Girls Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: A Fat-Free Muffin of Sociopathic Detachment

Hannah’s trajectory for the first three episodes of this season of Girls seemed to be going in the opposite direction of everybody else’s; her e-book was developing nicely, she started taking her meds again, and her relationship with Adam had started to settle into something solid and positive. Meanwhile, Shoshanna started smoking, Jessa got kicked out of rehab, and Marnie kept finding new bottoms to hit. The idea of Hannah’s growth actually started to manifest instead of existing as some vague goal she would eventually get around to in season five or six.

But then John Cameron Mitchell’s David, a Grindr enthusiast and drug addict, as well as Hannah’s publisher, died. David was Hannah’s “champion,” a successful publishing figure who thought Hannah’s writing had value. Because he said her writing was good, we were allowed to accept that her writing was good. Now he’s dead, and the one person propelling Hannah’s career forward is gone.

For much of this episode, I was on Hannah’s side. Maybe that says more about me than it does about how much Lena Dunham wants us to root for Hannah, but I didn’t find her passivity towards David’s death to be as egregious as Adam and Ray made it out to be. In last week’s episode, we witnessed David’s self-destructive and bizarre behavior, so we shouldn’t be too shocked about his death. And to be fair, Hannah actually seemed a bit shaken up—especially compared to Jessa and her theories about our illusions of a linear progression of time. We all grieve in own way, especially if the person we are grieving was connected to us through work rather than genuine friendship. When Adam tells Hannah that she should be feeling more and “mourning quietly,” it comes off as condescending.  In fact, Adam stays on his high horse throughout the episode, even criticizing Hannah for visiting Gawker. (That entire Gawker conversation was a pretty awesome, not-so-subtle response to the website’s treatment of Dunham.)

Adam’s intensity of emotions would be difficult to deal with for anybody. I completely understood Hannah’s discomfort at being told that if she died, Adam “wouldn’t even know what a tree was.” Sometimes—and I say this from experience—it’s difficult to compensate for not feeling what we’re “supposed to feel.” Hannah’s concern for her own self-interest, even immediately after David’s death, is human. Blatantly saying these things out loud represents a pretty intense lack of self-awareness, but when has that ever stopped Hannah before? Sometimes you just need to run through a cemetery, laughing in the face of death to stop yourself from crying.

At first I thought this episode was on Hannah’s side—or, if not completely on her side, then at least somewhat understanding of her behavior. All of that changed during her talk with Caroline. Like I assumed last week, Caroline is turning out to be just a character for everybody else to react against instead of a fully fleshed-out person. This week, a slightly less unhinged (although, still pretty sociopathic) Caroline made up a story about a cousin with muscular dystrophy whose death Adam took very hard. Regardless whether or not her story was real, Hannah’s glib and detached response is a flaw in her psyche. Even Caroline, a fucked-up disaster of a person, is shocked by Hannah’s callousness. The fact that she embraces Hannah’s jadedness is even more troubling. Lena Dunham makes it very clear by the end of the episode: Yes, we all grieve in different ways. But not grieving at all is a problem.

By the time Hannah sat down next to Adam on the stoop of their apartment building and started explaining her emotions, I was ready to write off this episode. This would be the episode of Girls about death, the one where Hannah looked into Caroline’s eyes and saw an uncaring version of herself that she feared becoming. When Hannah started explaining to Adam what David meant to her, and how she processes emotions at a different pace than he does, it felt real. Her tears were real. This would only bring Hannah and Adam closer together.

But then she turned her feelings off and told Adam about her cousin who died of muscular dystrophy and it became very clear that things are not going well with Hannah at all. Hannah is a memoirist who only tells half of the truth, which makes her nothing at all. She wants the fame and the accolades and the stories without having to process any of the pain. As Nancy Sinatra drowned out her lies and the credits began to roll, Lena Dunham’s endgame for Hannah became crystal clear for the first time. Hannah is a millennial writer in the worst sense: she’s desensitized, flippant and feels entitled to success for being able to trick someone into thinking of her as “brave” or “honest.” Lena Dunham does not want you to be like Hannah.

What The Other Girls Are Up To:

Marnie seemed to be in training to get back on the high road now that Hannah’s path to success has been blocked. She’s running, drinking gross coconut water and banana smoothies, and just quit her job at Ray’s Café to go work with “fancy people.” Maybe this means good things for Marnie. (Spoiler: No, it doesn’t.)

Jessa just found out that her behavior is so destructive that, that one of her best friends had to stage her own funeral just to get rid of her. I thought this might be a wake-up call for her, but just like Hannah, she seems to be in denial. Interpret her smile as she walks through the park as you wish.

Shoshanna’s bandana collection is her most developed collection. She also wrote a book of poems about a high school friend who died even though her death totally allowed her circle of friends to become the five-some they were destined to become. Shoshanna is a little scary.

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