February 15, 2015, 9:00 p.m. (EST), HBO
If Hannah’s sojourn in Iowa was about the way she let an opportunity curdle before her eyes, “Sit-in” is about the consequences of her “free-spirited” choice to leave her life behind without firming anything up in the process. Let’s be clear about this: Adam, with his live-in girlfriend just a month after Hannah left for Iowa, is the one in the wrong here. But where earlier this season “Iowa” made Adam and Jessa seem petulant for expressing their feelings that Hannah was abandoning them, “Sit-in” makes it clear that those feelings were in some sense valid. It isn’t Hannah’s departure that was wrong; its how she chose to handle it with the people she cared about. She was so in denial, so convinced nothing would change, that she took no time to comfort those in her life who most needed comforting, or to lay out what she would need and to listen in return to what they might require to keep something resembling the status quo. Hannah didn’t just leave New York City. She ran away from her life there, and didn’t do the requisite work to ensure it would be waiting for her when she came back.
It isn’t clear here that Hannah is back for good, but what read to me as a brief idyll in New York City at the end of last week has a crushing permanence as Hannah curls up on her couch in the storage unit, sitting in an aisle marked “Clearance,” her value and usefulness in her old life quietly underlined by the fact that her friends have all moved on. Hannah blows back into town in crisis, and while Shosh shows up in a moment (feeding on drama like this is classic Shoshanna), the rest of her friends take longer to materialize. Ray has his community board and his noise pollution issues. Marnie has a “no cell phones” policy when she is with Desi. And Adam, well, his time away from Hannah made him realize things between them weren’t really working, and gave him the space to move on.
I don’t really buy how quickly this is all supposed to have happened. Adam having a live-in girlfriend a month after Hannah leaves is a little far-fetched to say the least. But it makes a metaphorical sense, underlining for Hannah the dark side of the freedom she felt cutting ties and leaving her life behind just a few short weeks ago. Hannah was going to leave and return transformed. But in the process, she left behind many of the people who care most about her, without so much as a hint that she would be coming back for them.
The final scene between Adam and Hannah is gut-wrenching in large part because it feels right, somehow. Dunham and Driver have always been great together, but they have rarely been better than here, as Adam honestly lays out the fact that he has moved on, and Hannah is forced to come to terms with the simple fact that Adam doesn’t love her anymore, that he wants to be with someone else instead. Last season laid out a lot of the problems in their relationship, and even if, as with most serialized plots on Girls, it feels like we skipped several steps to get to this climax, it is one that we should have seen coming. So, perhaps, should Hannah. She never took her doubts about Adam as seriously as she took her tendency to get swept up in him, even until the end. She is hit over the head with how drastically his conception of them has changed, but it isn’t that drastic at the end of the day. This has been a decision that has been a long time coming. Hannah was just looking anywhere else to avoid seeing the elephant growing in the corner.
“Sit-in” is one of those tight, closely-observed episodes of Girls that mark the series best episodes. The way the episode is chunked up into little two-handers that run the gamut from silly and fun to scarring and ugly in their honesty is a thing to behold, and the episode takes smart advantage of the fact that most of this supporting cast is never better than when bouncing off Hannah. She came back to find her life packed away out of sight. The world kept turning while she was out in space, and where she’s landed is something that may take her a while to surmise. She’s lost something in the process. But maybe, over time, she can gain something as well.
- “That’s not a name. That’s a woman’s name and a man’s name with a flower stuck in the middle!”
- “No, you don’t know Hannah. She’ll stay in there until we have a new president. She’s stubborn as fuck and likes to be in bed a lot.”
- “You, and me, and Jessa and or slash Marnie, are totally going to get through this if they ever pick up or call back. Also, you have totally lost weight, and that is a definite.”
- “This feels like a puzzle. A puzzle with no solution. Like a Rubik’s Cube!” “Those actually do have solutions.” “Yeah, if you take all the stickers off and re-stick them.”
- “Thanks for stopping by, kid.” “Thank you for stopping by. But maybe don’t call me kid…anymore…”
“Sit-in” is one of those tight, closely-observed episodes of Girls that mark the series best episodes.