Girls, Season 4, Episode 2, “Triggering”
January 18, 2015, 9:00 p.m. (EST), HBO
Hannah going through a writers’ workshop and getting criticism from several burgeoning writers with their own perspectives and hangups is the sort of scene Girls lives to revel in, and at least part of the reason, I suspect, that the show sent Hannah to Iowa. This sort of intense, pointed feedback, and the microagressions and intense reactions it provokes is both totally realistic and perfectly within this show’s wheelhouse. It’s a thing Girls is perfectly suited for, and though the scene is brief, it shows just how well-suited the show is for this sort of storyline.
“Triggering” runs into some problems acclimating Hannah to Iowa, and when it does, it leans for easy solutions. Instead of giving us the episode we needed, where Hannah feels lost and alone in a new place, it magics Elijah into her apartment to be a temporary cure-all to her anxieties, fears, and impending adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I am never upset to see Elijah show up and be amazing and awful in equal measures, but his presence here felt like a cop out from the story this episode really should have been telling, like Girls was afraid to give a half hour over to what Hannah looks like finding her way in a new place with some less immediately forgiving people.
As a result, it sort of loses sight of what it might be trying to say about Hannah, who veers from excited about Iowa’s cost of living to intellectually contemplating suicide, and then loses her arc entirely in favor of drunken excess. All of this feels very much in character for Hannah, and that her crisis results in her running to an undergrad party makes perfect sense, but it still feels like an act of narrative cowardice from the show, like the series got halfway into a story it was afraid of telling. Even that peer critique scene feels like it only gets three-quarters of the way there, for how fiercely the students criticize and engage with Hannah’s piece. Real pain doesn’t come from someone hating your work; it comes from someone reading it and coming away with nothing. What Hannah experiences here, and throughout the episode, feels too tailored to her expectations and her desires. “Triggering” is too far inside Hannah’s perspective, to the point that it loses the reality that can make this show so bracing.
The episode is funny throughout, but rarely in the ways the best Girls episodes are. It feels like it is over-extending itself to find the satire, or to land the laughs, instead of really engaging with the people and the places it finds itself and figuring out just how they are flawed and funny in their own right. This episode puts the jokes before the resonance, and ultimately, that hurts both. “Triggering” isn’t a bad episode of Girls so much as it is constantly running away from being a good one. Every time it comes close to making the right decision, it reverts to making the easier one. And while it is fun to watch, it feels lacking as a result. “Triggering” is the lie we tell ourselves before we adjust to the truth of a new chapter. Let’s just hope the show is smart enough to recognize that in the weeks to come.
- “Two thumbs the fuck up.” “Does that mean you want it?”
- “The customer’s always right.” “Thank you.” “That’s…not true, though…”
- “Gut-wrenching. And not asking to wrench our guts. Just wrenching them.”
- “TMI is such an outdated concept. There’s no such thing as too much information. This is the information age! We’re all just here to express ourselves, so its like, to censor each other? We’re no better than…George W. Bush.”
- “I hope some day I know the passion that Huck feels for Quinn.”
- “I love you so much. I just hate everyone that isn’t you.” “Me too! I’ve been saying that for years!”
- “Is this what happens at every party?” “Every party I’m at…”
“Triggering” runs into some problems acclimating Hannah to Iowa, and when it does, it leans for easy solutions.