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‘Girls’ Recap 5: ‘One Man’s Trash’ a Two-Hander for Dunham and Guest Star Patrick Wilson

by Beth Hanna
February 10, 2013 9:30 PM
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Lena Dunham in "Girls"
Lena Dunham in "Girls"

In “One Man’s Trash,” Joshua (Patrick Wilson), a handsome, disgruntled neighborhood man, confronts Grumpy’s manager Ray about trash from the café that’s being foisted into his personal garbage bins. Hannah follows Joshua back to his gorgeous Willamsburg brownstone and confesses that she was the culprit. They end up spending the next day and couple of nights together -- talking, having sex, and (mostly) enjoying each other’s company.

That’s the set-up of the episode. With the exception of Ray’s blowup in the opening scene, “One Man’s Trash” is a two-hander. It looks at Hannah and Joshua’s encounter as a sped-up microcosm of a real relationship -- a light-as-air honeymoon period dominates the first night, problems arise on the second, and the following morning sees a separate going-of-ways. Interestingly, Hannah’s “relationship” with Joshua echoes problems she had in her relationship with Adam.

Girls episode 5 Dunham and Wilson

Joshua is peaceable, sweet and seemingly very attracted to Hannah (not all qualities that Adam shares), but he’s guarded. He tells her little about his profession (he's a doctor), or his recent separation from his wife, who now lives in San Diego. When Hannah confronts Joshua about this, she both manages to call him “Josh” -- a shortened version of his name that he doesn’t like (and a running gag throughout the episode) -- and mistakes his wife’s new home for San Francisco.

In the first season, Adam accused Hannah: “You don’t want to know me … You want to come over in the middle of the night and have me fuck the dog shit out of you and then write about it in your journal!” And so it is with Joshua. Hannah, ever the self-absorbed navel gazer, actually has little interest in knowing her romantic interests outside the context of herself and her relationship to them. She also mistakes her oversharing for a sort of kindness that she’s bestowing on others.

Yet Hannah’s oversharing proves to be moving (even if Dunham’s dramatic acting chops aren’t quite up to the challenge). She realizes that she wants “the same thing everybody else wants” -- to be happy. Joshua probably isn’t, enduring the breakup of his marriage and seemingly at odds with many fixtures of his neighborhood. But his picturesque apartment, good looks and kindness to Hannah signal a “whole package” that she hadn’t articulated to herself she wanted. Part of the hipster credo is fancying oneself special, floating knowingly above the normalcy of the mainstream. When Hannah tearfully breaks down to Joshua, she cries for her day-to-day loneliness and for the realization that her deep desire to be happy is, though beautiful, also banal.

One thing that struck me during this episode is that either a) Hannah is out of touch with the events of her own life, or b) “Girls” is out of touch with its own plot points. When Joshua tells Hannah that she’s beautiful, her response is: “That’s not the feedback I’m used to.” What? Hannah’s been nothing but a heartbreaker all season long. The series indulges in wish-fulfillment (see: the entire Adam storyline), but then forgets all of the wishes fulfilled when it comes to Hannah’s self-esteem. This could be a believable twist in the labyrinth of Hannah’s self-perception, but it might also be a crutch for the show’s writers.

Dunham is the sole writer of “One Man’s Trash,” and I appreciate her willingness to play with structure and linger with two characters. But the episode doesn’t fully work: it drags in parts, and exemplifies that the second season of “Girls” lacks a clear aesthetic vision. One of the joys of the show’s first season is its cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes (Dunham's "Tiny Furniture"), who has left the series. He infused the frame with a naturalistic yet pastel lighting scheme, and consistently favored the slow zoom. While “Girls” is about young people still uncertain of themselves, the show’s first season was very sure of itself visually. The slow zoom returns this week, thrown in with mostly handheld work. While the episode looks fine, indeed better than average, the varying camera techniques seem without purpose. Instead of invoking a coherent visual whole, “Girls” now looks like, well, television. To borrow a phrase close to HBO’s heart: It’s not TV. Let’s step this up.

Bits and pieces:

  • This episode is directed by Richard Shepard.
  • Best line goes to Joshua: “I once let a boy give me a handjob when I was nine.”
  • Kudos to costume designer Jenn Rogein -- Hannah’s jumpsuit in this episode defies description. Watch below.


  • Ronnie D. | February 12, 2013 2:43 AMReply

    I - I think you misunderstood me; what I intended by my statement, was that Patrick Wilson would never go for a girl like Lena Dunham, him being the tall and handsome and extremely in shape guy that he is who could pretty much get any girl he wants.

  • bruckey | February 14, 2013 10:16 AM

    people are too shy/polite to speak the truth of lena dunham. she maybe a lovely person, she is a talented person but it does everyone a disservice to describe her as attractive

  • david | February 12, 2013 9:07 AM

    personality goes a long way

  • Marc. C | February 11, 2013 11:07 PMReply

    That was definitely not Williamsburg. Park Slope for sure.

  • Brian W. | February 11, 2013 9:51 PMReply

    Very interesting and astute recap. I like the comparisons you drew between Adam and Patrick Wilson, and I think this was an ambitious episode in its bottled structure. I've still been loving this season because Dunham is such a skilled writer and stylistic director. I would disagree that the show suddenly looks visually uninteresting, as it's done more with dynamic, affronting editing (the rave scene when they're on cocaine) and stark framing (the disturbingly hilarious Marnie/Booth sex scene or the shot of Hannah in the bathtub singing Wonderwall), but where the show is currently lacking a vision is in its overarching vision. That first season of Girls was so perfect in the way it reflected what it was like to be a 20 something just out of college. The characters were imperfect, not flawed, and they reflected a whole generation. This season has been true to its characters, but fuller embodiments of their flaws, and it's given us episodes that feel further from being universal. The cocaine trip, the entire Booth Jonathan plot and the entire Ray being homeless plot (amazingly not referenced in this episode), and now that Dunham has constructed a bottle episode is telling of the whole season and its arguably forced scenarios. I still feel as though this is a wonderfully ambitious show that I'm enjoying every minute of, and yet it's sending some mixed messages.

  • Ronnie D. | February 10, 2013 11:09 PMReply

    In what world, would Patrick Wilson ever hook up with Lena Dunham? This show needs a serious reality check.

  • Mike Hunt | February 16, 2013 12:15 AM

    In a world where Lena Dunham writes the script of course!

  • bruckey | February 14, 2013 10:14 AM

    the only way they would ever hook up is if patrick wilson was sh*t faced !

  • I | February 11, 2013 9:56 PM

    Patrick Wilson provides the "ideal" partner, with a steady career and finances, as well as his aesthetically pleasing looks. She got to dip her toes in the lifestyle he is apart of, walking into an unfamiliar world, but left exactly as the way she has always been. There's no reality check, because though Lena is an attractive female, it was essentially a dream situation. It is also not unlikely that a recently divorced man would simply objectify and sexualize a woman for his sexual desires and needs.

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