TV Talk: GIRLS 2.05 “One Man’s Trash”

Dunham and co. try something new this week, with mostly ineffectual results. 

Girls could so easily be a lighthearted comedy about a girl in her 20s skipping from man to man, power-clashing and drinking martinis with her girlfriends, and I appreciate that it attempts to do something more. Something a little more challenging and unconventional and less palatable to the average TV viewer. I appreciate that about Girls, but I also acknowledge that it doesn't always work. 

"One Man's Trash" does not work. 

I suspect the failure of the episode is due to a couple of different factors. For one, I think it's too early in the season to introduce an all-Hannah episode. Sure, last season's "The Return," which focuses entirely on Hannah's visit home to her parents, aired around this point in the season, but the first season kicked off with a more liberal use of all four ladies. Season Two has felt sorely lacking in the Shoshanna and Jessa departments, and while we got to visit with them some last week (and I agree with Sarah that some real emotional beats were met on both scores), we still haven't seen nearly enough of them. Season Two has very much been The Hannah Show. And lo and behold, here we have an entire episode of The Hannah Show. I like Hannah (usually), but I don't like The Hannah Show. I miss the other Girls.

I'm also officially not a fan of Richard Sheperd's direction. He's directed three of my least favorite episodes of the series: "Hannah's Diary," in which Marnie reacts way over the top by throwing a drink in Hannah's face and calling her a bitch, "Leave Me Alone," including the way over the top "You're the wound" fight between Marnie and Hannah, and this week's episode, which was - no surprise - way over the top. Hannah's emotional "breakthrough" felt abrupt and weird and unlikely. Actually, everything in this episode felt abrupt and weird and unlikely. 

For instance, I'm having trouble buying that a wealthy, seemingly normal and very nice doctor who looks like Patrick Wilson would willingly invite Hannah's brand of crazy into his impeccable brownstone for 48 straight hours, particularly when she's even ruder and odder than usual, asking him how he ruined his marriage, declaring herself too smart and sensitive, fainting in the shower, sobbing in his bed and then accusing him of not wanting to hear her problems. I'm having credibility issues with every part of this episode, and for the first time, I'm really growing to dislike Hannah. I have no problem with unlikable protagonists, but they need to be unlikable in fully realized, interesting ways. Hannah's selfishness is starting to feel stagnant and gratuitous. 

And it's too bad, because "One Man's Trash" contains some ideas that, if handled with more subtlety, would make for great emotional progress for Hannah. I like the idea of her experimenting with materialism and finally acknowledging to herself that she wouldn't mind living in a Nancy Meyers movie, since Hannah's "money means nothing to me" philosophy has always rung patently untrue. And I think Hannah's realization that she wants happiness and comfort and love could make for a really beautiful discovery if it hadn't come in the form of her realizing that sleeping with hot doctors on expensive sheets is fun. No shit, Hannah. You're 24, you're tired of your crummy apartment and Patrick Wilson is gorgeous. You're not discovering that you want a true commitment here, you're discovering that you like handsome men and crown molding.

If she were interested in a true emotional connection, maybe she would have given as much as she took this week. The exchange "Make me come," "No, make ME come," perfectly distillates the way Hannah treats this, for lack of a better word, relationship. When Joshua begins to talk about his marriage, she changes the subject. When he admits to a handjob from an older boy when he was little, a surely vulnerable and potentially heartbreaking confession, she blows it off as unequal to her possibly fictional story because "you let him do it." And then she accuses Joshua of refusing to confide in her! She forces him to beg her to stay. She repeatedly calls him Josh even though he doesn't like it. She's awful from the first minute they're together, and we're meant to expect that he'd blow off work to play topless ping-pong with this girl? 

As irritating and feckless as I found this episode, I do think it began and ended well. Hannah's "sexit" exchange with Ray was small but real, and more importantly, her quiet dismay in Joshua's empty brownstone might have indicated some self-awareness for the first time this season. Like last week, when Hannah suddenly called Charlie a jerk for the way he's treated Marnie in what's been a very tough few months for her - hopefully these are tiny steps toward a somewhat more bearable Hannah. Maybe when she took out Joshua's trash, she was making a silent statement that she knows she treated him selfishly when he was nothing but kind to her. Maybe when she stood up for Marnie, she was acknowledging that Marnie needs and deserves her friendship right now. 

And maybe the encouraging fact that next week's episode is titled "Boys" means that The Hannah Show has come, at long last, to an end. Here's hoping.