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Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Girls, One Man's Trash

Season 2, Episode 5
Grade: A
Verdict: This episode is an island. In what is my favorite episode of Girls this season, "One Man's Trash" gives the audience a breather from the show's ongoing narrative, using it's metaphorical whitespace wisely. We also get an opportunity to see what Girls looks like with top-tier movie actors thanks to a stellar guest appearance from Patrick Wilson.

I will admit that I sometimes watch reality TV. I have a particular weakness for cooking-based competitive shows. In the judging segment of those shows, the chefs will always say something along the lines of "if you're going to do something simple, you have to execute it flawlessly." My Top Chef judging senses tingled when I finished this week's episode of girls. It was simple, well-executed television.

In "One Man's Trash," Hannah meets 40-something Joshua (Patrick Wilson), who comes into the coffee shop to complain about the shop's trash being placed in his garbage cans. Hannah, who apparently gets perverse pleasure out of sneaking the trash into his bin, apologizes to Joshua, and the spark between them quickly snowballs into a sort of romantic mini-break in Joshua's perfect, upscale brownstone.

I love television, and I don't always agree with the concept that television actors belong in a lower acting tier than movie actors. But then a movie star shows up on one of my favorite TV shows, and oh wait - now I remember why these guys aren't on TV every week. Patrick Wilson is really the star of this episode, and his appearance this week was a coup for Girls. He took a simple, understated part and elevated it in a way that heavily contributed to the episode's contemplative feel.

I will admit, shamefully, that my initial reaction to their romance was: really? Lena Dunham lands Patrick Wilson? I reflexively wanted to slap myself for that, but the more I thought about it, the happier it made me. This is the kind of thing you see ALL THE TIME with men. Louis CK, Larry David, Jack Black, Seth Rogen - funny, regular-looking men landing statuesque, gorgeous women. Because, hey guys, looks aren't everything. We so rarely see things the other way. Leading ladies who bag men like Patrick Wilson can be smart and funny, but it is almost always second to being stereotypically beautiful. Dunham's exposed herself (quite literally) to a lot of criticism for her looks on this show, and I think it's an enormously important part of Girls.

(spoilers to follow)
In the climax of "One Mans' Trash," Hannah breaks down in tears while she and Josh cuddle. Deftly shattering their snow globe of picturesque romance, she admits she's terribly unhappy. She's carved a niche for herself by taking in unique experiences and flippantly showcasing them to the world, by "letting anyone say anything" to her without reproach, but that deep down inside she loves lounging in his Restoration Hardware catalog home, being told she's pretty, reading the paper on the patio, and acting like a very boring, ordinary person.

Joshua, on the other hand, is a 40-something doctor separated from his wife. He's just had a fling with an almost complete stranger in her 20s. It's pretty clear that for him, this is a novelty. The whole point of this romance was to escape the monotony of his routine and do something unpredictable. The fact that Hannah is attracted to the domestic bliss peels away her capricious veneer and exposes truth - she is not a sexy, confident young person who just wants to have fun. She is a mess.

Joshua is also probably a mess, too. But Hannah won't ever see that... because she's Hannah, and when is Hannah ever looking at someone other than herself?

Best moment: The way Joshua awkwardly tries to connect with Hannah's weirdness by admitting a boy gave him a hand job when he was 9, and Hannah dismissively shrugging it off. Followed by the look on Joshua's face when Hannah proclaims herself as "too smart" and too in touch with her emotions.
Worst moment: There was no one particularly bad or cringe-worthy moment, but I did feel as though Dunham looked a lot weaker when acting next to someone like Wilson, particularly during her breakdown scene.
Favorite Quote: "What happens if a doctor calls in sick?"
"10 - 20 people die."

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