One of these things just doesn’t belong here, one of these things just isn’t the same. That is the first thing that I’m sure all of America was thinking, or at least all women, when watching episode 5 of girls last night, titled, One Mans Trash. It looked different, it felt different, and most importantly, it only featured one girl, Hannah, played in a beautifully messy way by Dunham, who challenged herself to push the boundaries of her character, if only for a half hour.
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of changes in Hannah, and the many ways she attempts to find herself. She became a one night coke addict simply for journalistic integrity to write her first paid assignment, and she continues her self made mission to remain a soulful writer who refuses to sell out, to the industry, or to any preempted lifestyle.
But it’s that lifestyle that has her questioning herself in episode 5. Hannah, and the viewers are taken into a new world; an exploration of what could be, what is possible, and what we all really want out of life. And although she only ventures a few blocks out of her comfort zone in Brooklyn, we are smack dab in an alternate universe almost immediately.
A universe where strangers, who have met only to bicker about whose garbage goes where, become instant lovers, and then weekday roommates. A universe where gorgeous, rich doctors that live in brooklyn brownstones become charmingly entranced with regular girls and take them in like puppy dogs that need a home and a family. But ultimately, this is a fairytale. A glimpse into what life could potentially be like for her, or some version of it, if only she thought that was she could want.
The entrance of Patrick Wilson strikes a chord immediately. Besides being obviously stunningly handsome, in that annoyingly perfect kind of way, there is something else about Patrick Wilson. A quiet torment that lurks under a surface of perfection. And Wilson, whether it be Angels in America, Little Children, or on broadway, in one of my favorite redone movies of all time, Barefoot in the Park, is well… perfect in it. In the latter, he plays a husband whose wife proclaims to him after a fight, “You’re very nearly Perfect!!”, to which he yells back, “That is a rotten thing to say!”. Yes, even though we all talk about it, in truth, does anyone really want perfection, once it’s standing in front of them, and how do we live in that world.
These are the questions Hannah is faced with after meeting Joshua, falling in lust with him, and spending the next few days in his gorgeous apartment. Joshua signifies everything that Hannah could or should want for herself, and yet, we see her struggling with even it’s brief emergence. Joshua isn’t just attractive, he’s also a doctor. His very name comes from the hebrew word, meaning ‘to be saved’, even adding more symbolism to his character, not the mention the fact that he actually does save her, when Hannah passes out in the shower.
And yet, while many NYC girls, jews and shiksas alike would be more then thrilled to find themselves the object of Joshua’s affection, Hannah, though enjoying herself, struggles with this. Even, in a sense, castrating him and his symbolic status, as she continually changes his name to Josh. When he tells her it’s Joshua, she glibly replies, that’s the same name, with just an extra sound on the end of it. They do all the things that a real couple would do like screw, fight, talk in bed, and there is chemistry between them. But there is a missing link somewhere in there, something that holds her back, and ultimately, that will keep Patrick in that separate world, the one that wouldn’t, and shouldn’t have collided with Hannah in the first place.
When She tells Joshua that she thinks she’s maybe even too sensitive, too full of emotion, and too not crazy, I get exactly what she’s saying, even though I’m living a very different version of it. But I think what we can all relate to is being able to pinpoint something we want out of life, but not always why we don’t go for it, or why we travel down a different road. And although this episode almost serves as a vignette, a window into a different life, it’s not one that Hannah can live in. Sometimes happiness is messy, not perfect, and sometimes perfection is empty. Joshua seemingly looks, and leads a perfect life; one in which Hannah is not familiar, but he’s missing something. We don’t know his life story, in fact we don’t really learn too much about him. But it’s clear he’s yearning for something different, and Hannah can provide that.
What Hannah provides in a charming change to the every day, Joshua provides in stability. A far cry from the gross rantings of Adam. They both have found something in each other that is opposite, and extremely desirable. And yet, fleeting. But why? What is really at play here? Besides the fact that this storyline is rather unbelievable, Dunham takes us on a short journey, almost like a choose your own adventure, where each move can have a decidedly different outcome. But the real underlying theme; happiness.
We all struggle with that which can, will, or does make us happy. And those things are very different for everyone. Sometimes they’re materialistic, and other times, deeper. But money, and brownstones aside, even a glimpse into a world where Hannah might be a normal girlfriend, listening to her boyfriend in bed, playing ping pong topless, and parading around a gorgeous apartment is not a world she can even allow herself to digest. When she reveals in bed that it wasn’t until meeting Joshua, that she realized she was lonely, we are allowed one real moment into Hannah as a character. And even through the coke and brooklyn loft nights, and Adam filled days, at the end of the day Hannah is just like everyone else in the world. Looking for someone to share it with. Yet, that realization, instead of making her happy, scares her as it threatens her sense of identity. The reality of a new possible reality scares her, perhaps in some way, a sell out to conformity. She must stay true to her craft, writing for her generation, and doing crazy things for stories, and her life, because if she stops and allows herself to just live a normal, boring life with a boyfriend, in a brownstone, then who the hell is she.
And much like Jessa tried to play house in a fantasy world, Hannah’s story, though less heated, succumbed to the same fate. After Joshua ends his hooky and goes back to work, he tells Hannah to please stay with him, and be there when he returns, but she doesn’t listen. Rather then wait and tell him, or have some kind of adult conversation that could include expressing what an amazing few days it was, Hannah instead leaves hurriedly in a dramatic fashion reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw. Even her saunter off the front, brown steps onto the empty street reminded me of the end of a Sex and the City episode.
We watch her leave, walking away from the possibility of discovering where a new road might lead her, and ultimately returning to the world she thinks she belongs. That world cannot include Joshua, and as she walks down the brownstone steps, she drops his trash in the garbage.
This episode left me thinking, what do we all really want out of life, and if you ultimately get a window into what you think you could want, or have, will you still want it?
Joshua only lives a few blocks from the cafe, so here’s hoping for a awkward run in.