Girls' Season 2 Premiere: Make-ups & Break-ups

By Price Peterson

Jan 14, 2013

Girls S02E01: "It's About Time"

"What up, haters?" —Lena Dunham, Girls Season 2 premiere (paraphrasing)

Okay fine, nobody said that quote at any point during Girls' Season 2 premiere, but at the same time it was like the entire episode was saying that? And by that I mean "It's About Time" made no effort to change anybody's perceptions, earned or otherwise, about what Girls even is. If you didn't care for Season 1, then that probably won't change in Season 2. But if you loved or even liked last season, the premiere was a fantastic return to form. No really, it was wonderful. And after having seen the first four episodes of Season 2, I can tell you that this season is shaping up to be pretty great as a whole. So how does Season 2 compare to Season 1? Well, most of Girls' tropes are still place: There's tons of Lena Dunham nudity; the ladies are still totally comfortable with each others' bodily functions; Zosia Mamet is still stealing every scene she's in; uncomfortably real confrontations and/or break-up scenes abound. But the subtle differences between Seasons 1 and 2 are equally appreciated: More main characters mean the story moves faster, almost telenovela-style; Hannah's gay ex-boyfriend Elijah (Andrew Rannells) is much more prominent and is an amazing addition to the roster; an actual black character appears—has lines even!—and is played by Donald Glover. Need I say more? Girls is back and better than ever. Basically.

Season 2 picked up a few weeks after Jessa's surprise wedding and found almost every character attempting to navigate uncertain situations. As it turned out, Hannah and Adam's (Adam Driver) break-up wasn't quite as thorough as the finale suggested; after getting hit by a truck and cursing her right out of the ambulance, Adam apparently came around and decided that not only did he still want Hannah, but he needed her to help take care of his injuries. Despite her sense of guilt and obligation toward Adam, Hannah had already struck up a romance with a cute, black Republican (Glover) at the coffee shop, and though she'd been making huge strides in becoming a self-respecting woman lately (read: no desperate late-night visits for sex), she unfortunately found herself backsliding into her old ways. Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams) got laid off, which—when added to her still-raw feelings over breaking up with Charlie (Christopher Abbott) and having had a bit of a falling out with Hannah—meant she was in a bad state, self-esteem wise. At the same time, Shoshanna and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) were pretty much on the outs, despite her post-wedding deflowering. (Zosia Mamet awkwardly creeping around Hannah's apartment party wearing a dramatic hat and casting furtive stares at Ray was one of the most consistently hilarious running jokes of the episode.) And as Hannah's new roommate, Elijah fit right in by tossing off a litany of observational one-liners before getting caught up in some awkward drama-stirring of his own, specifically an ill-advised attempt to sleep with Marnie. Only Jessa (Jemima Kirke), who only appeared briefly at the end of the episode as she returned from her honeymoon, seemed anywhere close to happy, but even in those moments it was heavily hinted that her marital bliss may not last for very much longer. All in all, the characters are not very much older and definitely not too terribly much wiser.

There was a tiny but telling moment in Girls' Season 1 finale that neatly encapsulated the entire show: Hannah (writer/director/creator/star Dunham) emerged from an end-of-the-line subway car after having fallen asleep during the ride and groggily shouted at a nearby group of urban girls asking them where exactly she was, only to have those girls mock her hipster outfit. The idea that Hannah would interrupt other people just to get easily discoverable information summed up her own self-involvement, but it was those strangers' abject rudeness that pretty much summed up the critical backlash Dunham received when certain aspiring tastemakers decided that she didn't deserve to have a show, let alone a show about this. But in that scene, after that shunning, Hannah set off on her own and eventually found her way. Not home, necessarily—she ended up at the beach, where she consumed a piece of old wedding cake—but at the very least she found herself in the beginning stages of actually getting her act together.

The subtle pathos of that moment, pregnant with indecision, was one of the lowest-key and richly moving pieces of cinema to have aired on TV last year. So if there's one complaint I have about Season 2's faster, denser storytelling, it's that I miss the slightly more elegaic, contemplative tone that used to seep in around the edges. From Hannah's melancholy-laced trip back to Michigan to Hannah and Adam's triumphantly romantic flyer-pasting scene, Girls has typically taken the time to let its images penetrate, to really let the gorgeous compositions intermingle with the characters' angst and make us want to hang out in this world a bit longer. Season 2 appears to be moving away from that relaxed tone and toward something more quick-cut and plot-heavy. Which is fine! It's all still pretty terrific, well-observed storytelling—not to mention funny as hell—but it can be tough accepting the growth or progress of someone whose original state is the one you fell in love with, you know? I guess I just really enjoyed watching the sad, slightly terrible lives of these confused kids.

That's what a lot of Girls' detractors seemed to misunderstand about the series' fantastic first season: Hannah's (and her friends') flawed outlooks and occasionally ugly selfishness are very much the point of Girls. Far from a fly-on-the-wall glimpse at mid-20s REALNESS that people may have expected the show to be, Girls instead presents the uglier side of post-college adolescence—not as a celebration of it, but as a starting point. It's a show about fumblings, oversteppings, ill-considered confrontations, and inarticulate yearnings. To accuse Girls of being vapid or self-obsessed is to use a self-deprecator's words against them. In other words, if you think Hannah's flaws are off-putting, so does Girls. The real journey is in watching these characters finally figure out how to move past their mistakes and into something more, well, mature. From what I've seen of Season 2, it'll be a while before these guys and gals start getting things right, but that's good news for us: Girls is great and looks like it's going to stay that way.


What did YOU think of Girls' Season 2 premiere?

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  • NeeUyank Apr 17, 2013

    I have just read this review as I have just happened to watch the first four episodes of the second season as I love Andrew Raynell way too much.. and having read this reminded me of how much I missed reading reviews written by Price as after a couple of months from his departure it became more vivid that, he actually was the one and only person that was doing a review in a proper, professional sense: with all the insights, alternative points and elaborate analysis, with effort and thought put into material.. and in terms of Girls: well, it is like watching a car accident or a natural disaster.. I really dont know why you are watching it, you hate the stuff you see but still you cannot take your eyes off of it.. I have never seen a cast, an entire cast of so many annoying characters.. Elijah was the only sort-of-sweet and reliable person and him being gone is sad..

  • mezdup Jan 29, 2013

    Why did you stop reviewing Girls?

  • nic656 Jan 16, 2013

    I still don't quite understand all the negativity surrounding Dunham and Girls. But with this season premiere, and her Globe win, I think we can all let the haters hate and enjoy what is one of the more endearing, smart, and self-aware comedies on tv right now.

  • Pawtley Jan 15, 2013

    Great write-up, Price (as usual)! Are you covering this show, too? (AHS is on the brink of finishing up, after all...)

    Anyone else feel protective of Donald Glover ("Please Hannah, don't break Troy")? Just me? Ks.

  • rasa_radz Jan 15, 2013

    So happy to get my Donald Glover fix until Community starts up again!
    Also, really looking forward to this season.

  • ben45tpy Jan 15, 2013

    Season 1 was an an unexpected joy and season 2 looks like it will be awesome as well. It's a show that can take awhile to get accustomed to. It took me 2 or 3 episodes to realise what Price is saying, that the show mocks as well as embraces its characters. It helps to keep it grounded and relatable. For some reason it's reminding me of Curb Your Enthusiasm because it took me a little while to realise that Larry was also mocking himself. And I'm thrilled about the Globe wins and hope it gives the show a wider exposure.

  • MissRight Jan 15, 2013

    Loved Shoshanna and Ray. But I am begging this show, I don't need to start thinking long, loving gazes are a thing!

  • superjulia Jan 14, 2013

    Yes, you say what we're all thinking, Price. Girls knows what it's doing and that's what most people don't get about it. I really liked Season 1 and the Season 2 pilot and I'm really looking forward for what's next!

  • bmill2 Jan 14, 2013

    you're last paragraph about Girls sums up what I try to say to people on why i watch and love this show. of course the characters are at times annoying, self-absorbed and immature because thats how people are at that age when they are trying to transition from a sheltered and entitled existence to self-reliance. Its not always pretty but the point is to show that rawness and see how they grow

  • iLoVeTv0022 Jan 14, 2013

    woaw watching the emmys has led me to hate anne hathaway even more than i already did, and hate lena dunham. i no lena and hannah are pretty much the same person and i like hannah enough as a character but as an actual person lena dunham is really fricken annoying. Loved the first episode back. I wish they showed more of Jessa and Chris O'Dowds character

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