March 3, 2016
Watching the new series of Girls is like hanging out with mates who’ve outgrown each other. There are shadows of the craic and the bond you once shared, but it’s increasingly difficult to see what you ever saw in one another.
That’s exactly the situation we find the head-melting characters created by Lenah Dunham. Set seven months after the events of the last series, Marnie (Alison Williams) is getting married in a nauseating hipster ceremony, with flowing Grecian gowns and a crown made of thorns, befitting her Jesus complex- at a sprawling Connecticut mansion, befitting her privilege.
Shosh (Zosia Mammet) has embraced her always a bridesmaid status, Hannah (Dunham) stews in a self-absorbed sulk, while former-druggie, now haloed hippy, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) bathes in man-made lakes as if they were a seventh wonder, making life affirming predictions based on the weather.
The air is thick with expectation, dislocation and self-absorption as half-hearted efforts are made to delude each other that the connection is still there- despite the fact that they can’t even stand to be in the room alone together.
It’s a return to the shows finer form (as witnessed in Season 3 and the Iowa section of Season 4) where what happened to the characters seemed like a natural progression of their arc- as opposed to being painfully grafted on so writer/creator Dunham could make some grand statement about the horrors of being a girl.
The group has outgrown each other, but just getting through this day will affirm that they still have some worth to one another. It’s a painful, curt smirk towards maturity and each of the actors is on typical form. (Given how divisive they are, you can take from that what you will).
But too often, in past seasons, the plot got wrapped up in showing us how narcissistic and deluded these women are, or how poor their choices are, without establishing a positive ying to its negative yang. So that- now that the end is nigh, we’re not sad to see the ties snap.
There are some nice touches (the sanctified build up to Marnie putting on her gown, shot from behind, only for her to turn around looking like a kabuki hooker; the pause and the sprint towards the alter) but Jessa’s one big moment is done through montage, while Shosh doesn’t even have one.
Dunham has always done a better job at writing straight men, but while Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Adam (Adam Driver) are both here, their sidelined by the action in the bridal henhouse, a place Hannah’s new love Fran (Jake Lacy) has been expelled from, leading to a disappointing monosyllabic showdown with Adam. (That Elijah (Andrew Rannells) sap is back again too but is mercifully kept in the background).
Guest stars Rita Wilson and Bridget Everett steal the show as Marnie’s Ma and her make-up artist, spilling lush, drops of reality on the girl’s general twattery (You look like a Starbucks cup”). And there are some nice Easter eggs for the rest of the season (will Adam and Jessa become the new Ross & Rachel; will Ray confess his love for Marine and woo her away from her Woodstock-on- legs spouse?).
But, while it was a definitely one of the shows better episodes, Dunham’s lack of compassion for her own characters means that they are too often just unbearable company with no redeeming features, who annoy the viewer rather than fill us with a desire that they take better care of each other.