Hannah arrives in Iowa, and that state makes a stellar first impression on our protagonist. First off, she’s able to rent a gorgeous apartment with lots of quirky design features and a ton of space for a reasonable $800 a month. She doesn’t even need roommates to afford it, unlike when she was living in New York. The park Hannah cycles through also looks lovely, so it’s no wonder she tells Marnie everyone should move to Iowa to “start the revolution!”
But then Iowa quickly loses its lustre. Grad school is harder than Hannah imagined. Her peers don’t immediately take to her writing, and it really stings her. Of course, this is a manifestation of Hannah’s entitlement. If, on the first day of the first year of a two-year writing master’s program, Hannah were already a perfect writer, what would even be the point of her being there? Of course there is room for Hannah to improve. Of course her peers will find faults with her writing at first!
Still, I couldn’t help but sympathize a bit with Hannah over a douchebag male classmate who claims her writing needs to “sympathize with the male perspective.” I also can’t resist a little fist pump as I remember how she interrupts him to say that “history” has been all about men, so why the f-ck can’t she write a story just about a woman?
Ultimately, Hannah’s classmates critique her for writing “about herself” when she’s supposed to be writing fiction. However, is this a valid critique? What is the difference between fact and fiction? Life, writing and fiction overlap and intersect and blur at all sorts of places. I don’t think in a postmodern world that actual, self-respecting grad students would cling so strongly to a distinction between fiction and non-fiction. This isn’t 1903; this is supposed to be grad school in 2015.
Things get even more unrealistic when Elijah shows up at Hannah’s Iowa apartment, uninvited. Apparently he got sick of New York and decided to move. You see, I can see Elijah moving on a whim, but I cannot see him moving to a cornfield in the middle of the US. No offense to Iowa. I think it is probably a really nice place, but I just think Elijah is too much of an urbane snob to appreciate what it has to offer. If Elijah had moved to LA or Portland or Berlin, that would have made more sense to me.
So Hannah knows she is supposed to be working on her craft, but as soon as Elijah shows up, she decides to forget her workload and crash an undergraduate party. At this party, Hannah and Elijah are stars. They make friends, dispense sage advice to the undergrads, and dance to “Get Low.” Interestingly, I also danced to “Get Low” at my very first graduate school party six years ago at the London School of Economics. This begs the question, are university students really still dancing to this? Isn’t this an insulting portrayal of Iowa? Asserting that it’s so backward they don’t even know what music is currently in the Top 40? Come on, they do have the Internet there, after all.
At the end of the frat party, a drunken Hannah announces she would like to go back to “undergrad school” because she doesn’t like grad school. This does not bode well. Is Hannah already resisting change? Sure, her peers were a bit harsh with her on her first day, but if Hannah never listens to criticism, how will she ever grow? If she goes to frat parties instead of editing her stories, how will she ever improve them?
And this is the central conflict of the show, the gap between one’s potential and what one actually achieves. Potential is useless without commitment. Hannah, however, seems afraid of growing and challenging herself. She isn’t trying at all. I suspect this is because part of her is worried that even if she does try her hardest, she won’t be as good as she wants to be. Because of this, Hannah is doing everything in her power to avoid figuring out what she can do if she applies herself….
In the end, this episode is only okay. I miss our other girls dearly, and it is weird the way Hannah never calls Adam when it did seem like they were still at least technically together last episode. Worst of all, the whole Elijah move feels uncomfortably forced and clumsy. For a show that prides itself on realism, nothing about this grad school experience in Iowa really rings true to me.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that next week’s episode will be better!