This Girls review contains spoilers.
Girls Season 6 Episode 3
Well, well, it’s another Girls bottle episode about Hannah in a house with a dude. This certainly invites comparisons to season two’s “One Man’s Trash,” but they’re not actually all that similar. The season premiere—with its hazy, too-positive, sex-filled surreality (that subsequently comes crashing back to reality) was far more “Trash” like. Though this one is more contained, the tone is sober almost throughout, with the plot focused on a discussion between Hannah and a successful author, Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys), about a scathing article she wrote about him. It’s less like “One Man’s Trash” and more like My Dinner with Andre.
“American Bitch” feels like it’s tailor-made for me to like it and maybe for it to be a critical darling in general. I’ll concede it’s easily the best episode of the season so far. It explores an interesting, extremely of-the-moment subject as Hannah’s written a sort of hit piece about Palmer based off a girl’s Tumblr post asserting that he sexually assaulted her. It’s a difficult scenario to fall firmly on one side or the other. Victims of sexual assault rarely fake their stories but are seldom believed, so it seems right to trust the girl’s account. However, it’s arguably just as right to not jump to conclusions without any concrete evidence, something which, unfortunately, there’s often a dearth of in cases like these.
Both Hannah and Palmer present convincing arguments. When he suggests that his liaison with the Tumblr girl was something that gave her a story to tell, Hannah scathingly rebuts, “You got it wrong; it’s not so she has a story. It’s so she feels like she exists.” On the other hand, Chuck later makes a decent point that, Hannah’s entirely hearsay-based article is now something he has to worry his daughter’s friends will Google and that this will come back to hurt her.
The episode falters a bit when things take a turn for the (slightly) positive. It’s not that I hate positivity (well, maybe it is that, a bit); it’s the way that positivity comes about. At some point, Palmer simply produces a story he wrote about the experience he had with the Tumblr girl. In it, it’s clear that the girl initiated all the sexy stuff and there was nothing forced about the interaction. He tells Hannah he wrote this before the girl wrote her Tumblr post.
What’s weird is Hannah just up and believes him. I guess, by the point he shows her this story (though one wonders why he didn’t show it to her up front), she’s been speaking with him for some time so perhaps she feels she can trust what he’s written and what he’s telling her. But Hannah’s been fairly firmly on Tumblr girl’s side up until this point and I simply didn’t buy her immediate acceptance. She acts as though he’s produced irrefutable proof when it’s actually very refutable indeed. There’s still really just as much evidence he did sexually assault this girl as there is that he didn’t.
Once Hannah and Palmer stop arguing, there’s an artificiality to the rest of their interactions. Hannah does admire him as an author, so it makes sense she doesn’t want to be in disagreement with the guy, but I don’t know, again, coming off of the discussion before it, some of it seems corny and staged, teetering on bad theater. “Read it aloud to me,” Palmer commands Hannah, after handing her the story. And then she does. And then they have a congenial chat about Hannah’s background in which Palmer apologizes for sounding like a “People magazine interview” but wants to know what her dreams are for the next five years. “No, it’s okay,” she says. “It’s a good question.” Is it? Sounds to me like every job interview ever.
Anyway, all this pleasant business gets upended when Palmer asks Hannah to lie in bed with him and then casually pulls his dick out and rests it against her leg. She grabs it briefly and then decides she shouldn’t have and then Palmer’s daughter comes home, putting a kibosh on any further shenanigans.
I’m glad for the introduction of the penis because it calls back into question just how truthful and considerate this guy actually is; it’s definitely better than if the episode had just ended with Hannah deciding she’d been wrong about him and shouldn’t have written her article. We’re left to question Palmer’s position of power: how much we can accuse him of using it with the Tumblr girl and whether he used it to dupe Hannah. The appearance of the dick, Hannah’s reaction to it, and then the daughter’s arrival halting any further exploration of the situation makes for a strange ending that abandons us squarely in a grey area. I respect this ending but I won’t pretend it’s not somewhat unsatisfying too (even Hannah says in this episode that she’s sick of grey areas).
“American Bitch” did feel like it was made for me to love it. I enjoyed some of it fine and can admire its conclusion, but I didn’t quite buy all of the story’s developments and came away feeling lukewarm to the episode overall.