Welcome back to Girls, where you get an edible coffee mug from your editor if you’re lucky and chuck dirty dishes into the trash can of your rehab’s kitchen facility if you’re not. Or at least that’s what the opening scenes of the season premiere tell us as they reintroduce us to the women we love to rag on for their terrible life choices even as said life choices make us feel better about our own. We’re in for a whole new season’s worth of idiosyncratic dialogue and chronic underemployment, so let’s dive right into it, shall we?
Unlike most half-hour comedies, Girls isn’t neatly broken down into Friends-style “The One Where…” episodes, so I’m going to treat “Females Only” and “Truth Or Dare” like a single, hour-long installment rather than two separate entities. Collectively, they give us a much rosier portrait of Hannah Horvath’s life than the tail end of last season. Where Adam was once (literally) holding Hannah up, she’s now the one supporting him in the form of a shared apartment where he largely gets a pass on the rent. John Cameron Mitchell loves her tell-all memoir, meaning between that gig and her day job at Ray’s new coffee shop, she’s the closest to steady employment she’s ever been. Even her therapist seems less in control of his life than she is.
Most of the show’s other characters, however, aren’t doing nearly as well, least of all Jessa. Always less of a character than an inscrutable collection of stunts, Jessa seems like she’s up for an overdue fleshing-out this season. We dipped a toe into the origins of her problems—with men, with drug abuse, with being unable to deal with anything remotely approaching stability—with the visit to her father’s farm, but then Jemima Kirke went on baby hiatus, so we’re only now beginning to appreciate how sad and screwed up she is. Watching her proposition a fellow addict and even get kicked out of rehab may be hilarious, but the “great, this again” look she gives when yet another father figure tries to sleep with her is more bitter than sweet, and the way she lashes out in her group therapy session has the feel of someone desperate to turn their critical eye on anyone but themselves. When the rehab director, pushed to her limit, complains that she just doesn’t understand Jessa no matter how much she sees of her, that’s a pretty good stand-in for the audience’s knowledge thus far of Girls’s resident manic pixie. But the show is finally putting in the effort to have her make sense as something more than “the impulsive one,” and I hope it pays off.
Even as one character becomes less of a caricature, though, Shoshanna’s more JAP-y than ever. We finally see her in a college setting, hooking up with co-eds and clocking time in the library, and it’s good to get a glimpse of a major part of her life that’s been little more than background information until now. But even with this peek into her daily routine, I found single Shoshanna a little…boring. Without the endearing neuroses surrounding her virginity or the emotional complexity of her disintegrating relationship with Ray, Shoshanna’s mostly a collection of cringe-inducing punchline moments like freaking out over the lack of calorie listingson a roadside diner menu. It’s only towards the end, in a conversation with Adam, where she resumes her role as the show’s resident truth-teller, someone whose obliviousness can unintentionally become brutal honesty.
Adam’s clearly headed for some soul-searching, or whatever the equivalent of soul-searching is for someone so outlandishly weird and wary of introspection. Exhibit A is that conversation with Shoshanna in the woods, where she rightfully points out that part of the reason he’s able to be such a supportive, loving boyfriend to Hannah is that he has literally no other responsibilities. It’s harsh, but not nearly as harsh as the dressing down Natalia gives him in the coffee shop, preceded by a pregnancy fake-out that gave me my biggest laugh of this entire series. Shoshanna’s right that Adam’s genuinely helpful, in his own way; he helps Hannah takes her pills every morning, and even gives Marnie some advice on the nature of true intimacy. But he’s not doing much for himself, and it’s starting to bother him.
Despite that, Adam and Hannah’s relationship seems genuinely happy, which is surprising considering how messed-up it is that they ended up back together. Hannah’s far more assertive and in command of herself than she was the first time around, happily calling Adam out for his unwillingness to compromise and slightly sexist image of female friendships full of jealousy and hysteria. At the dinner party, Hannah gives off solidly middle-aged mom vibes, an impression that’s compounded later when she and Adam play parental chaperones to Shoshanna’s hyper teenager in a hotel room. She seems settled in and capable of something resembling maturity, with a confidence that manifests itself outside her relationship when she chews Jessa out for being the world’s biggest flake. She forgives her, because accepting you can’t change people like Jessa is part of being their friend, but it was hard not to have a you-go-girl moment over Hannah’s seemingly hitting her emotional stride.
And finally, there’s Marnie, whose tenure as Girls’s resident punching bag may finally be coming to a close. She’s still mid-downward spiral when we first see her, crashing on her mom’s couch in the suburbs and rendered incapable of taco consumption by her inevitable breakup with Charlie. But she’s got a new apartment and a new job (as a fitness instructor, if I remember the pre-season buzz correctly), meaning hopefully new problems beyond a millionaire ex who ditched their plans for grilled pizzas along with their relationships. Good thing, too, because I’m bored of Marnie endlessly humiliating herself, hence the absolute minimum amount of space her storyline takes up in this recap. Bring on the spinning machines.