Skip to Content

Girls, Ep. 4.02, “Triggering” brings Hannah to a strange new world

Girls, Ep. 4.02, “Triggering” brings Hannah to a strange new world

Girls S04E02, "Triggering"

Girls, Season 4, Episode 2, “Triggering”
Written by Jenni Konner & Lena Dunham
Directed by Lena Dunham
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on HBO

With Hannah’s goodbyes out of the way, “Triggering” opens where many expected the season premiere to begin: Hannah, New York City girl, is in Iowa, and she can’t believe the rent. This episode focuses almost entirely on Hannah’s transition to life at the University of Iowa, surrounded by open green space and her artistic peers. Hannah’s on board with the former, for now, but she’s much less certain about the latter. This is the first time she’s been forced to engage with fellow writers about her personal work, writers who are at roughly the same place in their lives and careers that she is; it’s a lot harder to dismiss their criticisms than those she’s faced thus far.

The series has played with Lena Dunham’s public persona and audience reactions to her and Girls in the past, but the notes session Hannah sits through here is the series’ most straightforwardly meta scene since the opening of season two. While Hannah’s writing is panned by the group, they’re split on her decision to (in their estimation) draw from her own life experiences for her fiction writing assignment. The line between fiction and recollected fact is often a blurry one and the discussion of it here, and the scene’s capturing of the difficult and neuroses-inducing process of listening to people react to one’s work in real-time, makes the scene a standout in an otherwise straightforward day-in-the-life episode.

Very little time is spent with the series’ other characters. Marnie makes an appearance on Skype, Jessa watches TV while Shosh fails to understand what a collect call is, and of course Hannah’s parents sit around on week nights and play Scrabble, because they’re the best. Adam and Ray sit out the episode entirely, a wise choice that puts the audience squarely in Hannah’s shoes, either wondering what Adam’s up to or distracted enough by the new surroundings to not give him a second thought (and certainly not call him). Hannah’s classmates are promising new characters that will hopefully get a bit more fleshed out, but the secret weapon of the episode (or at least, secret to those who managed to go in to the episode unspoiled) is Elijah.

Andrew Rannells was a blast in the season premiere and he’s just as fun here, a bitchy breath of fresh air. “Triggering” focuses entirely on Hannah, so its tone naturally mirrors her state of mind. When he pops up, Elijah is exactly the shot in the arm Hannah, and the episode, needs. Their take-over of the rager is great, from Elijah’s hook up with a totally-not-gay student at his very first college party to Hannah’s romantic advice to a distraught young woman (and bathroom line cutting) to their comparative victory over the newbies, when they’re up and strolling home through the quad while everyone else is still passed out from the night before. We’ll see how long Elijah sticks around in Iowa, but the prospect of Hannah having perhaps her least self-involved friend around for at least some of her time in grad school is encouraging.

Kate Kulzick

Other thoughts:

The line of the episode doesn’t go to Hannah or Elijah, but the clerk at the campus store, whose fabulous off-screen follow up to “The customer’s always right”, after dealing with Hannah, is: “[beat] It’s not true, though.”

Hannah’s (make that costumer Jennifer Rogien’s) choice of a bright white and black dress and gold or dark ivory sweater makes much more sense when she’s walking home from the party—the ensemble looks great once her dress has been dyed blue.

The notes session that Hannah walks in late to, the glowing reaction to DeAugust’s piece, is beautifully pretentious (really, guy in the Hawkeyes sweater- you’d literally cut your arm off? Where’s Archer when you need him?), while also feeling authentic.

Hannah says in the episode that she’s not getting any financial support from her parents. If so, it’s interesting to note she’s just as wasteful with her money as she is with theirs. Yes, the house is nice, but in her three years there (if she were to stay at the school for as long as she seems to plan, and not move), she’ll waste over $18,000.

Hannah’s perspective on long-distance relationships here is entertaining, but a less than encouraging portent of what’s to come for her and Adam.

So Jessa and Shosh like to hang out and watch Scandal. That puts them in the company of Pops from Blackish, and likely many other fictional characters. (Who else on TV is currently following Scandal? List ‘em off in the comments!)