‘Girls’ Review: “One Man’s Trash”
Like season one’s “The Return,” “One Man’s Trash” is a Hannah-centric episode, but this one blissfully leans a little heavier on the drama. After last week’s stellar episode, ‘Girls‘ is just as fantastic this week, albeit for different reasons.
Last week gave us what I consider to be my favorite episode of the season so far, and it was thanks mostly to the incredibly tough scene between Jemima Kirke and Chris O’Dowd. The comedy on ‘Girls’ is great, but I think it’s the truly dramatic moments that make the show something special — Lena Dunham is able to capture these moments with searing precision, particularly when the focus is on the dynamic between two characters. In lesser hands, this minimalist pursuit would feel sophomoric, but Dunham is able to move beyond the mere idea of putting two people with different goals and desires in the same room and onto something with more gravity and relevance.
“One Man’s Trash” is a shining example of this ability to transcend a familiar screenwriting and acting technique by finding the sincerity within her characters. Sincerity doesn’t always read as a positive quality in the world of ‘Girls’ — someone like Ray, who in the episode’s open blows up at Patrick Wilson’s doctor character for accusing the Grumpy’s staff of ditching their garbage in his nearby can, is sincere in a way that’s off-putting. His attack is genuine, the culmination of his long-standing inertia and his recent, eye-opening relationship with Shoshanna. Shosh is the kind of woman who is young enough to still see so much promise and opportunity in the world, but Ray, now 33, feels as though he’s wasted too much time not figuring his life out. When you’re 25, not knowing your place in the world is precious and endearing, but when you’re 33, it’s an indicator of being a loser. Ray is bitter, and Wilson affords him the chance to project his anger onto someone besides himself while also allowing him to feel justified — a small victory for someone who has so few.
But onto the meat of the episode! Hannah ditches the coffee shop to head over to Wilson’s brownstone where she admits that she’s the one who’s been ditching the trash in his bin (because of course it was her). She steals an awkward kiss, and just when she’s apologizing for it, he grabs her and takes her on his fancy granite kitchen counter. He’s recently separated and headed for divorce, but he’s kind, sensitive, beautiful, and a doctor — the perfect package. Other perfect things that perfect Patrick Wilson does during the course of the two days they spend together: grills some steaks, listens to Father John Misty, and lets Hannah wear one of his sweaters. This is Swoon City, population: Hannah (and me, definitely me).
It’s obvious that Joshua (not Josh, never Josh) is lonely and misses having a woman at home, which appears to be his only real hang-up. But Hannah comes with an assortment of baggage, arriving at his door like an emotional Goldilocks, ready to see if his house — and this life — are just right. We’ve seen the way Hannah, Jessa, and Marnie have all been trying on different life choices to see what fits, so it’s no surprise that Hannah would allow herself to be taken by Joshua. He’s a real grown-up with a real house, a real career, real belongings, and a fancy shower with digital controls and a stone bench. Like Jessa was drawn to Thomas John, Hannah is drawn to Joshua for similar reasons, and we know this won’t end well.
“One Man’s Trash” compresses a relationship down to two days: the moment you meet someone and feel that primitive attraction; the coy period where you hide your flaws and just feel smitten for each other, getting to know each other on a superficial level; the honeymoon period of having sex all day and night; and finally, the emotional undressing. When Hannah faints in the shower, Dr. Joshua rescues her, and it’s then that she realizes how sweet he is — too sweet. For Hannah, nothing should be this easy or feel this good. She starts to cry and for a moment we glimpse the real Hannah: a child in a grown-up’s robe who feels lost and isn’t sure she deserves happiness. But then she starts talking and it’s back to the dressed-up version of Hannah — this messy, overwrought person with complicated feelings that she presents to the world with millennial melodrama, quoting a Fiona Apple interview to validate her feelings.
I know the interview she refers to. In it, Apple says that she just wants to feel everything, an echo of her song “Every Single Night” from the album ‘The Idler Wheel…’ And Hannah explains that a long time ago she made a pact with herself that she would feel and experience everything, but what she doesn’t include is the part, “even and especially the bad stuff.” Writers need experiences to write about, but Hannah is a greedy scavenger of experience, so much so that she instigates these “experiences” selfishly, and often at the expense of others.
Still, beneath all of her dramatic, quirky posturing, there’s something genuine in that moment when she reveals herself to Joshua — Hannah the writer has convinced herself, via this personal treaty to feel and experience everything, that she doesn’t deserve love and having a genuinely good relationship. It’s no wonder that Hannah can’t keep a roommate when she can barely live with herself.
And just as quick as she arrived on his doorstep, Hannah leaves (not before drinking his coffee and eating his jam and toast), and she takes her trash with her.