Girls-Lena-Dunham-Hannah-HBO.jpgHBO’s “Girls” wasted no time pushing the comfort envelope this week, featuring a nude pics incident and a topless shot of Lena Dunham in the episode’s opening scene. This show is not for the faint of heart, and the fourth episode was just as racy, raw and brazen as the rest. “Hannah’s Diary” cemented the “Girls” penchant for perking up viewers’ faith with temporary optimism, and then smacking it back down with hilarious — often vile — realism.

“You’re smarter than this, Hannah,” says Marnie (Allison Williams), trying to convince Dunham’s lead character not to respond to her appalling sex partner Adam’s (Adam Driver) accidental nude pic message. Later in the episode, Hannah’s sassy coworkers chime in that “You need to break up with him on the immediate” and “You need to have a little self-respect.” These women, who tolerate unhappy relationships or allow their boss to grope them in exchange for health insurance and iPods, are ironically correct. But Hannah only momentarily manages to steer herself in the right direction.

True to what’s become the “Girls” formula, viewers’ confidence soars as Hannah stands in Adam’s doorway and almost ends their noxious dynamic by standing up for herself: “It makes me feel stupid and pathetic,” she says about the photo incident. “And you didn’t even bother to explain, because I made you think that you don’t have to explain….. I’m really not asking for anything….. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me.”

It was easily of the season’s best monologue so far. Even viewers who haven’t found themselves in a relationship as scandalous as Hannah and Adam’s can identify with her perceived powerlessness. Unfortunately, though, the dysfunction turns him on, and Hannah can’t resist Adam’s “charms” (speaking of those said supposed charms, Driver’s performance continues to shine brilliantly in this perfectly awful, constantly shirtless role).

Hannah indulges detrimental situations not just because she is needy — it’s also that she’s aware of her youth, and she’s stubbornly delaying her entrance to the realm of caring about consequences. And all the “Girls” find themselves clinging to remnants of immaturity and toxicity, because they can, it’s how they’re comfortable operating, and because their problems are the sort of issues that are absolutely temporary and trite in the grand scheme of life. That’s inherent to the show’s humor — and a huge element of what’s made reactions to “Girls” so polarized.

It might have been “Hannah’s Diary,” but the OK-screw-it vulnerability of the other characters was on display tonight as well. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) gets misty-eyed remembering her frequent childhood exaggerations that her mother was “this awesome mom…” (strong hints toward the background to her hungry tiger attitude). Marnie’s unraveling relationship with Charlie is painful to watch as well, especially the culmination of Questionable Goods’ performance of their new song — written from intimate details gleaned from Hannah’s journal. It’s also worth acknowledging how temperamental the male characters on the show are — they’re all still boys, in one way or another.

Dunham’s hyper-specific take on the “making it in New York” experience continues to stand out (love it or hate it) boldly in the new class of 2012 TV. Tonight’s spot-on assessments of certain types eking out an existence in Lower-Manhattan and Brooklyn today rang quite true: Wannabe indie rockers, lackluster stay-at-home dads, 20-somethings who overshare online and offline, nannies who daydream of unionizing, hopeful girls who cling to the “Sex and the City” ideal, and jaded women who sanction sexual harassment in order to keep a job.

Four episodes in, and “Girls” is still packing tons of jaw-dropping, head-shaking, eyebrow-raising scenes into 30 minutes each Sunday night. Dunham’s cast of characters and their problems remind the audience of issues they’ve faced, and people they know (and some they wish they didn’t). So, we’ve assembled a “Girls” Gag Index, to highlight each episode’s standout moments. Take a look and let us know what you thought about the episode, and its many saucy scenes in the comments below.

“Girls” Gag Index: “Hannah’s Diary”

Funniest moment: Hannah’s new and improved eyebrows.
Saddest moment: Shoshanna’s virginity rejection.
Most Cringe-worthy moment: The “Hannah’s Diary” song performance at the Bushwick Inn.
Most honest moment: “It’s not adult life if your parents pay for your Blackberry.” Can’t argue with that.
Trainwreck-waiting-to-happen moment: Jessa and her babysitting boss. He seems like such a cool dad — please don’t let us down! (Even though we get the “Girls” formula by now … and he likely will, in a spectacularly awkward fashion.)

Posted by:Elizabeth Brady