A review of tonight’s “Girls” coming up just as soon as I play the body drums…
“Please don’t tell anyone this, but I want to be happy.” -Hannah
“Girls” is a divisive show to begin with – it’s the only show I regularly review where the existence of the coverage itself seems to anger some people – and even among those who enjoy it with little or no reservation, “One Man’s Trash” is going to be polarizing. Already, I’ve seen Twitter arguments among critics who saw it in advance, and I expect the comments here to be pretty lively on both sides of things.
Other than a brief (and amusing) cameo by Ray, “One Man’s Trash” puts all the other “Girls” characters to the side for an interlude between Hannah and Patrick Wilson’s handsome but lonely Joshua. Season 1 offered a similarly Hannah-centric outing with “The Return,” but it felt like more a part of the show’s world (despite taking place in Michigan) because her parents and her relationship with them was pre-established, and because her behavior in the episode was a direct reaction to what was going on with Adam, where “One Man’s Trash” felt like an interlude unconnected to any “Girls” continuity other than Hannah’s job at the coffee shop. A good chunk of the episode plays as real estate porn, as we get to admire how well Joshua (never Josh) has renovated and tricked out his brownstone, and much of the rest is Hannah having sex with a hot older guy. The entire episode builds to a big epiphany for Hannah about how she wants a normal life more than she would care to admit to anyone, but it takes a long time getting there.
For all those reasons, I can understand why anyone might find the episode self-indulgent, slow or otherwise difficult to sit through.
Me? I liked it, though it’s one that’s grown on me more as I’ve thought about it than when I watched it.
“One Man’s Trash” reminded me of when an author of a series of novels I likes writes a short story about their hero or heroine. They’re liberated from big plot arcs, action or the other prerequisites for the big books, and can simply tell a simpler tale touching on some aspect of the character it’s not as easy to deal with in a novel. (To use a pop culture example that’s 180 degrees from “Girls,” Lee Child occasionally writes Jack Reacher short stories set in his childhood as a military brat or his early career in the Army.)
“Girls” isn’t super-plotty to begin with, but there’s still a bigger story being told each season about Hannah (and to a lesser extent Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna); “One Man’s Trash” was putting that on pause for a half-hour to take Hannah out of her comfort zone, in a circumstance that would force her to recognize something about herself that wouldn’t likely come up in her usual mortifying, low-budget adventures. Give her this interlude with a man she might never have otherwise met, in an environment that feels as far from her existence as a space station on the moon might be (even thought it’s only a few blocks), and give her the time to do nothing but have sex – with a seemingly uncomplicated, polite man who doesn’t make Hannah devote most of her brainpower to analyzing his motives – and think, and admire a lifestyle she can’t at the moment even dream of having, and this epiphany is possible. She needed all the handsome decor and frequent sex to get to that moment, which meant we needed to watch it so we’d understand how she got there.
And I like that it played as a Hannah Horvath epiphany, in that it was three parts reflection to one part the usual obliviousness. Like the “I’m the most scared person alive!” declaration from the season 1 finale, Hannah’s pain still has to be more interesting and special than everyone else’s, even as she’s examining the idea that trying to live this unique life full of memorable but painful experiences is probably a bad idea. She unloads on Josh(ua) for not opening himself up to her, but every time he tried, she dismissed the information as less distinct and tragic as her own. Hannah discovers something she didn’t know about herself, but she’s still Hannah.
A fully reasonable, self-aware Hannah Horvath is the end of this show. But those moments when she comes very very close to answering Adam’s question from that finale – “What the fuck is wrong with you?” – can be really interesting, particularly when you have Lena Dunham at the top of her game, Patrick Wilson being game, and great direction from Richard Shepard (particularly on that final shot of Hannah walking away, which felt very ’70s New York cinema).
What did everybody else think? Was “One Man’s Trash” a fascinating diversion, or did you lose your patience once you realized Ray wasn’t coming back (and the others weren’t appearing at all)?