Girls S2, Ep1: It’s About Time

Posted: January 16, 2013 in TV
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Its About Time HannahI highly anticipated the premiere of the second season of HBO’s half-hour comedy series, Girls.  Directed, produced and written by its main star, Lena Dunham, and executive produced by filmmaker Judd Apatow, the sophomore show had won my allegiance during its debut season.  There was a lot of buzz surrounding the new series when it first ran in April 2012.  The critics lauded the show, but there was some backlash among the viewing public that it was simply a knock-off of the popular Sex and the City HBO series.  As word started to spread that Girls wasn’t to be missed, then the show’s creator, Lena Dunham, began taking hits for having a show that wasn’t diverse.  The common complaint was that if the show was supposed to be about life in New York, why did it only star white people?  Dunham stayed strong through the hits and let her work speak for itself.

Having always respected HBO’s innovative television choices and unable to ignore both the positive and negative PR surrounding Girls, I tuned in.  I found the pilot interesting enough, but thought that Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, was a little whiny, self-obsessed and clueless.  The second episode shocked me a bit for its blatant nudity and sex scenes.  But I stayed with it, and by the time the credits rolled on episode three, I was hooked.  I can also identify the exact point at which I fell in love with the series.  It was Season One’s episode seven, “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident.”  When naïve Shoshanna Shapiro, played masterfully by Zosia Mamet (the daughter of famed playwright David Mamet), accidentally takes a hit of crack at a party in a warehouse in Brooklyn and then runs through the streets with no pants, my heart fluttered.  In this one instance, Dunham wrapped every single characteristic about living in New York in your twenties into a perfect little package and served it up brilliantly.  In Season One’s finale, I also cooed when Mamet’s character, Shoshanna, in shock that her cousin Jessa Johansson decided to marry an older man, who she only met two weeks prior, deadpan’s, “Everyone’s a dumb whore.”

If hard-pressed to compare Girls to Sex and the City, I admit I can find some similarities.  They both center on a group of four female friends that live in New York.  If I had to decide which character on Girls is the “rip-off” of a Sex and the City character, I can figure it out quite easily.  Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, the aspiring writer and main character would be a parallel to Sara Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw.  Innocent and virginal Shoshanna is obviously an ode to Kristin Davis’ Charlotte.  Free-spirit Jessa could be loosely linked to Kim Cattrall’s Samantha and practical but uptight Marnie Michaels depicts a few characteristics of Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda.  But that’s where the comparisons end.  Sex and the City centered on thirty-something women in Manhattan who dressed like runway models, attended events at the hottest spots in the city, and rotated hot men in and out of their lives like a lazy susan at a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant.   Girls follows four women in their young twenties, just out of college, who live in dumpy apartments in grimy, but trendy, Brooklyn.  Most of them can’t hold down a job or a boyfriend.  They are completely clueless and finding their way one mistake at a time.  Where Sex and the City is all pizzazz, Girls is all grit.

The season finale of Girls Season One ended on an ambiguous note.  Hannah wakes up in Coney Island, having accidentally fallen asleep on the F train.  She is reeling from a fight with her best friend, Marnie, and having seen her boyfriend, Adam, get hit by a truck because he was angry that she didn’t want him to move in with her, we, as an audience, are left with an edgy feeling.  We’re not sure what will happen to Hannah and her friends next, and that’s a great setup for Season Two.  I’d wondered how Dunham would deal with her open ending to Season One.  Many shows choose to jump time when they return for a subsequent season and rather than explain what happened to their characters in the interim, they have them trapped in new obstacles six months to a year later, leaping over their original predicaments.  Dunham chose not to take the easy way out and I applaud her for that.  Season Two picks up almost right where Season One left off.  The opening episode involves her spooning with her gay college ex-boyfriend, Elijah.  The audience can infer that he has moved in and Adam hasn’t.  Dunham makes a reference to Adam, but it is more of a complaint that she has to still take care of him.   At this point, she no longer has strong romantic feelings for Adam, but still feels obligated to see him, since it was somewhat her fault he got hit by a truck in the first place.

Its About Time SandyThe next scene goes straight to Hannah having sex with an unidentified new character, named Sandy.  And wait for it…he’s black.  I know it’s 2013 and not 1960 in Mississippi but, if you remember, I mentioned earlier that Dunham faced criticism during Season One for not having a diverse cast.  She made a comment during the taping of Season Two that she would address that concern.  Some viewers were angry that she caved to the pressure and felt that her show didn’t need to answer to anyone.  I expected that in Season Two someone in her inner circle of girlfriends would be black.  But instead, she decided to make her new sex buddy black.  To me it’s a giant F U to the critics, and I think it’s awesome.

Its about Time MarnieThe Season Two opener centers around Hannah and Elijah throwing a house party.  It’s an easy way to assemble the entire cast and show the viewer what is going on with each of the girls.  Marnie, played by Allison Williams, runs into her ex, Charlie, at the party, and although she tries to pretend she’s over him, the audience can tell she is lying to herself.  Fresh off a lunch with her mother, who tells her she looks 30 and needs to act her age, and then she gets downsized from her gig as an assistant at an art gallery, she reaches new heights of self-pity.  She attempts to sleep with Elijah in some effort to make herself feel better.  Maybe she thinks she can even get a gay guy to fall for her.  But although he tries, Elijah just can’t perform and the viewer is left staring at Marnie and can sense her self-esteem plummet.  It’s such an effective scene that the viewer feels like they are right in the room with her.

Shoshanna reveals she is no longer the 23 year-old virgin, but is quite angry at Ray, the coffee store manager who deflowered her.  Apparently, he never called afterwards and she spends the entire time, at the party, trying to ignore him.  The ridiculousness of doing that in a ten-foot living room is laughable.  It’s unclear what Ray’s motives are, but both he and Shoshanna are such eccentric characters that the audience wants to see more of them together.

Its about Time AdamHannah spends half of the episode playing caretaker to Adam, bringing him pain killers and emptying his bedpan.  He has a full cast on one leg reaching to his upper thigh and can’t take care of himself.  He’s moody, angry and depressed.  Not much different from his usual personality, but what Hannah once found lovable she now can’t stand.  She’s in a quandary and wants to do the right thing.  But she finally has had it and tells him they are over.  Adam is left standing on one leg in the middle of his apartment and, for a split-second you begin to feel sorry for him when he never was that likable to begin with.  Is Hannah shallow?  Yes.  But, can you blame her?  No.  How many young twenty-something’s do you know, who would be selfless nursemaids?  She’d rather be back at her party and, for once she decides to do what she wants to do.  It’s obviously not the end of Adam.  Hannah may think so, however the audience knows better.

Jessa, absent for most of the episode, only appears towards the end.  She and newlywed Thomas John, played by Bridesmaids, Chris O’Dowd, appear tanned and Caribbean “islandified”.  They take a taxi from the airport, after cutting the line, and passionately make out.  I’m not sure where their relationship is going and it may be my least favorite storyline.  It just seems too obvious to me that this is going to end in disaster.  Although, Dunham may have something up her sleeve and we’ll have to stay tuned to see if she is going to pull a rabbit out of her magic hat.

If you’re still not sold on Girls, maybe the fact that the show won best television series-Comedy or Musical- at the 70th Annual Golden Globes will entice you.  Lena Dunham also won best performance by an actress in a television series-Comedy or Musical.  Since Season Two of Girls was written and filmed long before the current awards season, I’m optimistic that the second season will live up to its expectations and continue to bring laughs and pure raw awkwardness.

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