Girls Season 4 Episode 1 Review: “Iowa”

Girls 4.01

The first scene of “Iowa”, the Season 4 premiere of Girls is not only delightful and quirky as the show has always been for its viewers, but it is almost exactly the same scene that opened the the pilot episode. In both instances, the Horvaths are having dinner at a restaurant, and Hannah is talking about her future. In the two of them, as well, she wants more food, and her mother declares she doesn’t need any. However, in this new installment, Hannah’s parents are not hypercritical about their daughter’s future but hopeful and proud instead, while regarding ordering more food (french fries to be specific), her father decides he will with her. A middle ground is reached, and it emanates satisfaction all around.

For the first time in, practically the whole run of Girls, Hannah’s progenitors are not treating her like a child, and their hands are not forced to draw a line, like they were when they cut her off financially and when they declined to giver her money for her to give back the advance payment for her never published book. That said, Hannah has never been as composed in front of her parents either. The climax of this first scene, as opposed to the one that gave us our first taste of Girls, has this unlikely heroine expressing gratitude–in her own way–to the same two people that, in the pilot, she told she couldn’t see because she was too busy, right after Mrs. Hovarth had declared, “No more money.”

The Season 4 opening is charged with brilliancy and familiarity, both truly appreciated. The audience has been with Hannah through everything until this moment. Symmetry is comforting.

Adam does join his girlfriend and her family for dinner, right before glasses are clinked in celebration of Hannah and her new beginning, and after briefly complaining about a bad audition he went to, he delivers his first Adam-ism of the season: “To Hannah, taking the next step in a series of random steps.” Nevertheless, the trails off, with a not so positive assessment, one that could definitely be signaling to clouds above their relationship. With that opening, the show, once again, remains true to its core, to its characters, to the story and the audience, reminding us why it is we fell in love with it.

Following dinner, Adam and Hannah watch a commercial he made and is not proud of. It’s a cheesy, formulaic spot, that, as the method actor, Adam feels, is beneath him and cheapens his craft. Hannah does a good job as trying to be supportive; however, her poker face after seeing the commercial is priceless. It can be sensed that she wants to laugh, but she will not because Adam is being very serious about his feelings towards the project. It is a wise call not to take a crack at a time he is expressing frustration. Again, Hannah has grown!

The couple briefly discusses what is ahead of them, without really saying much at all. To simplify matters, she wants a plan; he says they will keep things fluid. Parallels can also be found between that exchange and the first conversation between Hannah and Adam that we saw in the Girls pilot, where she wants to define what they are, and he feels she is his main hang. This time around, the emotional charge is heavier, though.

We finally get a glimpse to Shoshana’s family. It is short and chaotic, and it happens while Shosh is getting her diploma at NYU. Her parents have a petty argument about who is keeping her diploma, and right after, they fight over taking a family picture, which never materializes since the recent graduate refuses and then walks away, as they practically chase her. Though brief, the scene is very telling and explains a lot. One can now assume that one of the reasons this beloved girl speaks so so fast is because she grew up trying to be heard in between her parents’ constant bickering.

Cut to Jessa, while getting into Beedie’s  place, she is ambushed by the woman’s daughter, Ricky, who right off the gate, is giving her the evil eye, while simultaneously letting her know that she is taking her mother to live with her. For a finishing touch, Ricky decides to preach about how doomed Jessa’s entire generation is. Then Beedie comes to Jessa and, sadly, announces that she will leave to live in Connecticut with Ricky. Jesse asks her to say that she loves her more than her real daughter.  The whole scene was bittersweet, however, it had such a family-centric tone to it, that, again, fit perfectly in the episode. Ricky sounded as sanctimonious as most older siblings tend to be, while Jessa’s last request to whom, to a degree, is the one motherly figure we know of that Jessa has had and evokes what any young daughter would tell her mom while competing with a sister for affection.

Later on, the gang is reunited to see Marine and Desi perform as part of a jazz brunch. While Marnie struggles to even set the microphone, a clear preamble that things might just not go down smoothly, her mother is frantic taking candid pictures with her phone, acting like a crazed stage mom about 20 years too late. Evie Michaels is, in my opinion, the last mother to appear in the episode, if we are in agreement that Beedie was Jessa’s motherly figure.

Back to Marnie,  Clementine pops up and apologizes about the way she reacted to her the last time the two met; she attributes her behavior to feeling threatened by the musical connection Marnie and Desi share. In exchange, Marnie says she is sorry for even giving the impression she would do EXACTLY what she is secretly doing.

At the brunch table, and then at the bathroom, Jessa has a passive-aggressive demeanor towards Hannah. At first, Hannah tries not to react, but then she calls her friend out, after all, Jessa is being cruel. As a result, Jessa, who is saying goodbye to two important people in her life, on the same day, fires back and delivers one of her speeches, under the pretense of not being mean, just brutally honest. The bottom line, however, is “break up with Adam”.

The jazz brunch event is an utter disaster. Elijah joins the group, and surprise, surprise, his ex, Pal, is also at the same place, having brunch with three girls. Shosh leaves as soon as she sees Ray barge in, though, in all fairness they do share a moment, that gives some hope for the duo. Hannah makes her last ditch attempt to get Adam to talk about their relationship but fails. In addition, Marnie’s nerves get the best of her, and the audience is less than welcoming, causing her to run off the stage and to the street. She is later on comforted by none other than Elijah.

The next day, early in the morning, Marnie pays a visit to Hannah, her last. They share a sweet, yet ill-positioned hug. Then it is finally time for Hannah to leave, and she enters her about to be former bedroom, where Adam is still in bed, in appearance, asleep. She leaves without saying one last word. Adam opens his, sad eyes while she walks away.  It is unclear if he is reluctant to let her go, or if he is, in fact, already distancing himself. Whatever it is, it’s obvious he is suffering.

After a semi-group hug with Marnie and her dad, Hannah gets into the car, while being watched by Adam from the window of what used to be their apartment, only minutes before. Then off she goes…

All in all, I found “Iowa” to be a perfect season opener and an articulate follow up to the previous season. That said, I am thrilled with the developments the characters are experiencing. In addition, this was a very balanced episode, and almost no tantrums were present, which was a little bit unusual given Girls‘ dynamic.

This episode felt like everything revolved around families, whether it is blood relatives or the family people make in life: their friends and significant others. For me, one of the best things that the Girls season premiere did was to show “all the moms” to the girls and put them in context. In a way, the show is making a point. The generation the girls belong to is highly criticized, yes, but they did not grow up in a vacuum.


– This is a biased highlight, however, Jemima Kirke pronouncing “Argentina” almost like a native Argentinian would, was great. Jesse might be very flawed but she is knowledgeable, which I’ve always found mesmerizing.  Also, thanks Jemima for not butchering my home-country’s name!

– Rita Wilson’s Evie singing along to one of Marnie and Desi’s cheesy songs was priceless.

– Elijah and Marnie’s budding friendship has grown beautifully. The way he comforted her was sweet yet hillarious.

– The portrayal of the audience at the jazz brunch was spot on. That said, the parents unable to reign in their kids are a clear picture that there is not just ONE generation that is doomed. That was a nice touch.

What did you think of the season premiere of Girls?

[Photo via HBO]

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