepare. Hannah and Adam are both needy in a way that requires a huge investment of time, energy, and focus, and because they relate to that need in each other, they would always be a hindrance to each other’s creative and professional goals. Mimi-Rose is the girl who would say, “Go into hiding while you prepare for your play and I’ll see you on opening night,” and she wouldn’t need much, if any, watering and maintenance in the interim. Hannah is the girl who dons a goofy wig and tries to goad Adam into sexual role play. They aren’t good for each other, and while Hannah might not see it now, she will eventually.

Hannah’s inability to see the silver lining yields some beautiful duets between Dunham and the rest of the cast, with Shosh’s visit a particular highlight. The scene with Jessa was great too, though Jessa is really beginning to try my patience. She seems to take perverse pleasure in seeing Hannah suffer as a result of her decision to leave, which is pretty ugly. But naturally, the worst of it is when Hannah is all alone, with no one to engage with her about her shifting emotional state. It would be bad enough if Hannah was enduring the uncomfortable solitude in her own apartment, in her own bed, but out of pride, she takes shelter in her storage space. It’s probably the perfect place for her. It’s freezing cold, uncomfortably silent, and it’s the place you go to drop off your extra baggage. Hannah’s always had some of that, but God knows she’s got some now.

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Stray observations:

  • Apologies for the crummy screen grab; there was no photography available for this week, so consider it a placeholder until I get something prettier.
  • Hannah did not seem comforted when Marnie suggested maybe she’s supposed to be Hannah’s artistic soulmate. This is a reasonable reaction, though a bratty one.
  • Mimi-Rose comes across much kinder and more appealing in this episode. The expression Gillian Jacobs makes at the end of “Cubbies” suggests a certain level of masochism under the facade, but she seems more sympathetic this week. Is there any ill that a cold-pressed juice can’t cure?
  • I suppose I should assume, when in doubt, that Adam is not friends with someone. But for some reason I thought Adam and Ray were closer friends, perhaps because he was willing to put up Adam and Jessa’s bail. They seemed weirdly hostile to each other in this episode.
  • “I was her whore,” says Ray of his relationship with Marnie. He’s not wrong.
  • Ray also refers to Desi as a “Mumford,” which is hilarious.
  • Marnie and Desi go on a “cell-phone diet” when they’re “woodshedding.” They need to get taken to the woodshed, alright.
  • Laird and Caroline are back! She’s very pregnant. Looks like those crazy kids are going to make it.
  • I can’t wait for Elijah’s reaction. I can’t even wait.
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