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January 27, 2014

Girls Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: A Death, and an Ironic Response to Jezebel

The hit HBO show takes an unexpected turn.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of HBO

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Girls has done something I never thought it would, something conventional in TV land but still unexpected on this show: it killed off a character. David, Hannah's book editor, played by the fantastic John Cameron Mitchell, has been found floating in the Hudson River, and not on a sailboat. Girls being Girls, the death has little to do with plot and everything to do with a hipster thanatopsis.

"Do you feel anything?" Adam (Adam Driver) asks Hannah (Lena Dunham), as she wonders what David's death means for her and her e-book publication. Which leads Shosh (Zosia Mamet) to talk about what her high school friend's death meant for Shosh: that Shosh's clique was too big for six people anyway. (Um, Heathers.) Which leads Jessa (Jemima Kirke) to talk about what Jessa's old friend's death meant for Jessa: that she hasn't really thought about the chick who choked to death on her own vomit in years. (Jessa subsequently discovers the friend's overdose and funeral were faked just to get Jessa out of the girl's life.)

Fortunately, Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) is on hand to help Hannah feel feelings. When the two take a romp through a graveyard with Laird (Jon Glaser), who says everyone close to him has died—"literally everyone"—Hannah says she can't "rival" Adam’s emotional depth. Emotion: part of the Sochi 2014 lineup. But are the girls sociopaths, possibly over-medicated, or are they simply practical? Self-involved, or simply, as Caroline puts it, "secure"? What initially seems like more of Girls trademark riff on selfishness, self-absorption, and overall self-ness actually looks pragmatic from certain (if only very certain) angles. There is no point in falling into a heap of mourning for the sake of mourning, and if you don’t anesthetize yourself to painful things, life is going to hurt a lot. Pink Floyd’s existential ballad, "Comfortably Numb" started playing in my head during this episode.

But even if Hannah isn't nobly grieving, she's wallowing: she can't stop googling David's death, or reading the Gawker posts about it. "Gawker? You're getting your news from Gawker?" Adam asks her. Hannah says she's a "media-ist" so, of course. He calls the site a bunch of "judgmental creeps, celibate against their will… Jealous people who make a living appealing to our basest desire to kick someone when they're down." Hannah defends Gawker, and its "sister site, Jezebel"— where "feminists can go to support one another, which we need in this modern world of slut-shaming."

The episode was filmed months before Jezebel not-so-supportively offered $10,000 for un-retouched images of Dunham's Vogue spread, so the exchange has an extra-tangy taste of prescience. (To weather scrutiny like that, I'd have to become comfortably numb myself.) Hannah is not at her best in the episode—Dunham makes the point line after thoughtlessly spoken line—whereas Adam has revealed himself to be a specimen of flawless humanity this season, so if we had to place a bet on which character ironically reveals Dunham's true thoughts on Jezebel, who do we pick?


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