Girls Recap: ‘Iowa,’ Season 4, Episode 1

by | January 12, 2015
filed under Pop Culture

Allison Williams as Marnie in "Iowa"

Allison Williams as Marnie in “Iowa”

So this episode is basically an extended piece of exposition; however, I am fine with that.

We have now clearly established what the stakes of the season are and what the obstacles might be for the respective “girls’” character growth.

First of all, we start with an awesomely realistic and hilarious opening scene. Hannah is celebrating the imminent start of her master’s degree at a fancy dinner with her parents.

They’re proud of her, but her mom still has an undercurrent of judgment, as we see when Hannah attempts to order fries but mom insists she does not “need” them. Come on, who ever needs anything at a super fancy restaurant? All the food is usually doused in butter anyway, whether it’s broccoli or straight up fried potatoes. If they’re tasty, let the girl eat her fries!

That epic toast, however, was my favourite part of the episode. Seeing Hannah passive-aggressively thanking her parents for their support over the years was awkwardly hilarious. She calls them out for the fact that sometimes they didn’t seem supportive of her dreams at all, but then snarkily adds that she “knows” they were secretly on her side in “their own way.”

Hannah calling out her parents is the sort of relatable moment that makes the show so worthwhile. I, for one, can understand those times when you succeed and are happy to have succeeded, but you can’t resist the opportunity to call out your former detractors. Of course, it’s not a mature thing to do, but it would seem as if Hannah has not yet completely matured. She’s moving forward by going to grad school, but that doesn’t mean she’s done learning and growing.

Hannah, however, isn’t completely happy about her move to Iowa. Adam refuses to talk about how their long-distance relationship is going to work because he doesn’t want to create “drama.” Are they just floating into a breakup without officially talking about it?

Is Hannah moving away the easy way for this couple to wean themselves off their codependent bond without having to do the adult and terrifying thing of simply declaring it over? Jessa thinks so. In a bathroom during a Jazz brunch, Jessa straight up tells Hannah to woman up, that if she wants to be alone, she should just be alone.

Jessa thinks Hannah wants to stay in New York but is only going to grad school in Iowa as a way of escaping Adam. This is possible, but part of me hopes Hannah really does want to attend the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As someone who is serious about her craft, this seems like a fabulous opportunity that I really hope she appreciates.

As a viewer, I’m rooting for Hannah to grow up enough to know that Iowa is more than a backdoor breakup strategy. It’s the chance to work with some of the best writing instructors in the world. It’s an enormous privilege to attend this program, but then again, Hannah has never been very in touch with her privilege.

As for Marnie, she’s probably evolving least of all. She and Desi are still in a musical duo performing together, but now they’re also sleeping together. They’re even declaring their love for each other during sex; however, Desi still hasn’t broken up with his girlfriend from last season, Clementine.

After Clementine apologizes to Marnie for previously having accused her of trying to hook up with her partner, Marnie even lies to poor Clem’s face, saying that she is not “remotely capable” of moving in on another girl’s significant other. The weird thing is that Marnie almost seems to believe her own bullshit ,despite the fact that she is f-cking this woman’s boyfriend, who has even claimed to be in love with Marnie!

Marnie hasn’t learned to take responsibility for romantic decisions; however, she also fails to commit fully to her art. During her “Jazz Brunch” performance with Desi, some children who don’t want to be there loudly proclaim they wish Marnie would just stop singing. Obviously, it’s very rude behaviour; however, any artist worth their salt knows that you have to play through the negativity sometimes.

Not everyone is going to like you and some mean people will be impolite about it when you’re not their cup of tea. Still, Marnie can’t get over her desire for everyone to love her. This is probably why she runs out of the Jazz Brunch when a couple of people don’t seem into her performance, but it is equally why she insists to Clementine that she and Desi are just artistic collaborators, not lovers.

Finally, Shoshanna has graduated from university! Now she needs to find a job and figure out what she’s passionate about. We’ve never really learned what Shosh loves. She has previously made vague comments about wanting to be a powerful career woman, but it was always fairly unclear what that career would be. Now Shosh must pinpoint what this dream really means to her. That’s exciting!

However, Shosh and Ray also shared a lingering hug at the Jazz brunch. Will Ray distract her from developing career goals? I hope not. Their relationship was always all-consuming, so I don’t know if it is wise for them to get back together. As many girls eventually learn, just because you have passionate feelings for someone, that doesn’t mean you should be with them. Has Shosh already learned this lesson? Or will she and Ray revisit their romantic partnership?

Ultimately, this season will be about whether or not our “girls” have developed the maturity to recognize opportunity and take advantage of it. Will they be distracted by petty squabbles or toxic relationships? Will they allow themselves to be so demoralized by their critics that they fail to move forward on their dreams?

Girls has always been the story of privileged white girls who have every resource and opportunity imaginable at their disposal, but somehow, these privileged girls cannot seem to get out of their own way. As we learn from Girls, advantages do not necessarily equal maturity or capability. I actually like that aspect of the show.

Of course, Girls is not a universally relatable show. Few people are upper-middle class white girls whose parents paid for them to go to prestigious liberal arts colleges. Still, how many people can relate to the story of Don Draper, a super wealthy ad man with a penthouse in Manhattan? We do not require critically acclaimed television about dudes to be universal, so there is a place for the myopic views of Girls in our culture.

Of course, this should not come at the exclusion of diversity. I do wish HBO would green light more projects about women of colour and LGBT women, but I do not hold Lena Dunham the artist primarily responsible for the fact that prestige cable only seems interested in certain projects.


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