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?