Girls season premiere recap: 'Iowa'
Welcome to Girls recaps, or as I call this show: The Show You Love to Talk About Even Though You Hate Yourself A Little for Talking About It. What will the fourth season bring? Will Hannah thrive at grad school? (Probably not.) Will Marnie be tolerable? (Probably not.) Will I find myself attracted to Adam Driver? (Probably.) Let’s get started.
The fourth season begins with a deliberate homage to the pilot. Yet again we find Hannah at dinner with her parents, but this time they are not cutting her off from their financial support. They are ushering her into her new life as a grad student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Do not for one second think that this Hannah has changed, though. After her father gives her a lovely toast, Hannah raises her glass: “I just want to say that even in the moments when superficially it didn’t seem like you were supporting me and it seemed like you were criticizing my choices and doubting my talent, I know that you were supporting me in your own way.” Ah, that’s the Hannah we know and (sort of/not really) love.
Adam then comes bursting doing his best James Dean in a leather jacket while complaining about his audition. They are still together following their fight at the end of last season, and his acting career is happening if not flourishing—he’s in a depression medication commercial—though he does have a Norman Reedus connection now. He toasts, “To Hannah, taking the next step in a series of random steps.” Somehow we don’t think distance is going to be helpful for these crazy kids. But first, let us check in with our other titular girls.
Marnie: There have been trend pieces about how the derriere is getting a lot of attention these days, and Marnie is, ahem, on board with this trend: The opening shot of the season finds Desi’s face buried in Marnie’s ass. He comes up for air (?) and says, “I love that.” Marnie, being Marnie, answers: “I love you, too.” So, Marnie is carrying on with Desi, who, surprise, surprise, is still dating Clementine. This is revealed during Marnie and Desi’s jazz brunch set, at which basically the whole cast gathers, but more on that later…
Shoshanna: Shoshanna’s graduating! Well, she’s not walking in a processional in a cap and gown or anything, she’s just being told that her diploma will be mailed to her. But her divorced parents are there and they are both named Mel—Melvin (Anthony Edwards) and Melanie (Ana Gasteyer). She later reveals: “Both of my parents are named Mel. It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me. And it was like the first thing that ever happened to me.”
Jessa: And Jessa. Jessa is still working for Beadie, the photographer, but that is coming to an end with the arrival of Beadie’s ridiculously dressed daughter (like Elaine Stritch meets deranged baseball player) played by none other than Natasha Lyonne. Beadie’s daughter is, predictably, mad that Jessa tried to help Beadie commit suicide, and is taking Beadie to live with her. She uses her anger as an excuse to rant about Jessa’s generation, thereby parroting every person on the Internet. Jessa obeys. “Tell me you love me more than her,” Jessa asks Beadie. Beadie replies in the affirmative.
All four girls gather at Marnie’s brunch gig, along with Marnie’s iPhone-toting mom (Rita Wilson) and Elijah. (Aside: God bless Elijah.) The whole enterprise is ill-fated from the beginning, given that the aforementioned Clementine shows up, and Elijah’s ex, Pal (Danny Strong), is there brunching with the Lisas, who are, according to Elijah, the “laziest bulimics you’ve ever met.” (Again, thank you for Elijah, Girls writers.) Jessa shows up declaring, “yo, necrophiliacs,” and blows off Hannah, who wants to hang out before leaving for Iowa. During a bathroom encounter, Jessa reveals that she’s actually pissed at Hannah for leaving after she told Jessa to come back to New York. So Hannah’s set to leave with Jessa angry and Adam detached from her. During the gig, Hannah asks Adam what he’s thinking about. Nothing, according to him.
Marnie’s music is predictably bad, Lisa Loeb-wannabe type stuff. Allison Williams has a lovely voice, which is at least one thing that Peter Pan Live! proved, but she makes it nasal and unbearable here. During the first song she attempts to connect with Desi on stage, something made all the more awkward by the fact that, yes, Clementine is present. But speaking of people Marnie has slept with, Ray shows up at the brunch. (Why is he there?) Shoshanna leaves the table and meets him at the door. He’s oddly smiley as she apologizes to him for trying to pressure him into getting back together. He gives her a long, awkward hug.
The second song, written for Hannah, dreadfully titled “Onward and Inward” is where things go south for Marnie. (“Woa-oh-oh, goodbye, friend” is a lyric in this song.) The ruckus of the place and screaming children provoke her to stop and she runs outside to cry. Elijah tries to give her a pep talk to inspire her with Judy Garland and Lady Gaga and tell her that the business is not for “sissy bitches.”
Later that night we find Hannah and Adam at their apartment, each grappling with their lack of certainty about their future, and their unspecified plans about how to go forward with their relationship. Hannah is leaving her stuff at the apartment, something which Adam says he likes, even though she’s not paying rent. Adam explains that he is, “shit on the phone,” when they talk about staying in touch, which is one of the more unsurprising facts about a character I’ve ever heard. They have boring, missionary sex, a sign of how domestic this once messed up couple has become.
In the morning Hannah is getting ready to go while Adam remains asleep. Marnie, who bailed after the concert, shows up at the door bearing coffee cups. While they work on zipping Hannah’s suitcase, the two hug in a way that reminds us that they are really great friends, a fact the show seems to forget sometimes. Before leaving Hannah goes into the bedroom to wake Adam, but doesn’t try very hard. She mostly just stands and stares at him. He opens his eyes right after she leaves. So they leave in a tango of passiveness. As the car engine starts, Adam looks out the window. And then Hannah’s off. As her parents argue in the front seat about whether she’ll want a snack, she’s in the back looking petrified, still, essentially, a child.
Elijah on uptown: “I woke in Harlem smelling like moussaka and I didn’t have time to go home and change. There’s a lot of really exciting things happening above 125th street that I am very happy to know about.”
Elijah on Pal: “If we lived anywhere else, I would never have to worry about seeing him. Because he would have already killed himself for being so small and gay.”
Shoshanna on folk singers: “Female folksingers remind me of being carsick when I was little.”
Marnie on her music: “Some of those songs were about death.”
Marnie on Hannah’s packing skills: “You put a vase in the suitcase?”
Video recap: Now watch yours truly and EW‘s Ashley Fetters discuss the episode: