If there’s one thing that the Girls two-part premiere proved, it’s that the show should be called “Adam,” and be exclusively about Adam Driver‘s character, with many special appearances by Ray. As Adam himself suggested, a rotation of seeing Hannah’s friends every three months or so feels pretty doable. In that spirit, the Girls premiere was where it needed to be — the only change moving forward is that Hannah is back on medication and in therapy, which means that last year’s strange decent into OCD behavior seems, for now, over with. What has taken its place was a lot of satire, and maybe even a little bit of real feeling. Hit the jump for more.
Perhaps unfortunately, the boys of Girls have always been more interesting than the girls. Very little about that has changed in the new season. Adam has always been the funniest and most interesting character (and empathetic as well), barring that one very controversial scene last year that included not-totally-consensual sex with his girlfriend, Natalia, which was addressed in a pretty fair way to start things off in “Females Only.”
This year though, Adam seems ready to show his more vulnerable side, and dial down the crazy. He could have been a good boyfriend to Natalia, but her expectations of him where just a shade too stifling. Though he’s in what appears to be a fairly annoyed place by Hannah’s side, somehow it works for him. There’s no logic to it, but it’s a blessing for viewers, because like Hannah, where would we be without him?
Adam’s craziness seems grounded next to the absurdity of the girls. Behavior like punching the radio to end Shoshanna and Hannah singing a pop song was merciful and totally warranted. And his stilted conversation during taco night was nothing compared to Marnie spitting out her taco, and Hannah and Shoshanna’s empty conversations about the former’s bed hopping. His advice to Marnie was sweet and useful, something Shoshanna also brings up later in the woods when she commends him for being truly helpful, and wanting to give of himself. Despite that aberration last year with Natalia, Adam really is a giving soul, one that Hannah takes endless advantage of. When Shoshanna asks what he gets out of their relationship, he falters.
Still, whatever is keeping Adam around is a good thing, because the rest of the cast aren’t providing much beyond satirical, shallow comedy. It can be really funny, but it is also really grating and hollow. One of the show’s main problems is that the characters just aren’t compelling, which is why things like Hannah’s decent into OCD and Marnie’s sadness over Charlie fall flat. Jessa’s plight can engender some feeling, but her deep denial and desire to only show a tough exterior put the other girls — and us — at arm’s length.
But where Girls has its greatest strength is with its satire and its absurdity, and in those terms, the two-part premiere was very successful. The show pinpoints the worst aspects of a privileged, self-absorbed class of people, for whom real struggles mean a Froyo appearing on their street corner, or deciding to have a haircut that resembles “a boy on a fancy box of cookies.” Girls makes fun of its characters beautifully. The problem comes when it wants us to emote for them, too.
Episode Rating: First episode B+, second, A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The second episode was probably a little better, though it was mostly payoff from the first. Jenni Konner got the head writer’s credit for it as well, which I often think makes an important difference.
— The tirade at the coffee shop was pretty hilarious, especially when it devolved into shouting about spoiled milk and Hannah not being able “to get any milk out of those tits.”
— There were a lot of small, great moments in both episodes, like about how Adam’s main source of income is his grandmother and “the things he makes out of paper mâché.”
— “I’m sorry your uncle fucked you, but we’ve all been through things […] I feel like you’re being whiney.” — Jessa to Laura (i.e. Taystee — Danielle Brooks — from Orange Is The New Black), who she later ate out. “This is getting logged!”
— “This rocking chair is so pointy, it’s not giving me any room to express myself” — Hannah being as annoying as ever. And walking barefoot around a hotel? Sitting down on the hotel hall carpet with no pants on? Girl … come on. Also, please get some dresses that are actually long enough for you to sit down in.
— Marnie’s arc in these episodes was cut so short because Charlie (Christopher Abbott) abruptly left the show while it was filming the new season, rumor has it over creative differences. Instead of having Charlie break up with Marnie (again) though, which really did make zero sense given the entire trajectory of the second season, they should have killed him off. On that show, a strange and sudden death would have made complete sense.
— The dinner to celebrate Hannah being back on track with her writing was really sharp writing. The comic timing was also spot-on.
— “Boredom is for people with no imagination” – Adam, speaking truth.
— Lots of great cameos in these two episodes, but by far my favorite was Richard E. Grant, spouting off wisdom like he was back to being his Withnail & I character (I love that movie so much …). We all saw it coming that there was going to be a moment when one of them wanted to have sex with the other, but I honestly thought it would Jessa, ruining what was otherwise a decent relationship. His sudden turn into a huge creep when off of his pills was lazy writing though, because it just confirms Jessa’s worldview (which takes away from the idea that she really is hurting and needs help).
— Hannah was justified in calling Jessa out re: the disappearance plot from last season (which was because Jemima Kirk was pregnant). Their relationship has always been a little strange, though.