The last time I wrote about Girls I wondered and hoped that the series would prove to be more self-aware than its characters. It did. After watching season 1 (twice) I can say, cautiously, that I am a fan of these ladies. I say cautiously because I constantly go back and forth between my love and hate of the characters. Currently, I love most of them but I will get into that later. Creator, writer, director, producer and actor Lena Dunham presents her four leads in all their flawed glory. She doesn’t demand that we empathise with them and she doesn’t demand that we condemn them either. She asks that we look at them as real humans and that includes ugly moments like Marnie dumping Charlie mid-sex, Jessa seducing her ex out of spite because he was happy with someone else and Hannah’s realization that her fear of aids might actually be a secret desire to contract the disease. The show does an exceptional job of letting us just watch. In one of my favorite episodes from Season One, in a cringingly funny and ugly moment, Hannah attempts to seduce, extort and humiliate her boss and then seeks comfort at Adam’s place. Adam, however, is under the impression that they had decided to stop seeing each other. Sure they had sex after that “decision” but that was only because ‘they had started kissing and they had only started kissing because Hannah looked sad.’ The moment after Adam’s revelation that being with Hannah had ‘stopped being fun’ we are given a good five seconds to watch Hannah’s face as she silently takes all of this information in. These seconds of extreme vulnerability from Hannah, who thinks she has everything figured out, displays Girls self-awareness. It is moments like this that keep me coming back to the show. That and the fact that Girls is consistently laugh-out-loud hilarious!
The first episode of Season 2 “It’s About Time” is no exception. Sure it has its flaws but, as is usually the case with Girls, the pros outweigh the cons. We last left the characters after Jess’s wedding at the conclusion of Season One. As a side note: Jessa getting married to Thomas John, a business man whom she almost had a threesome with, was the most unbelievable storyline for me. I felt like the episode was an excuse to wrap the season up with all the major players in the same place at the same time. I get that Jessa is free-spirited and impulsive but I just don’t buy that her reaction to the condemnation of not being serious would be to get married. Jessa is the character that I have the least connection with. I love to watch Jemima Kirke on screen, especially her overly bored and judgemental reactions, but as a character she isn’t given a lot of substance. Her absence from the majority of “It’s About Time” did not bother me in the least. It was nice to catch up with the rest of the characters, though. One of my favorite parts of a season premiere is finding out what the characters have been up to since we’ve seen them last.
“It’s About Time” does a nice job on catching us up quickly and moving the story forward. In three short scenes we see that Hannah and Elijah have moved in together and are still in the honeymoon phase of their roommate relationship. They are in Hannah’s bed spooning in a scene that mimics the scene from the pilot between Hannah and her then roommate Marnie. These parallel scenes suggest that the same trouble that plagued Hannah and Marnie (namely Hannah’s selfishness) is in store for Hannah and Elijah, but for now I’m enjoying watching their friendship-lovefest. Shoshanna is performing some sort of cleansing ritual which involves thanking the higher powers for her “keen mathematical mind and fairly fast growing hair”, and asking the Universe to “present [her] with her path and to ruin Ray’s life.” It is clear that things have not gone well with Ray since she lost her virginity to him at Jessa’s wedding. Marnie, as usual, is seemingly the most put together. She has just had lunch with her boss at the gallery and the two are having a lovely time together until her boss remembers that the purpose of the lunch was to downsize by letting Marnie go. When I spoke before of moments where we are permitted to just watch, this scene is a perfect example. Although most of the dialogue of the scene belongs to her boss the camera is focused on Marnie’s reactions to realizing she is out of a job. Her character has faced some hefty blows recently, and Marnie has been struggling to keep her mask of perfection perfectly in place. In her reaction we are able to see her struggle to keep it together and try to force her features to stay put and not reveal her pain. I feel that a less confident director (Dunham directed this episode) would set aside a scene for Marnie to fall apart in private. However, watching Marnie’s public struggle is far more effective than the emotional breakdown scene that might have happened later when Marnie is by herself. The opening sequence was the most impressive part of the episode for me. The rest, while funny, seemed rushed and I found it hard to find my bearings.
The next scene reveled that Hannah has been spending time with a new lover, Sandy, the magnificently talented and handsome Donald Glover from Community. The two are having awkward and realistic sex, as is the show’s custom. While I get that sex is awkward and not as glamorous as TV and movies would have us believe, I’m getting tired of scenes like these. There seems to be one an episode. I get it. Sex isn’t always sexy.
I found it hard to keep up with the men in Hannah’s life. She spent the episode bouncing between Sandy, Elijah and Adam (who is now home from the Hospital after being hit by a car and is pretty much an invalid). I guess my problem with this storyline is that Hannah’s time seems chopped up and fractured between each character. She never establishes a real connection with any of the men so it is hard to care about her relationships with them. Maybe this is the point and I have enough faith in Girls to trust that stronger connections will be established later. Perhaps we are supposed to understand that Hannah has lost her grasp on these connections as well. Plus Donald Glover (Sandy), Andrew Rannells (Elijah) and the insanely talented Adam Driver (Adam) deliver impeccable and hilarious performances. I can’t wait to see more from them this season.
My second favorite scene of the episode was pre-house warming party while Hannah and Elijah excitedly talk about how much fun they are going to have. Shoshanna is the first guest to arrive, of course, and hilariously lets Hannah and Elijah know that she is “ready to take this party by storm” and despite the fact that Ray might be there she, “might be deflowered but [she] is not devalued.” Shoshanna is constantly given the short end of the stick when it comes to dialogue and character development but Zosia Mamet works miracles with what she is given. She makes lines like, “O M F-ing G this place looks amaze,” truthful and even a bit painful in her envy of Hannah’s living situation. Her painfully awkward run-ins with Ray during the party are as funny as they are cringe-worthy. I love this pairing. Mamet and Alex Karpovsky work wonderfully together and it is fun to watch Shoshanna get under Ray’s skin.
I didn’t quite buy the scene between Marnie and Elijah at the end of the night. I didn’t buy that Elijah would come on to Marnie or that Marine would reciprocate, despite the explanation Elijah was “trying not to be gay”. Yes they were drunk and lonely but the scene never rung true for me.
Despite some misses, I thoroughly enjoyed the premiere of Girls and can’t wait to see what Dunham has in store for us next. I’m not a super fan of the show, yet, but I’m always pulling for it. It is consistently honest, funny and surprising.