A review of last night’s Girls coming up just as soon as I insist on shooting on film…
I doubt that Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner write episodes with the Thinkpiece Industrial Complex in mind, but I couldn’t help laughing at “Painful Evacuation” airing a week after “American Bitch.” “Bitch,” of course, inspired Girls thinkpieces far and wide — including one from yours truly — all of them inevitably drawing comparisons between it and season two’s “One Man’s Trash,” which also featured Hannah spending a weird afternoon in the fabulous home of a handsome older man. So when Hannah’s ER doctor turned out to be Joshua, her one-day lover from “One Man’s Trash,” I for a moment wondered if Dunham and Konner had made “American Bitch” almost entirely so that the TV critics of America would try to remind Girls fandom about the earlier episode, and thus limit any exposition after he pulled back that curtain.
Of course, “One Man’s Trash” is one of the most memorable — and divisive — Girls episodes ever, so Joshua didn’t really need much of a reintroduction. But it was great that Patrick Wilson was available to reprise the role, because Joshua was the perfectly imperfect man to be there to give Hannah the news that she got pregnant during her failed surfing excursion in the season premiere. Joshua is a grown-up who has history — brief, but incredibly intense, history — with our heroine, and thus can make a far more educated guess than some random ER physician about her emotional readiness to have a kid. Having seen Hannah play-act the part of his serious girlfriend, then fall apart utterly at the end of their day together, he hasn’t seen everything that Hannah Horvath is and is capable of being, but he got a pretty representative sampling. So the moment he gets over the embarrassment of having given her the news (which he assumed she already had) so bluntly, he immediately assumes she wants an abortion. And maybe she in fact does, given that there’s nothing we’ve seen of Hannah across five-plus seasons suggesting she’s ready for or interested in being a mother — “Painful Evacuation” even opens on her interviewing an older writer (Tracey Ullman, in a note-perfect cameo) who warns her that “Childlessness is the natural state of the female author” — but in this unexpected moment of vulnerability in front of a man with whom she shared so much intimacy (even in a short period of time), Joshua going straight to abortion cuts Hannah deeply, and sends her scurrying out of the emergency room without even getting the medicine she needs to treat the UTI that brought her there.
Knowing that Hannah got pregnant in Montauk doesn’t retroactively improve those parts of the season premiere that felt too repetitive of Hannah excursions past, but it does at least explain why Dunham wanted to spend so much time there. Whatever Hannah decides to do about the pregnancy, this is a big deal for her, and thus for us, and it helps that we got to know the guy a little, rather than it being the result of a brief and anonymous hookup.
And I’m going to be awfully curious to see where the story goes from here, given how close we are to the end of the series. These last couple of seasons have been all about the girls (and guys) trying to grow up a little, even if their attempts so far haven’t been successful. Marnie got married, Shosh went to Japan for her job, Adam got serious about his acting career, and Jessa got sober. Based on who Hannah is now and what we know about her, she’s probably not equipped to care for a baby on her own. But given her ongoing ambivalence about her writing career, her relationships, and most other aspects of her life, maybe this turns out to be a thing she not only really wants to do, but is actually good at. Or maybe this just turns out to be one more bit of full-circle storytelling, since the second Girls episode ever involved Hannah and Shosh preparing to take Jessa for an abortion that turned out to be unnecessary — where Hannah decides she doesn’t want this (whether for the sake of her writing career, or just her own personal desires) and the girls come together for an abortion that actually happens.
But this is the kind of path a show can travel when the finish line is so close. If Hannah does have a baby, I wouldn’t want to see much of it — certainly no more than we’ve seen of Laird playing daddy — but it would be an interesting and unexpected place for her to land at the very end. And if she doesn’t, then that says something too about what she wants to do and be, at least for this moment in her life.