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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season four premiere of HBO’s Girls, “Iowa.”]
Hannah Horvath is finally on her way to Iowa.
Although Girls made it clear that its main character would head to the Midwest for grad school in its fourth season, the HBO series stayed in New York for its first episode back. During the half-hour in Brooklyn, Hannah (Lena Dunham) packs for Iowa and frets about leaving, wanting to come up with a plan with Adam (Adam Driver) for dealing with the separation. Adam, meanwhile, seems fairly unconcerned about her departure, more preoccupied by his burgeoning acting career, which includes starring in an ad for an antidepressant and being represented by the same agent who handles The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus, Hannah tells her parents, and her dad responds, “You know Norman Reedus?”
Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams) embarks on her affair with Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who has his face buried in her rear end in a risqué sex scene that serves as viewers’ introduction to the duo as a couple. They later get together in a much more traditional way, performing their folk music at a jazz brunch. The gig ends with Marnie running outside crying after some rambunctious kids disrupt their set and cause her to forget the words to the song she’s written for Hannah.
After ending last season learning she wouldn’t graduate with the rest of her class, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) begins the episode filling out some paperwork at NYU to signify that she’s completed her degree. It’s in this bureaucratic setting that viewers meet “Shoshie’s” parents, Ana Gasteyer and Anthony Edwards. Both named “Mel Shapiro,” they bicker about where she asked for her diploma to be sent while her dad takes pictures of his daughter’s pomp-and-circumstance-free graduation.
Jessa (Jemima Kirke)’s storyline also picks up shortly after where the third season left off, with her continuing to take care of and run errands for Beadie (Louise Lasser), the elderly artist who asked Jessa to help her kill herself before she had second thoughts and asked Jessa to dial 911.
When asked why Jessa stayed with Beadie, Kirke tells The Hollywood Reporter, “I think it’s Jessa’s first real relationship where she thinks she’s actually helping someone, where she’s actually of service in a way that only she can be or in a way that someone needs her. So I think it adds a dynamic to her self-esteem that we’ve never seen.”
Still, that relationship seems to be over. Beadie’s daughter, Rickie, played by guest star Natasha Lyonne, attacks Jessa for helping her mom try to kill herself and informs her that Beadie is coming to Connecticut to live with her. After she says goodbye to Beadie, Jessa angrily criticizes Hannah for also leaving.
“I think she’s had a stunted growth, and I think as a child she probably didn’t process a lot of her feelings of abandonment and neediness, so she’s taking them out now in a way that is very confusing and very immature, like a kid gets mad at a parent for going out at night,” Kirke tells THR about why Jessa is so angry at Hannah.
Indeed, as Hannah prepares to go to Iowa, it’s Marnie who seems to be the most supportive of her friends. In addition to writing a song for her former roommate, she shows up at Hannah’s apartment at the crack of dawn the day Hannah is to leave and helps her pack.
For a friendship that has gone through a few incarnations, including an epic fight at the end of season one and some awkwardness at the beginning of season two, Marnie and Hannah seem to be in a good place at the beginning of season four. “This season I got to play a lot of scenes where Marnie got to be supportive and a good friend to Hannah, which I love because I’ve always known that about Marnie. But a lot of people hate Marnie and don’t think she has that speed to her, which I’ve always known that she does,” Williams tells THR. “She’s fiercely loyal and loves her friends and loves Hannah so much and was the No. 1 cheerleader for Iowa and was like, ‘You have to go,’ so I think that that creates a really healthy foundation for a friendship when it’s based on love and honesty and support.”
THR talked to co-showrunner Jenni Konner about Hannah and Marnie’s friendship, Marnie and Desi’s sex scene, and other topics from Girls‘ pre-Iowa season premiere.
Did you consider beginning the season with Hannah continuing to deliberate about whether she should go to Iowa?
No. We felt like the deliberation — at the end of the last episode, there was no deliberation. When she’s holding the letter and smiling, that was our way of saying, she’s going.
Hannah doesn’t actually get to Iowa until the second episode. Why did you feel you wanted that whole first episode in New York?
The last season we started at rehab, and I think one of the things was, we like to challenge ourselves and do different things. It was nice to just sort of check in. We thought it was interesting…how Hannah was going to wrap up her life there.
Hannah and Adam don’t officially break up when she goes to Iowa, but it seems like there’s a bit of wiggle room there. How do you think they view their relationship with Hannah gone?
I think that they are trying to figure it out, and because they haven’t had any really clean-cut ideas about what it would be, they’re going to run into some trouble probably.
With Marnie, in this episode, I thought that with respect to her friendship with Hannah, she seemed really supportive of Hannah going to Iowa, and she shows up at the end and helps her pack. I think we’ve seen that friendship go through different stages, where they were fighting and getting along. How do you think their friendship has changed since the first season?
I think it’s always going to be fraught. They’re such different people. But I think that they’re coming to accept who each other is more. It’s like there’s this acceptance level, where they’re not trying to fight each other’s nature anymore.
We see Marnie embarking on this affair with Desi. That first scene of them together seems really sexually adventurous for Marnie. How did you decide to take it there, and what was Allison’s reaction to that?
Allison is up for anything. She’s like, so game. And she’s an old hat at this by now, so she’s never surprised by anything we give her. And she knows how we do it and she knows that we do it in a funny way, generally, or in a story-driven way. It was important for us to show that this is opening up a different side of her, and that’s one way it is. Literally a different side.
Jessa seems very angry toward Hannah. Where do you think that anger comes from?
The anger comes from this idea that Hannah is always yelling at [Jessa] for running away and leaving and disappearing, and then she’s finally coming back and trying to be a more serious person and promising to stick around and then Hannah’s leaving her, so she’s pissed about it.
At the end of last season, we saw Marnie tell Shoshanna that she slept with Ray [Alex Karpovsky], and Shoshanna reacted very angrily. Has Shoshanna put this issue behind her, or will that come up later in this season?
I actually think she’s made peace with it. I really do. As she says to Ray, Marnie’s her least favorite of her friends. And I think that’s true to life that people say that in their 20s. I think she was truly over Ray; it wasn’t about that.
What did you think about the episode? Sound off in the comments section, below.
Girls airs Sundays on HBO.
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