While everyone was losing it over Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty accidentally announcing La La Land as this year’s Best Picture at the Oscars Sunday night (in reality the winner was Moonlight), something a little quieter and completely thought-provoking happened over on HBO.
Girls, Lena Dunham and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) gave us the most relevant and water cooler-worthy episode of the show
to date that we’ll probably ever get. And it’s all thanks to a standalone installment that really dug into the idea of consent and what it truly means in a situation where one person holds all of the power.
@lenadunham tonight’s episode of Girls was groundbreaking television. Thank you. 👏🏻
— justine (@VodkaCranInACan) February 27, 2017
The entire episode took place in the fancy AF apartment of a famous novelist named Chuck Palmer (Rhys), who asked Dunham’s character Hannah to visit following an online article she wrote about him. According to the backstory, four different women accused the man of sexual assault but he was adamant that all of those incidents were consensual.
What transpired next was one of the most in-depth, thoughtful and utterly respectful conversations we’ve ever seen on television surrounding the subject. They tackled the devastation of false accusations and the personal repercussions of articles written without careful research. The idea that consent is sometimes perhaps not as simple as “yes” or “no” but that there can be situations where power and pressure can force a younger person into doing things they feel they have to. And of course there was reference to all of those much talked about “grey areas.”
@lenadunham thank you so much for this episode of girls. You’ve always made me feel less alone.
— Hazel Everett (@redmuses) February 27, 2017
The thing that made the episode really great though, was how well Dunham and Rhys played off each other. Both of their characters were passionate about their respective sides, but at the same time they actually listened to each other and made compelling counterpoints along the way. And then, just when you thought the pair had come to a respectful conclusion, things got super weird.
Palmer lamented the fact that he never got to know one of the women who accused him of assault, and that her hurt feelings were perhaps what led to her accusations on Tumblr. So he attempted to get to know Hannah instead. They laughed about her upbringing and he overshared about his daughter, ex-wife and receding hairline. It culminated in a scene involving Palmer giving Hannah a signed copy of Philip Roth’s When She Was Good and Hannah expressing the wish that someone would someday write a story about her like that.
Almost immediately after that Palmer asks Hannah to lay down with him — fully clothed — on the bed, which she hesitantly does even though you can tell from her face that it’s against her better judgement. And, as it turns out she was right to be weirded out, because the next thing you know Palmer whips out his member. And Hannah actually touches it before leaping off the bed wondering what the hell just happened. As she’s freaking out, Palmer gives her the creepiest look on the planet. Then Palmer’s daughter arrives and Hannah is forced to sit there listening to this daughter play the flute until the moment she can get away.
— Rebecca Girard (@GirardReb) February 27, 2017
@lenadunham tonight’s episode of Girls was not only expertly crafted but made real experiences I’ve had make sense to me. Thank you xo
— Matti Bygod (@mattibygod) February 27, 2017
We were all left feeling pretty confused and shell shocked (because we were actually starting to like this Palmer guy too), but that was when the episode pulled one more crazy punch: as Hannah walked out of the apartment and down the street, a parade of faceless women began entering the building behind her as “Desperado” played in the background.
Cue the end credits.
@lenadunham Tonight’s episode of Girls. Just 🙌🏽 🙌🏼 🙌🏽 💐
— JoRené (@salka_feline) February 27, 2017
This episode of Girls hit me hard. @lenadunham really go to the insidious nature of abusers, and how that can easily segue into self blaming
— altTimeline (@alt_timeline) February 27, 2017
— K (@KatyFut) February 27, 2017
— Katelyn Saks (@k8lynsax) February 25, 2017
It really is too bad that Girls is ending with this season; we feel like Lena Dunham is just getting started.