“Girls” Season 4 Episode 5 is quite possibly one of the most emotionally real episodes in the history of “Girls.” Full disclosure: by the closing scene, I had shed two tears. TWO. It also (as usual) has some highly comical and accurate moments. In what other series will you see some of the most emotionally accurate and genuine scenes in the same episode in which…
- The main character pees in a trash can
- The main character is caught in a strange and comical prelude to an ostensibly emotionally healing threesome
- Two friends “woman-Google” a “rando hussie”; Hannah: “I don’t want to be this woman-Googling person” (Note: Hannah, we are all that person.)
- Two best friends get into a slapfight
I never thought I would see Adam and Hannah break up. But, like Adam, I didn’t realize how overdue it was until it happened, which speaks to the talent of the writers.
It’s fitting and poignant that the scene in which they have arguably their most frank and honest discussion over why they don’t work anymore is the scene in which Adam is bandaging up Hannah’s accidental burn. Their relationship is founded on the imbalance between Hannah’s “endearing,” self-absorbed waywardness and Adam’s relative composure. As Adam’s sister tells Hannah, “He’s really at his best when he’s nurturing the poor, the lost, the profoundly damaged. Which is why you were so perfect for him.” Adam is always bandaging Hannah up; that’s where they have both always been comfortable. I assumed that the savior complex to their relationship was simply the best situation for each of them, that that is why they worked, the only way they could work in any relationship.
But the savior complex is ruptured when Hannah announces to Adam that she is moving to Iowa to pursue graduate school in writing. Suddenly, she’s not lost and passive anymore, she’s actively going to try and find her own way. At the same time, Adam’s acting career just starts to take off (her announcement to him comes on the day of his Broadway show’s opening). In retrospect, the tension right before Hannah moves to Iowa probably stems from the rupture of their comfortable, but unhealthy hero-victim dynamic and his subconscious outgrowing of the box their relationship keeps him in — the box of always having to swoop in and bandage Hannah up. Once Hannah moves to Iowa, Adam physically can’t be Hannah’s savior anymore. He also starts to realize he can grow into his own creative success.
Enter Mimi-Rose Howard (putting aside the ridiculous name) — a better fit for him at this time. She has more of her life and emotional health “together” than Hannah does (though Adam’s swiftness in moving on is admittedly quite abrupt, and his breakup with Hannah is cruel).
“Hannah, I want you to understand. This isn’t about you,” Adam tells her.
The reason for their breakup ultimately boils down to this: Adam’s ability to let go of his self-indulgent, self-destructive behavior and Hannah’s inability to do the same.
Adam is melodramatically upset when Hannah first moves, even though he knows it’s a huge step in the right direction for her career and life. Their co-dependent relationship keeps them each emotionally stunted. In the same way that Adam unfairly begrudges Hannah for going to Iowa and doing what is right for her aspirations, Hannah clings relentlessly to her relationship with Adam, over Skype screens, hearsay from mutual friends and the miles between them. Their inability to provide closure to their hero-victim relationship and deliberate ignorance of the real issues in their relationship stems from their selfishness. Both refuse to face the reality of the situation and hold on to one another. In this episode, it’s apparent that Adam has swallowed reality first and grown emotionally, and Hannah is left (as always) in the dust.
“We loved each other and nothing has changed! I’m the same person I was when he loved me; in fact, I’m an arguably better person because I went away and figured out what I want!” Hannah laments to Shoshanna. This is interesting.
In “Girls,” a lot of the protagonists’ troubles seem to be chalked up to their inability to “figure out what they really want” and “get their life together.” This is, by far, the most oft-cited critique of the millennial generation. If millennials accomplished this, all their problems would be solved. Right?
Wrong. Hannah gets into the most prestigious graduate creative writing program in the world and she still doesn’t get what she wants. She’s still unhappy, and she’s still not on “top of it,” because she cannot get out of her own head. She is still the same selfish “victim.” Except now, she got into a graduate program.
“There was just a part of me that thought that you would, you know, wait for me or at least never meet anyone who could possibly replace me,” Hannah says.
This line hit hard. Like Hannah, and, I’m sure, many others, I’m often tempted to think of myself as exceptional in some way (particularly in the context of relationships) — that I might be the one to change someone’s life, that I’m special. Similarly, Hannah is affected by the hit the breakup takes to her ego. Hannah doesn’t actually seem to miss Adam himself or what they had. How could she? She is in Iowa. Before she moves, their relationship splinters as their respective creative careers start to take off. She seems more hurt by what the end of their relationship means for her ego than by the loss of Adam himself.
Undoubtedly, Hannah is special to Adam. Their love was undeniably real and meaningful.
“It did work for a while, right?”
“Yeah it worked like a … charm. What we had was real and beautiful and tense and weird and terrifying and there was a time when I couldn’t imagine myself with anyone else. Ever.“
“But you don’t feel that way anymore?”
The fact that Adam and Hannah’s love was intensely genuine and meaningful is not mutually exclusive with the fact that Adam doesn’t love Hannah anymore. Their love may have worked for a while at some particularly moment, and at a certain point, it just stopped working. It’s not that Hannah isn’t the right person. She was the right person at a different time. She’s the wrong person at this particular time. It’s not that MRH is “objectively” better than Hannah; it’s that MRH is better for Adam at this particular time than Hannah is. That has little to do with Hannah herself and more to do with how Adam has grown.
You can’t control others. The passage of time and physical distance exacerbate deterioration. Others’ reactions to us often have little to do with us and more to do with them, as well as other factors the universe throws at us (in this case, Iowa). We can always try to imagine alternate universes in which we are “more on top of things,” make a different decision, or are prettier, skinnier, smarter, more confident and how, in these alternate universes, things might have worked out differently, but that’s not realistic.
Ultimately, we just have to move on.
“I didn’t plan on it, but it’s what happened. And I need to see where it’s going to go.”
P.S.: Was it weird for anyone else to see Marnie dropping some wisdom on Hannah and straight up saying it like it is? Like since when has Marnie ever said anything remotely agreeable?