It is remarkable how deeply Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath can disappoint. Her thoughts, feelings, and actions can leave a definitively bad taste in your mouth. And yet, as we recoil from our flat screens at her stunted emotions, her stubbornly narrow perspective, and her subsequent incapacity for empathy, it’s easy to forget that Hannah is a carefully constructed character designed to engender this very response from us. So bravo, Lena! I really can’t take Hannah right now.
HANNAH’S BRUSH WITH DEATH
This week’s episode begins with the unexpected news of the death of David Pressler-Goings, the champion of Hannah’s yet-to-begin literary career and the editor of her yet-to-be-released e-book. When she gets the news, she’s in the waiting room of his office, late for their meeting. Moments later, the meeting is cancelled. Forever. But wait! Here’s the kicker: Hannah’s is essentially unmoved by David’s death. Rather, she is acutely concerned with what this means for the future of her e-book.
Her reaction, of course, is not at all shocking given her track record of near-complete self-absorption over the last two seasons. Anything that every happens in Hannah’s life is processed through a very narrow prism. But David’s death is really only a device to crack into the larger picture of Hannah’s generally shallow pool of emotional understanding which is especially glaring when it’s compared to Adam’s depth and breadth of feeling. This, of course, has been known since the end of the first season, but as David’s untimely demise puts this disparity in the spotlight once again, it makes Adam and Hannah’s seem destined for failure.
ADAM’S THINLY-VEILED DISGUST
Hannah breaks the news to Adam as soon as she sees him, and he is instantly by her side, ready to console her. Only moments later, however, she shamelessly reveals what’s really troubling her, fully expecting Adam to also cast aside the news of David’s death and share in her concerns over her e-book. Adam, however, is shocked. Faced with her immature lack of feeling, he walks away, incredulous.
Later on, Hannah reports to Adam some emerging details of David’s death that she’s read on Gawker. Adam is again deeply disappointed. This time, in her media preferences. “Why aren’t you mourning quietly?” he asks her accusingly. But as much as I shared in Adam’s disgust as I watched, it’s a bit hard to believe that he would be shocked at any of this. He should at least be aware that she regularly reads Gawker, right? Either way, Hannah is defiant.
Adam later explains to Hannah that he’s not angry with her. He’s scared. If he were to die, he wants to know that she’d have a deeper reaction than panic at making rent for the month. She clarifies: “If you died I would be extremely disoriented, extremely sad, and I would also be anxious about how I would make rent.” He responds in classic Adam profundity, “If you died, the world would blur. I wouldn’t know what a tree was.” There is a problem here.
RAY NAILS IT
Picking up a shift at Grumpy’s, Hannah jumps at the chance to tell Ray that she lost a close friend. She then immediately goes into great detail about her numbness towards the event, as if she’s fascinated by her own disfunction. Ray is impressed, realizing he was more affected by this news, and the last time he saw David was when he humiliated him at Hannah’s birthday party. So Ray offers Hannah this golden nugget of advice: “Why don’t you place one crumb of basic human compassion on this fat-free muffin of sociopathic detachment? See how it tastes.” Not gonna happen, Ray. She doesn’t have those sort of taste buds.
JESSA HAS FEELINGS, TOO. AND SOMETIMES THEY HURT!
Another theme we return to in this episode is Jessa’s complicated relationship to her own feelings. As we’ve seen before, she often will act aloof in the face of hardship, but we eventually see that deep down, Jessa is human like the rest of us. So it’s no surprise when Hannah shares the news of David’s death with her, Jessa – for a brief moment – makes Hannah look like the sensitive one. Not an easy task. Jessa even says that she looks forward to her own death, explaining that time isn’t linear and we’re all already dead. Sure.
But later in the episode, she opens up to Shoshanna about death, explaining how she once lost a good friend. Shosh encourages her visit her dead friend’s grave, and she goes looking for it, only to find her friend actually faked her own death in order to get a clean break from Jessa. Jessa – righteously pissed off – goes to confront her old friend, seeking an explanation and perhaps an apology. But the meeting is awkward and unsatisfying, as it becomes clear that Jessa probably got what she deserved, though she won’t admit it. We can only hope this experience inspires some much-needed self-awareness in Jessa.
SHOSH SAYS SOMETHING INEXPLICABLY POINTLESS AND UNFUNNY
Not much to say here except to quote Shosh directly: “I feel like my bandana collection is, like, my most developed collection. I mean, my array of bandanas is insane.” She says this while wearing a bandana and neatly folding a pile of them. Is anyone laughing at this shit? I sorta feel bad for Zosia Mamet, as I imagine her looking through the script to find her lines.
MARNIE IS TAKING CONTROL OF HER LIFE AGAIN, DAMN IT!
Early on in the episode, we see Marnie in training. Jogging through the streets of Chinatown. Doing pull-ups. Preparing a health shake. Listening to self-help recordings. Change is clearly coming.
So when she overhears Ray and Hermie watching her “What I Am” video in the office at Grumpy’s, she’s had enough, and confronts the two of them directly. I almost feel bad for her embarrassment, but not quite. They unconvincingly (and hysterically) try to play it off. (“I think it’s great. You actually have a better understanding of the song than Edie Brickell did,” offers Hermie.) Things escalate. Marnie quits in dramatic fashion, assuring Ray that “fancy people” want to work with her. So she burns that bridge to the ground on the way out the door, once again demonstrating her lack of humility and all-around bad judgment. Not sure about you guys, but I look forward to the next chapter in Marnie’s struggle. She sucks.
CAROLINE, LAIRD, AND HANNAH FROLIC IN THE CEMETERY
Hannah tells her ever-sensitive, formerly drug-addled downstairs neighbor Laird about David’s death. He embraces her as if to the share in the pain, only to find out there’s no pain to be shared.
Caroline enters the scene and invites the two of them to accompany her for her “afternoon constitutional” which begins with an iced tea and leads to playful frolic through a cemetery. Symbolic, no? Anyhow, when they stop to talk, Hannah expresses an awareness of her emotional lack. She just can’t help it. She’s aware of the disparity between Adam and herself, and she’s worried about what it could mean for their future.
At this point, Caroline tells Hannah about Margaret, their cousin who died of Muscular Dystrophy at the tender age of 12, detailing Adam’s unfailing love and commitment to her, explaining how he spent hours and hours with her and made her final wish come true by taking her to his senior prom. A heartbreaking story that brought Laird to tears (no surprise) and barely resonated with Hannah (come on!). The story, however, also turns out to be a complete falsehood concocted by Caroline as a test of Hannah’s emotional capacity. Caroline is flabbergasted, and Hannah is horrified.
But in the episode’s final scene, Hannah comes home to find Adam on the porch where she awkwardly and obviously tries very hard to squeeze an emotional reaction out of herself. Failing at this, she resorts to the unthinkable, and sells Caroline’s fictional tale of the late Margaret as her own. So very, very pathetic. And so goes the genius of Lena Dunham. She purposely frustrates us. And we come back. Week after week! Wanting more!
Come back next week for more witty commentary and expert analysis. Or something.