Accused by some of whitewashing Brooklyn and beloved by others for depicting the harsh truth of post-college New York life for over-educated women in their 20s, Girls may well be TV’s most talked-about comedy. Considering that most of those conversations hinge on how realistic the show is or isn’t, this season we’re recapping Girls by asking three writers who should know — our interns, Alison Herman, Chloe Pantazi, and Julia Pugachevsky — how real each episode felt. Read their responses to the Season 2 premiere, in which we met Hannah’s new man, Donald Glover’s Sandy, and watch Marnie’s life go to pieces, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Alison Herman: For someone we last saw eating cake alone on a beach after passing out on the subway, Hannah Horvath seems to be in pretty good shape. She’s got a steady job at Café Grumpy, spends her spare time writing (or so she tells us), and most notably, she’s scored a handsome, kind, un-demanding boyfriend, Sandy (Donald Glover). Sandy’s easygoing personality makes him the polar opposite of Adam, who’s putting Hannah through the mother of all emotionally manipulative guilt trips after being hit by a car. I was impressed by Hannah’s emotional maturity in this episode; not only is she consciously trying to avoid the mistakes she made with Adam, as we saw in the disgustingly adorable bookstore scene where she lays down the no-love law for her new relationship, she also has the balls to tell him to get lost (but not before holding a bucket for his poorly aimed pee, a scene only half as degrading as that time he pretended she was an 11-year-old during sex).
As was probably inevitable, though, I was disappointed in the other characters’ story arcs. Marnie’s caught in exactly the kind of sad-sack downward spiral that Dunham put Hannah through last season, complete with a difficult parent-child relationship, unemployment, and sex with a gay guy. Shoshanna and Jessa, meanwhile, came off as caricatures to me — Shosh is just as full of neuroses as always (and, apparently, a “keen mathematical mind”), while Jessa got a drunken make-out with her new husband and a truly horrendous hairdo. I’m excited to see where the second season will take them, but I’m hoping it’ll add more depth to their characters, especially Shoshanna, if only to give Zosia Mamet the screen time she deserves. Overall, I was impressed by Girls’ ability to move its protagonist forward while maintaining its trademark brand of humor; I just hope that the other three Girls will get their own turn in the Self-Actualization Spotlight. Oh, and here’s hoping we don’t have to see That One Girl Dating Terry Richardson ever again.
Julia Pugachevsky: The season premiere of Girls starts with a direct parallel of the first episode of season one – Hannah’s gay ex Elijah, with perfectly-parted hair even when asleep, has replaced that first glimpse we ever had of Marnie and her old-school retainer (seriously, she’s that grossly responsible.) As Hannah chirps, “I love living with you!” to her new roommate while decorating the apartment for a party (rather than an opium-fueled get-together), every aspect of her life seems to be an upgrade — the biggest one being her new fling, Sandy. Sandy is handsome, well-dressed, polite, and clearly likes to be in bookstores. He says all the right things and makes Hannah prove to us (and herself) that she used to like any guy that liked her – but not anymore.
When the show cuts to her in bed with Adam, she is as doting as ever (especially after his accident), but something has changed. There are more silences, more awareness of how isolating a relationship with Adam can be. And while Hannah does break it off with Adam for good, that only happens after she chooses to leave a quite successful party to join him in his now dungeon-like apartment. It was in these moments with Adam that I found the show most relatable, and I feel like I’m in on a not-so-big secret: Hannah will go back to Adam, even when having someone as perfect as Sandy. She’ll analyze again and again, she’ll nervously make fun of him around her friends, she’ll even make a full effort to date Sandy – but she will come back. Somewhere in her mind, despite the sheer absurdity of the phrase, Hannah will think back to Adam nonchalantly stating that “you don’t always have to be nice to someone if you love them.” And after never feeling fully satisfied around Sandy and his kindness-on-tap, that little, kind-of-genius line will start to click.
In fact, it seems to apply to all four girls, who seem to be attracted to people and experiences that are raw and unknown: Marnie, after trying to sleep with a gay man and subsequently ending up at her taken ex-boyfriend’s apartment, is on the verge of breaking out of her propriety, especially after being criticized for it by, of all people, her own mother (Rita Wilson). Jessa, sporting half a head of cornrows, laughs and embraces her new husband as she relishes in not knowing his address or what their future plans will be. And Shoshanna, an unexpected star of the episode, bravely and brilliantly tells Ray that she’s “tired of being insulted, even if it’s before a compliment,” only before letting him whisk her away into a kiss that matches her old Hollywood look (that is, before he spills his remaining beer on her.) They are all the privileged white girls we love to hate (and love), and while the world is their oyster, they keep floating in a sea of strange relationships, choosing the rising tides of uncertainty over, well, anything else.
Chloe Pantazi: By the end of Season 1, Hannah was a one-girl pity party in a pretty dress. The second season of Girls hints at a newfound maturity from Hannah, who’s a little less of a mess, and knows more of what she wants – and doesn’t want. Which, in this case, is Adam, the shirtless weirdo Hannah spent much of the first season trying to make monogamous. Last night’s episode saw Hannah return to Adam, but only through guilt; following a fallout between the couple in the previous episode, Adam was hit by a truck. Though we see her helping him – and holding the pan he’s peeing into – Hannah’s not taking any piss from Adam this time, as it’s clear she’s happily moved on with her new beau, Sandy.
Nevertheless, Season 2 begins with Hannah waking up to another man: her gay ex-boyfriend, and now roommate/BFF, Elijah. Hannah and Elijah adore living together, and they’re so (platonically) perfect for each other that I’m even willing to overlook the fact that their relationship’s far too good to be true – after all, who could be friends with the guy that gave you HPV?
In any case, Hannah and Elijah are delightful. To celebrate their move-in, the pair hosts a house party replete with karaoke and fluctuating emotions. Among the party guests are Shoshanna – “deflowered but not devalued” – and Ray, who are moving ever closer to a real relationship. Meanwhile, Marnie finds herself single, jobless, and desperate – cue her most desperate moment, having quite possibly the most awkward sex a sofa’s ever seen with Elijah (perhaps the episode’s most unrealistic moment) and her next most desperate moment, at Charlie’s door, not wanting to sleep alone (sadly, its most realistic.) Jessa doesn’t make it to the party, but we get a meager glimpse of her back from her honeymoon with Thomas-John, who I’m hoping to getting to know more this season, as I am Marnie’s mom, whose existence should answer some questions about her daughter’s uptight nature. Nonetheless, I’m already waiting for Marnie to stop whinging. In the meantime, I’m holding out for more camp Hannah and Elijah moments, and I can’t wait to see just how Republican Sandy is. Most of all, though, I’m inappropriate amounts of excited for what could be TV’s most hilarious and adorable pair-off yet: Sho and Ray, obvi.