Girls: “Triggering” Season 4 Episode 2 Review

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Triggering was an episode that needed to happen. It’s not the most unpredictable or interesting episode Girls has produced, but it was an effective place-setting episode that actually had a ton of laugh-out-loud moments. 

From the opening shots of corn fields and tractors, it made sense for this entire episode to be set in Hannah’s new surroundings. The opening scene removed itself from its New York setting even further, as Hannah found that rent money gets you a lot more space in Iowa than it does it Brooklyn.

But Triggering was mostly about finding Hannah’s new comfort zone in Iowa, while also laying out the struggles she’s going to face both in class and her social life.

Turns out though that Lena Dunham sees this change of setting as another opportunity to address Girls‘ critics. The first piece Hannah shares with her classmates is about a time she asked a boyfriend to punch her in the gut (it’s never said that this is Adam, but its a testament to Girls that you can picture the very funny sequence of Hannah asking Adam to punch her, and him eventually going through with it). The reaction is pretty polarizing, with some students saying it minimizes the suffering of victims of physical abuse while criticizing how autobiographical it is. Girls has definitely offended some people, and Dunham has never shied away from explaining that her show is based on a lot of her experiences. One peer finally speaks up and says “What’s wrong with it being autobiographical?” Those who have made it into Girls‘ fourth season probably agree with him, and rightfully so.

Hannah being unable to keep her mouth shut to her critics mirrors Dunham’s own response, as she takes to her scripts to respond to how people talk about her show (in addition to this episode, Donald Glover’s guest spot in season two comes to mind). So Hannah feels all depressed about where her writing is at the moment and plans to go home and absorb their notes. Well, Elijah is in Iowa, saying he needs a break from New York and that they are going to go party.

Elijah’s arrival feels a bit like a cheat. Instead of having Hannah find herself in her new situation, she’s relying on her old friend to gain popularity. It’s hard to criticize because these two have such a fun dynamic, but there was a brief feeling of disappointment. At least before they went to a party. These scenes had me agreeing with Hannah about missing undergrad, even if the feeling will quickly pass.

The episode ends kind of randomly. Hannah and Elijah leave the party in the morning and walk home. There’s no real resolution other than Hannah having some fun. Considering the first half of the episode focused so heavily on her ability as a writer, the party felt like a weird, though fun, tangent.

Either way, Hannah is in Iowa now and, for better or worse, Elijah is with her. This episode was fun but also succeeded in putting the show under its own microscope. The awkward shifts in tone were jarring, but the Iowa storyline will likely balance out once it has the New York characters weaving in and out of it. So while Girls hasn’t wowed me yet this season, it’s on the right track to. Grade: B

Some Other Notes: 

– I loved Hannah’s video chat with Marnie. The Hannah/Marnie friendship is getting a lot of focus this season so far, which hasn’t been the case since season one. They do have the most real friendship on the show, so I’m a fan.

– Hannah’s peers being offended by the potential for domestic abuse in her piece paired with Hannah not-so-seriously telling her mom she has suicidal thoughts was absolute genius.

– “I’m not gay.” “Yeah, me neither brah.” Do we even need Looking with Elijah on TV?

– No Adam this week for understandable story reasons. Though I can’t help but wonder if he left Brooklyn for a brief trip to a galaxy far, far away…


By Matt Dougherty

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