THIS WAS AN APT WEEK for Girls to air an episode about counting! (It was also the eighth episode of the season, of course.) The revelation of Hannah’s obsessive compulsive disorder, which has not, as far as I can recall, been mentioned or foreshadowed in any previous episodes [I stand corrected; see comments below], nonetheless felt completely in character. Various moments from earlier in the series — Hannah’s continual revision of her tweet in “All Adventurous Women Do,” her anxious approach to garbage disposal in “One Man’s Trash” — present themselves rather differently in this context. Above all, her complex relationship with her parents (which Phil and Lili discussed so eloquently last week) feels even richer now: from the very first episode Dunham has been daring us to think of Hannah as “spoiled,” which she may well be, but the enabling, overprotective attitude that her parents (and her father in particular) take toward her helps us to understand how this codependence has come about. (“I hate it when you look so concerned about me,” she tells her dad in the episode’s final scene.)
It also helps us understand her as a writer. We talked a lot during season one about the representation of Hannah’s creativity, and Jane made the following remark:
Hannah doesn’t strike me as such a writer. There seems to be less waiting, or hand-wringing, between her acts and their recording. Instead, Hannah’s a note taker. She takes notes. In real time. For her book. Dunham, as well, comes off as a bit too ahead of the game … Her life is happening and she’s going to put it out there as it does.
The “no filter” sensibility that Dunham has exemplified in her life and art might be a way of dealing with the terrors of composition that an artist with a disease like Hannah’s faces. How do you even sit down to make a piece of art after you’ve experienced something as horrible as what Hannah describes to her new therapist (played by Bob Balaban) at the end of this episode? (That scene with Balaban, by the way, is one of Dunham’s best acting moments so far.) Well, maybe you don’t sit down: maybe you cultivate a mode in which you “put it out there” an...read more