‘Girls’ Season 4 Premiere Recap: “Iowa”

The fourth season of Girls, like the first season of Girls, begins with Hannah Horvath’s parents taking her out to dinner. The contrast is as striking as it is intentional: the skeezy guy Hannah was then hooking up with is now her boyfriend; the unpaid internship that was then winding down (without a paying job in sight) is now an acceptance to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. And of course, this dinner is a celebration, not an abrupt announcement that Hannah’s financially on her own.

Though packing up and moving (back) to the Midwest is obviously a major move, most of the Girls’ lives seem to have settled into a status quo since last season’s finale. The relationship troubles that seemed to spell the end of Hannah and Adam have stabilized into artistic frustration on his part and premature separation anxiety on hers. Both are valid issues, of course, as is the fact that their relationship has only improved now that Adam‘s the corporate shill and Hannah‘s the working artist. But their relationship still managed to survive the Major Barbara days, to the point where the couple’s trying out an LDR rather than using Hannah’s move as a chance to quit while they’re ahead.

Also more or less where we found her last season is Shoshanna, whose delayed graduation played like the end of the world ten months ago. Instead of seeing her languishing in summer school and pining to join her friends in their twentysomething malaise—God knows why—we just witness her pick up her diploma sans cap, gown, pomp, and circumstance, with the help of Mel ‘n’ Mel. (Yes, “Shoshie’s” divorced parents have the same name: “It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it’s, like, the first thing that ever happened to me.”) Ana Gasteyer is, obviously, perfect; that sound you hear is a million Jewish children’s strangled grunts of recognition.

Shoshanna may be in the real world at long last, but she still has no idea what she wants to do there. Besides the whole issue of steady employment, which we know is never in the cards for the Girls anyway, there’s the problem of Ray and their still-unresolved romantic tension. She says she’s forgiven him and she never liked Marnie much anyway, despite being a dedicated enough friend to suffer through a horrible jazz brunch. Which brings us once again to the question Girls hasn’t really been able to answer since season two: what’s keeping these people together anyway? Not much, especially since their supposed binding agent is packing up and leaving.

But nobody’s going to be talking about inexplicable brunch attendance today, because the Golden Globes happened and also this:

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Possibly making TV history, this sex scene prompted a trend piece before it even aired! While the butt stuff may be new, however, the rest of the scene certainly isn’t. Is Marnie horrifically embarrassing herself while remaining convinced she’s on top of the world? Um: “Oh, I love that.” “I love you, too!” Is Marnie still borderline sociopathic? Well, the breakup she spied on last season apparently didn’t stick. Is Marnie making a horrible choice of romantic partner? Desi may not have locked her in a terrifying TV tower, but he is still cheating on his girlfriend with a basic in Coachella-core, down to the maxi skirt and feathers.

Last and least, as per usual, is Jessa, whose brief mentorship by an aging artist has come to an end. Her daughter, who is also Natasha Lyonne, is understandably freaked out by Beedie’s aborted assisted suicide attempt, and has come to drag her mom back to Connecticut. Jessa calls Beedie an “old bitch,” Beedie tells Jessa she loves her more than her daughter, and said daughter gets in a few sweet digs at millennial special-snowflakeism (I see that co-writing credit, Judd Apatow!), and with that, Jessa’s cut loose once again. As maturely as one can expect of Jessa, she projects her sadness by being a total bitch to Hannah for leaving New York and not dumping her boyfriend.

That’s pretty much it for this episode, the main point of which was to get Hannah into the car and off to the namesake state. Will Shoshanna and Ray get back together? Will Marnie ever graduate from unbearable to tolerable? Will we get more one-liners on the level of “They’re the laziest bunch of bulimics you’ve ever met?” We’ve got nine weeks left to find out!