A common criticism of this season of Girls has been that Adam has seemed watered down in comparison to previous seasons, almost as if the writers were trying to make him more palatable now that he is a series regular. There’s something to that if you look back to seasons one and two and see his callousness toward Hannah and his unsettling sexual aggression. It feels like a big leap to see him go from the guy who borderline-raped his girlfriend Natalia last season to the surprisingly sweet, supporting boyfriend he has been this season.
Of course, one could make the argument that Adam has merely evolved as a character, which is something characters should do. There are plenty of tedious sitcoms on network TV where characters remain static from season to season. Girls is better than that. But with Adam the change happened so suddenly that it was a bit jarring, so the criticisms were not entirely unwarranted. The show didn’t end when Adam and Hannah became a happy couple, though. It is still a work in progress. There has been a gradual change in Adam and Hannah’s relationship over the last half-dozen or so episodes, much more gradual than Adam’s transformation from bad boy to nice guy.
With Adam getting wrapped up in his Broadway play, he has slowly become more self-centered and less in tune to Hannah’s needs. It was bound to come to a head at some point, and that point was this week’s episode. The episode starts with Hannah getting violently ill from over-drinking during a night out with her work friends, and then spending the night at her co-worker Joe’s apartment after he helps her shower off. When she tells Adam about all of this, she expects, even hopes, that he will react with jealous anger. Instead, he is completely indifferent, focused more on his wardrobe than on Hannah’s escapades. She makes a desperate pass at him and is rebuffed (“I don’t want to get sticky before rehearsal”). Then when she shows up at his rehearsal later and is kicked out, the old Adam seems to be back. When Hannah explains that he had invited her, he mumbles “Well, we talked about it being a possibility.” That’s pretty cold, and for Hannah it signals a return of the old Adam.
The show is still primarily told from Hannah’s point of view, even if it is in the third-person, so through Hannah’s eyes we see Adam as he he used to be: troubled, emotionally unavailable, and prone to disturbingly violent sexual fantasies. The problem is that the way Hannah sees Adam is no longer the way Adam sees himself. We can see that he has been a complete dick to Hannah, but he can’t see that himself. The main friction of the episode comes from the discomfort of Hannah trying to make their relationship like how it used to be while Adam wants to continue to move forward, even if moving forward means less Hannah.
For a while it seems like Hannah is on the right path with her approach to winning Adam back. While it is utterly cringe-inducing to see her in her blonde wig, acting out the fantasy of being a bored housewife who is looking to be roughed up by a stranger she meets at the bar, it seems after his initial puzzlement that Adam is into it. After getting punched in the face by a well-meaning passerby who understandably thinks he is trying to rape Hannah, Adam follows her back to Marnie’s apartment (“It smells like cookies and air freshener”) and follows her lead in the sexual roleplaying to the point of pulling a knife on her.