A major location change for a main character in a show can suggest one of three possibilities: their story has reached an end, they’ve been axed, or in the case of Girls, it’s time to explore a post-collegiate twenty-something New Yorker out of water. And so begins “Triggering,” which adopts a format to the similar ‘standalone’ episodes of previous seasons that focused on one character’s arc.
The band aid has been ripped away and Hannah’s adjustment to the Iowan way of life is exposed. For this new life venture, she’s without the on-hand comfort of Marnie, Jessa or Shoshanna to comprehend her alien environment. In the aftermath of last week’s explicit season introduction for Marnie, whose debut saw her getting rimmed over the kitchen sink, her appearance – along with Jessa and Shoshanna – is relegated to a brief Skype chat with Hannah. All the better for our leading girl to re-invent herself, right?
Much has been made of the irritatingly self-aware nature of the show’s protagonist, a trait that wasn’t lost on her car ride to the Midwest. The first full episode anchored in her new college life shows us that Hannah’s self-aggrandizing is as prevalent as ever. Expecting a shift in her personality merely because she’s changed location is not the point. Instead, we’re granted bleak laughs at her incompetence in adjusting to her new life. Iowa isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A faux-Parisian bike ride through a blossom-dotted park comes to an end when she topples from her bicycle, which she leaves unchained because “it’s Iowa,” only to find it stolen the next day. An open window invites in an unwanted house guest – a bird – leading her to curl up on the bathroom floor for the night.
What continues to make Hannah such a compelling character are her reactions to simple life changes, which propel her further down the path of introspection and self-assessment. If her new life circumstance – being away from the comfort of New York, her boyfriend, her friends – is to deliver any sense of evolution for her, it’s yet to make itself apparent. As she comforts a sobbing undergrad in line for the bathroom at a house party, her obsession with ageism – “I’m 25 years old, I’ve seen a lot of things. I’m here to help you” – is the type of embarrassing response that makes her infuriating and hilarious in equal measure.