Hannah ditches Iowa; Ray yells at cars.
Credit: HBO
S4 E4
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Girls is in many ways a show about twentysomething inertia, about the patterns you fall into when you’re young and aimless and prone to act stupidly. So that fact is what made Hannah’s move to Iowa at the beginning of this season welcome and surprising. It’s hard to be inert when you overhaul your life, except for when you’re Hannah Horvath. Hannah and Iowa weren’t meant to be, and now Hannah is being drawn back into the clutches of her old life.

But this episode isn’t only about professional pitfalls. It’s also about the changing dynamics between the couples on the show. In one case those dynamics change for the better (Shosh and Ray!); in the other cases, it’s seriously unclear.

Shoshanna (and Ray)

Things get off to an ominous start during yet another disastrous job interview for Shoshanna. Karma, it seems, has caught up with her. After a rejection, Shoshanna, dressed in a suit that seems like it belongs in the den of some Upper East Side penthouse, asks her McKinsey interviewer to tell her what is wrong with her. The woman seems to relish this opportunity, telling Shosh that she has an “off-putting style” and that “it’s problematic” that she lacks “certain sensitivity.”

Despondent about the job search, Shosh wanders to Ray’s neighborhood, in a not so subtle attempt to see him. She finds Ray in the middle of the street yelling at cars. A traffic light has been causing incessant honking, which has been driving Ray insane, and turning him into, yes, the type of person who yells at cars. Shosh tags along during Ray’s errands, convincing him to forgo his regular trip to Forest Hills to buy his shirts and underwear. They end up in a trendy store, where Shosh encourages Ray to upgrade his style: “Your entire life you’ve been saying to the world that you are loser who doesn’t care and that’s not true anymore. I watched that happen.” He replies: “You made that happen.”

Shosh uses the shopping trip as confession time. She explains to to Ray that she was why their relationship ended, but that she did love him. Even though she doesn’t want to get back together (“that ship has sailed”) she says: “I like knowing that I did love you because it makes me think that I might be capable of something else great someday.”

It’s a genuinely sweet moment that actually makes me hope these two characters do get back together. It’s also a sign of improvement for Shosh. Even though Shosh is finding her transition to the real world difficult, she is growing in some aspects of her life. So many of the relationships on this show are toxic, but Shosh and Ray seem to be developing something mutually beneficial, wherein they encourage and support each other.

Marnie (and Desi)

Despite Marnie’s straight-talk session with Desi in the last episode, she and the Worst Human continue to make music, about which Marnie continues to be annoyingly enthusiastic.

The girls minus Hannah gather at a bar, showing that they do, sometimes, still hang out together. Marnie commits a cardinal sin and asks the bartender to turn down the bar’s music so that she can make Jessa listen to her and Desi’s song via iPhone. Jessa’s assessment: “Well, you did it! You made a song?” Shosh’s assessment: It’s “a perfect song,” because it’s the type of song that you’ll hate at first, but will be played so ubiquitously that it will eventually become beloved.

Still, it’s awkward between Marnie and Desi, who we observe writing a song with the lyrics “stars are stories.” Desi calls out the tension, which Marnie, tense, chooses to ignore.

But all that changes when he knocks on her door in the middle of the night. Looking all Stanley Kowalski in a wife-beater, Desi confesses that he told Clementine about their relationship and broke up with her. He’s emotional, to the extent that he can barely get out comprehensible words, but Marnie is clearly overjoyed. “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing, it’s so beautiful. You’re so emotional. This is so intense for you,” she coos. Only Desi spoils Marnie’s happiness when he reveals that he broke up with Clementine because she was thinking of sleeping with someone else and he assumes she already has. (He obviously also has already slept with someone else: Marnie.) Marnie even asks if she dumped him, but he insists he “definitely” was the dumper. Marnie is still puzzled when Desi starts kissing her passionately and telling her he loves her. A huge smile crosses her face. It may not be a total victory, but she got what she wanted.

Hannah (and Adam…a bit)

Hannah begins the episode in a familiar state: not writing and complaining about not writing. She deems the story about not buying Thin Mints “trivial,” which, yes, Hannah. (Especially since she actually bought them.) But as she sits on her porch she seems to have a spark of inspiration.

That inspiration? To write a letter of “apology” to the classmates she offended during the poet party, and put that letter in their cubbies. Surprise! Hannah isn’t that great at apologies. To Hannah this is starting “anew;” to everyone else the letter is both offensive and defensive. In the letter Hannah argues that she “cannot think or write clearly” because of the negativity surrounding her, in an attempt to explain why being in Iowa has not been fruitful for her writing. When Jeffrey says that the letter was written like a LiveJournal Hannah crumples a copy up and throws it at him. She insists, just because she said “sorry… a bunch,” that it was a “heartfelt apology.”

After class, Hannah’s professor keeps her behind. The professor is kindly, given the prior events, telling Hannah she seems unhappy. (Well, duh.) Hannah argues, “academia is not totally natural for me. I thrive on the streets. I always have.” Hannah asks if she’s getting kicked out. The professor tells her she isn’t. “Because for a second I thought I was getting kicked out and I was so happy,” Hanna says. Hannah, of course, wasn’t really thriving on “the streets” of New York, but she also clearly doesn’t belong in Iowa.

At dinner, Hannah’s dad reveals that Hannah’s mother tried to write a book and quit because she was “miserable.” Is this what Hannah should do too? Hannah complains that she feels “trapped” in Iowa but can’t leave because of how that will appear to others. “No one” leaves the program, she insists. Her dad encourages her to follow her own path. “All I’m saying is that sometimes the stupidest f—king decision in the world is the right decision for you,” he says.

And guess what Hannah resolves to do? Surprise, surprise, she heads back to New York. It was easy to predict that the show wasn’t going to keep Hannah in Iowa for an entire season, and it frames her return to the city as triumphant. The city even looks gorgeous as Hannah makes her way back in a cab, window open. This sequence looks like a liberating moment for Hannah, as if she has finally made a decision that will move her life forward—even if she’s only retreading her steps. Hannah likely hasn’t actually learned anything from her experience in Iowa. She didn’t mature, she just ran away from the possibility of maturing.

But that sense of triumph clearly isn’t going to last. Back in New York, she goes straight to her apartment to find Adam. As she puts her key in the door, it opens and she finds a woman, specifically Gillian Jacobs of Community. Mimi-Rose. Adam emerges and Hannah goes to embrace him. He is like a board. Hannah looks around the apartment. Her stuff is gone. “Is this your roommate?” Hannah asks. Adam says no and everyone stares at each other. Adam looks petrified. Mimi-Rose looks smug. Hannah looks pissed.


  • “F—k Phil Donahue.” – Jessa, perfect out of context
  • Speaking of Jessa: Not much Jessa this episode.
  • “This article, made of pictures, about how fat kids make for slutty adults” —what Elijah is working on in Iowa
  • Grad student Jeffrey was camping with his fraternity. Grad students are in fraternities?

Episode Recaps

Four young ladies live in New York City, and it’s SO hard.
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