“I watched Girls, but I didn’t really have an opinion of it” – said no one ever. Last year the show started off shaky and turned some viewers off, but got progressively better as the reality of what the series is — and not what the divisive hype claimed it was — became clear. Girls is really a fine show. Series creator and star Lena Dunham is not “the voice of the generation” (which was a satirically uttered line that HBO turned into a sincere tagline), but she has moments where she gets it really right. So maybe getting the most out of the show means accepting it as an ironic embrace of White Girl Problems, without being dismissive of its truths. Hit the jump to find out where all of the girls are now, and why things are already so much better than before.
I should maybe start by saying, in full disclosure, that I hated most of the first season. But tuning out the buzz helped, and I thought last year that things ended pretty well, all things considered. Hannah (Lena Dunham) remains the most irritating character of all of the whiney leads, and so naturally gets the most screen time. (Sidebar: speaking of screen time and management, we went almost the full half hour in “It’s About Time” without seeing or hearing anything about Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and her husband Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd) that she married out of the blue to end last season).
“It’s About Time” was also much funnier than much of last year’s fare, thanks in part to the fact that, yes, we already know the characters, but also because of the full-time addition of Elijah (Andrew Rannells) as Hannah’s roommate instead of Marnie (Allison Williams). Marnie and Hannah together are a storm of annoyance, filled with useless moaning and an obscene amount of vocal fry (like in the scene where Marnie confronts Hannah about them not being as close). Elijah keeps things moving along though, and doesn’t put up with either girl’s BS, which is a relief. He also happens to get some of the best lines so far on the show.
The dialogue was incredibly sharp in “It’s About Time,” and one wonders if it’s because the episode was co-written by executive producer Jenni Konner. Most of the best episodes in the first season were collaborations with either Konner or the series’ other EP Judd Apatow, who seem to help keep the dialogue and drama a little tighter and less mumblecore than ones Dunham handles on her own.
Still, while Girls holds up an uncomfortable (and true) mirror for self-absorbed Millennials, it also has plenty of universal themes, most of them relationship based: the awkwardness of exes who are still in your close social circle; making rules so your new relationship doesn’t suffer the pitfalls of the last, but breaking them anyway; not breaking things off with a toxic ex because of manufactured guilt; settling with someone because they provide stability but little else, etc.
Also, forget the girls — most of the episode’s most fantastic moments revolved around the men: Ray (Alex Karpovsky) realizing how much he actually does care about the bizarre but sweet Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, who plays her so pitch-perfectly); Adam (Adam Sackler) being one of the strangest humans on the planet but, like Hannah, we don’t really want to let him go; Elijah having confusing half-sex with Marnie; the introduction of Donald Glover as Hannah’s new love interest; and sweet Charlie (Christopher Abbott) still following his bitchy girlfriend Audrey around like a puppy, but allowing Marnie to sexlessly sleep with him in her hour of need.
That’s a lot to unpack in just a half hour of TV, but it was a great way to kick off what looks to be a (maybe surprisingly) great season. This time around, Girls may actually be worth keeping up with for story more than zeitgeist. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Rating note: episodes are judged against other episodes of the show itself, not against All Of Television.
— “Sorry I have a boner. It’s not for you” – Elijah
— “I came, you came hard, we all laughed. What’s the problem?” – Adam
— One of the biggest missteps of the night I felt was Rita Wilson as Marnie’s Real Housewives of New York stereotyped mother. Hannah’s parents feel much more real, but Mrs. Michaels, with her cater-waiter boy-toy, felt too shoehorned (though could explain why Marnie feels the need to be conservative).
— “When you love someone, you don’t have to be nice all the time” – Adam
— “I watched Midnight in Paris and thought, like … I could do that” – Elijah
— “Do you miss your hymen?” – Elijah
— So, Lena Dunham is also still incredibly insistence on us seeing her naked body very, very often, though at least gave a mostly naked (no nips!) Marnie as well as Elijah’s bottom to even things out.
— Shoshanna: “What’s wrong with emojis?” Ray: “A panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift?! It makes no sense!”
— I think “can I borrow The Fountain Head” is the best excuse for a booty call I’ve ever heard.
— Tip your waiters, I’ll be here all season.