‘Girls’ season 4, episode 2 review: Iowa culture shock

We have spent a solid portion of time contemplating Sunday night’s episode of “Girls” since it finished airing, and we are still in a way contemplating how we feel about it. While Hannah’s first adventure in Iowa was interesting and invigorating to watch, it also felt a little like a hodgepodge of college experiences thrown into a melting pot.

Let’s start with what the series got right, and that was recreating the writing workshop experience. For the sake of full disclosure, we spent a good bit of time in undergraduate school attending writing workshops, and they were often a little like this. Often the other students were not quite so judgmental, but the hyperbole is necessarily for this fiction. The same goes for Hannah’s freakout; it is understandable that you feel attached to your work, and the hardest thing to do is sit there, silently, licensing to other people sometimes tear you a new one. The worst is when you somehow manage to convince them to hate something that they loved going into the room.

The episode was a little bumpy going into that, mostly because even with the sudden culture shock of going from New York to Iowa, we have a hard time thinking that Hannah would be as forceful and at times rude as she was to people she’d never met. Still, we were okay with most of it, and it was even nice to see Brooks Wheelan following “Saturday Night Live.”

We started to go off the rails somewhat with the need to shoehorn in all of the other main characters, with Elijah being the worst offender. There’s just something about the character we haven’t quite found interesting since the first two seasons. Part of it may stem from how we feel like “Looking” does such a better job of playing into the experience of a gay man in the 2010s, but part of it also here is that the show gives him almost zero redeeming qualities beyond occasionally having good intentions. He is loud, he shows up unannounced, he hides motives, and he also apparently goes to home plate with people in bathrooms while at parties. The man is just not that likable, and pairing him with someone else in Hannah who can also be unlikable is a rough combination.

Our takeaway from this episode is that Hannah is struggling in Iowa, she has not become receptive to other worldviews yet, and it is already proving difficult for her to keep close to others in her life. We are still intrigued by the trouble she can get into there, but without a standout new character and with her so separated from everyone else, the series has a challenge. Grade: B-.

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