As far as midlife crises are concerned, Hank takes center stage often. And it is accompanied by childhood trauma that takes him by the hand and walks him through the valley of relationships that he has ended up making, apparently half-heartedly. Even his marriage is like a pact, despite how much we may feel that he loves Lily. He is the kind of guy who suits the world as it is but isn’t someone the world likes. As much as we may not like him, he states facts, and maybe we do not want to hear the truth, just like those people around him, and that’s what makes him rude, not in general but to others. In episode 1 of Lucky Hank, after losing the chair in his department, he asks Lily if a job in New York is available, but then later on makes it clear to her that he doesn’t want to leave Railton.
In Episode 2, we find that Hank has stopped talking to his friend George Saunders, thinking that he doesn’t like Hank’s novel. Why? We do not know. George later tells him that he loved it and even sent him a gift as a token of appreciation. Then how did it even occur to him that George hated it? And when George isn’t acting the way Hank wants him to, the latter thinks that the former is acting weird. This is just Hank trying to convince himself that he isn’t wrong. Or it can be that he doesn’t like to be proven wrong. Another example of this is in Episode 5 when he is bent on believing that Lily is going to leave him for Tom. He doesn’t know what really happened, but he goes on to tell even his daughter that her mother is leaving them. This is nothing but recklessness on his part. And yet we can tell why he is doing this.
Maybe Hank is angry at her or sad, and many of us would be too if we found out that someone has kissed our spouse, but since it is Hank, who we have already come to know as a most cynical guy, we tend to interpret his reaction as the one that should be questioned rather than Lily’s. This is because we know that it is more than just an emotional response; it is a reaction that is the result of who he is as a person and his childhood trauma of his father abandoning him. He thinks that his wife is leaving for New York because of him. It is not true. We even see him imagining the time when his father left him right after he tried to hang himself. And what proves that he has become transfixed by the way he behaves with everyone is when we see him imagine hugging his wife. Hank wants to be loving, but he can’t. He wants to apologize, but he can’t. Hank wants to change, but he can’t. In Episode 6, when he sees his father’s ex-lover, the way he looks at her when he sees her at the cafeteria gives us the impression that he is attracted to her. Is he really? We do not know. If he is, is this his way of taking a chance on someone, just like his wife did? Or is it just us who are thinking this way because of our own traditional revenge strategies? But it’s probably not. He is just wondering if this attractive woman is indeed the one his father dated. To justify, convince, or reassure himself about what he thinks of his father, he asks her if his father is capable of caring.
A second opinion is underrated for him in such matters. But when Lily tells Hank that his father is a good man, he doubts it. He doesn’t agree with people whose opinions don’t match his and he likes to believe that he is the right one. In the same episode, he blatantly mocks his long-time friend Tony, whose talk was “disastrous.” Rather than reassuring him, Hank just makes him feel smaller and irrelevant, and he thinks that just because he knows he doesn’t matter, he can go around telling anyone that they do not matter. At this point, we have to hand it to actor Bob Odenkirk for pulling the character off with ease. It is surreal how Lily is able to find a way back to Hank even after their heated debate at the end of Episode 5. By explaining what Julie and Russell are going through in their marriage, she proves how not everything fits into a relationship smoothly. These words of hers prove how she is trying to make Hank understand where they stand in their marriage and that it’s not wrong to think differently. What matters is listening to the other person. There will be compromises and mistakes, but it is dealing with the former and accepting and forgiving the latter that makes a relationship what it is.
A relationship isn’t meant to be enjoyed; it is meant to be lived. Maybe this is why Hank decides to meet his father. His childhood trauma is what led to his debate with Lily, which in turn made her explain to him about their daughter’s marriage, which in turn took him back to his relationship with his father all over again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t turn out well either because his father, as he finds out, barely remembers anything and can’t even recognize his own son. On top of all these issues is the budget cut, for which he needs to choose three professors who will be sacked. This is, ironically, Hank’s toughest challenge, as his uncertainty prevents him from opting for three people. Is it his niceness that is preventing him from sacking anyone, or is it the way he really is? Then he finds out that his son-in-law is cheating on his daughter, which he equates with Tom kissing Lily. This is what we feel when we see him visit his daughter, and they both wait for the kettle to boil at the end of Episode 7.
Episode 8 shows Lily moving to New York, and through the course of the episode, Hank undergoes a change, or if not, we at least see a change in him. If this was always him and he didn’t reveal it, we do not know, but we see Hank desperately trying to figure out a way to prevent the budget cut and save three of his department’s professors from being sacked. And when he is successful in doing it, he appears to be in a better mood. He returns home and apologizes to Julie for what she had to go through, which was at least partially due to him because he got Russell the job at the bar whose bartender, Meg, he ended up sleeping with. Yet he denies to Julie about having any issues with Lily. Is this him being naive, or is he pretending because he doesn’t want his daughter to be concerned? Both can be true. However, he doesn’t do anything about it other than inform Lily about what their daughter thinks and then address it as “silly.” This is him yet again lying to himself or trying to convince himself that nothing is wrong. This can also be another way in which he copes with anything that he cannot deal with after his father abandoned him and his mother. After all, it is clear that he doesn’t want his wife to abandon him, although she has moved to New York.
Then there is the Catherine-Keener case, which doesn’t seem to be a casual make-a-move scenario. There’s more to the name than meets the eye. It seems that for Hank to make a move on Lily every time she mentions Catherine’s name is a way for him to avoid thinking about Catherine. This would only happen if the name means something to him. On the other hand, we have Catherine, who asks Lily about her husband and if he’s with her in New York. No superstar asks if their fan’s spouse is in town just like that. There is a history between Hank and Catherine that Lily doesn’t know. This is unlike Lily, who has already told Hank about Tom and the kiss. This can be a reason why he tells Lily, who is in New York, that he doesn’t remember making a move on her every time she mentioned the actress. He knows Catherine lives in New York as well. Maybe that is also why he didn’t want Lily to leave, and then, finding the perfect excuse [his father’s reason for abandoning him due to conferences], he goes to New York to see Lily. Is his move temporary or permanent? Well, he did submit his resignation at Railton, although Dean Jacob put the letter in the shredder. He is, however, very happy to be in New York with his wife. But is it the same the other way around? Is Lily happy that her husband has come to her?