I really have to give it to Lena Dunham. Last week’s episode of GIRLS was very well done. There are spoilers to follow.
There are only two characters in the main scenes, Hannah and a famous writer named Chuck Palmer. Everything happens through dialog. It’s set in the writer’s beautiful and orderly apartment. The setting is unlike earlier seasons where all the action takes place in dumpy apartments and grimy cafes. As Hannah becomes a real writer, she is moving in nicer circles, even while she mines her past for stories.
This story centers around an alleged sexual impropriety from Palmer. A fan claims he abused their relationship to pressure her into sex. She was not the only person speaking out and Hannah wrote a piece about it for an obscure website. Palmer, impressed by her writing and incensed she would take the word of a stranger over his, invites Hannah over to talk about it.
Things start off defensively. Palmer tells his side of the story, explains his motives in a fairly open way; Hannah gives him a short but not too tinny breakdown of her reasons, historical, political, and personal, for her willingness to believe the victim.
Palmer seems manipulative from the opening. Or perhaps it’s that I’m used to things going sideways on this show. He explains the story from his point of view and makes a connection of sorts with Hannah. They bond over a first edition of a Philip Roth novel which he gives her. I think the acting in this scene is first rate. Hannah seems very happy and taken by complete surprise by Palmer’s generosity. There is a flash of corruption foreshadowing his real motivation, to offer her a payment she might not be able to pass up when he whips his dick out.
We’ve just heard Hannah’s repartee with Palmer over power dynamics and sexual abuse and this is a test for her. She goes in for his dick like season 1 Hannah would’ve, but with a look of confused horror.
Dunham, who I don’t always have the nicest things to say about, is very good at awkwardness and tension. The moment Palmer unfurls his dong is hilarious and embarrassing to watch. Palmer’s daughter comes home early, interrupting the dick handling, robbing Hannah of her moment to decide whether she wants to make a point of standing up for what she believes in, or kind of sell out for sex.
I love this end because it doesn’t let the viewer know if this is still the same old Hannah or if there’s actually been a change.