HBO’s hit series ‘Girls’ will remain strong in second season
By Kate Sullivan, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The first season of HBO’s hit series “Girls” ended amidst a variety of accolades, fanfare and a slew of media attention for Lena Dunham, the show’s young creator. Fresh off of its Golden Globe wins for best TV series and best actress for a comedy for Dunham, who beat out heralded comedy staples such as Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler — the second season of “Girls” should focus not on winning over its fans, but rather on capitalizing on its success and staying true to its highly praised quirky, fresh form.
Often criticized for her lack of modesty, Dunham has revolutionized modern television, replacing fantastic perfection with imperfection by continuously filming her tattoo-ridden, love-handled body. Dunham does not appear to have taken any of the nay-saying to heart; rather, she parades her much-talked about nakedness even more so than usual in season two. In fact, the season premiere virtually bookends with her character, Hannah Horvath, unclothed.
And so, not much has changed. Hannah is still whining away, Marnie (Allison Williams) is still stressed about her career prospects, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is taking her neuroticism to an entirely new, endearing level and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is, well, being Jessa, romping around with her still-strange new husband Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd), and living unsustainably carefree in a way that makes us all jealous.
Those who criticized the show’s lack of diversity in the first season will be quick to note the inclusion of Hannah’s latest romantic prospect, a suave black law student named Sandy (Donald Glover). Though Dunham’s decision to give in to her critics is not surprising, Sandy is a confusing character, in that he initially doesn’t appear to have anything significantly wrong with him in personality or in emotion. Except he is a Republican, and soon enough, Sandy and Hannah fizzle out by the season’s second episode.
There is clearly a lot left at stake after the first two episodes as all of the characters continue to figure their lives out. It is quite interesting that this time around, Hannah is the one with a steady job (at Cafe Grumpy) and optimism regarding her writing. Marnie, normally the rational one, has given up on the art world after being unjustifiably fired, and is now reduced to sulking as a seemingly swanky hostess for a ritzy dinner club.
Though the elephant in the room — Marnie slept with Hannah’s now-gay ex Elijah — coupled with Hannah’s “accidental” 911 call on Adam set the rest of the season up for drama of the most ridiculous degree, perhaps reflecting Dunham’s efforts to address critics who think the show is about nothing.
Kirke’s portrayal of Jessa continues to be wonderful; the basket of puppies that Thomas-John leaves her with, and her and Hannah’s subsequent naming game (Garbage, Hanukkah and Pucker) form the most telling scene of season two so far.
“You should look around yourself right now, Hannah,” Jessa, happy as ever, says. “Life is never gonna get any better than this for you.” And so, Hannah might be stuck in artisanal, hand-crafted doldrums a la Brooklyn, but who’s to say shows about nothing can’t be stimulating? Have we already forgotten “Seinfeld”? But the whole point seems to be that life is not fair for “Girls,” just as it is not fair for everyone else, and the mistakes you make in the process should somehow inform your future. Even if it is as simple, in Hannah’s case, as not hanging up on a 911 phone call.
“Girls” is not the funniest, the prettiest or the most well-written show on television. At times it is profoundly dark, gritty and uncomfortable, and will leave you asking more questions about what you’re watching than provide you with the candy-coated indulgence that Carrie and her cohorts did on “Sex and the City.” Yet “Girls” is honest. Perhaps that is why the HBO show has found such an intense, loyal band of followers. Just as women everywhere became consumed with determining whether they were a Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte or Samantha, viewers of any gender can now choose not just from Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna or Jessa, but also Adam, Ray, Charlie and Elijah.
It would seem natural to compare “Girls” to “Freaks and Geeks,” the cult hit series, also produced by “Girls” executive producer Judd Apatow. Much in the same way “Girls” presents portraits of the privileged, overeducated yet (somewhat) unemployed college grads as they navigate through life’s trials, tribulations and white girl problems, so too did “Freaks and Geeks” tackle the true nitty-gritty of high school life.
I trust that Dunham will continue to deliver her distinct brand of offbeat humor and inventiveness as the season progresses, though I hope her increasing successes in the “real world” as Lena Dunham do not obscure the brilliance of the continued struggles of Hannah Horvath.