Review: ‘Girls’, Season 3, Ep. 1-3


REVIEW: Girls Season 3, Episodes 1-3

by Trevor Johnson

Check back with us throughout the next few months for weekly Girls musings. However, due to the jumbled nature of its premier, we’ll start by synthesizing the first three episodes of this season together.

I’m about to break my own rule. Normally, I don’t seek out the opinion of men when it comes to Girls. I think it was soundly proven last season that even some very good, intelligent writers are capable of turning into idiotic frat boys when faced with the task of thinking about the artistic decisions of Lena Dunham. I like to think that Girls can be discussed without all the tone-deafness that has surrounded Dunham’s body type or looks. I thoroughly enjoy and respect the art she makes. That isn’t to say Girls is perfect; but hell, there are songs I skip on Good News For People Who Love Bad News. I’m here to discuss the show honestly, so everyone please be fairly warned that there will be criticism to go along with the celebrating. Also, these will be, more than anything, recaps of what has gone down. Should you come to these posts without previously seeing the episode at hand, expect to be confused and/or frustrated by spoilers. You can’t say I didn’t warn you. And with that, here’s where we are after the first three episodes of Girls Season 3:

So Hannah and Adam are still together, still engaging in very intense – if less deviant – sex that now comes complete with some form of emotional common ground and lots of “babe”’s as well as baby talk. Adam seems ready to boil over at several points, perhaps only befuddled and blank upon being confronted by Natalia, last season’s girlfriend. My original take on Natalia and her even angrier friend (played ably by Amy Schumer) unloading on Adam and, by association, Hannah, was that it was funny yet completely unrealistic. But I caught myself. Girls has never hung its hat on realism — that is, rather, a construct that critics and observers forced it into after the pilot, and now continue to expect. Moreover, Seinfeld was never proposed as a real life depiction of New York life in the 1990s, and yet Jerry Seinfeld will not endure in his lifetime the amount of critique and vitriol that Lena Dunham absorbed during the airing of Season 2. So when properly examined, I see Adam being called out for his sexual deviance, aggression and abandonment of Natalia was actually a proper (and hilarious) taking to task for what was a lackluster finale to a great second season. Also, Natalia’s  obvious issues with the breakup (or lack thereof) do a nice job of smothering any residual ill feelings from their last scene together last year that came off more than a bit unsettling at the time.

So we’re all catching up. Hannah is stuffing Adam into a very ill-fitted box while acting like a child getting just the right amount of toys and ice cream to prevent a meltdown. Meanwhile, Shoshanna has pulled a 180 from the uptight, nervous virgin we got to know previously and has been carrying out the first few chapters of cousin Jessa’s handbook (pages Jessa hasn’t executed probably since junior high). Charlie is gone (an impressive audible in the face of some clear douche-baggery) and all Marnie wants is for someone to respect the sanctity of Grilled Pizza Night.

Let’s dive into Marnie’s character, by far the least compelling and most annoying of the entire cast. Clearly, some of this is supposed to come from an overbearing, cold mother, but what has never been clear is how exactly Hannah and Marnie were ever friends initially. They have proven to be polar opposites as Hannah’s unreliability has clashed with Marnie’s uptightness since Season 1. Do we even know what these two have in common? Marnie’s character remains underdeveloped and now she’s just wallowing. Meanwhile the only person that seems to offer any help is Adam. After refusing to be present for a dinner with Hannah’s friends, Adam ends up relating with both Marnie and Shoshanna while Hannah is too self-involved to see that they need her support. It’s amusing,but in the end, the dinner scene in “Females Only” can’t help but give you the sneaking suspicion that Adam is by far the most interesting and good hearted character of the entire show, while Hannah remains quite the opposite.

And then there is Jessa. We find her as we left her last season, meandering around Upstate, treating people like the unenlightened garbage she might truly believe all of society is, while fending off men-children at each turn (the specimens that might prove her right). That’s right: whether it be an employer, a husband, her father or some strange, refined British guy in a tie-dye frog shirt, Jessa just can’t seem to avoid pathetic, immature men. I remember once hearing Lena Dunham recount watching men nearly walk into street signs while rubbernecking a then-pregnant, early-twenties Jemima Kirke. Perhaps that’s the personification of every man associated with Kirke’s Jessa on Girls; even when least expected, Jessa is able to attract a man that is probably no more evolved than the average 7th grader.

And let’s get one thing straight, this is Jessa at her worst. I have always had mixed feelings about Jessa. She is clearly a lousy person, the type of friend everyone has: a bit too cool and attractive to ever truly give a damn about other’s people’s feelings. On the way up to wherever she is in rehab (Toronto, maybe, judging by the amount of driving it took?) Shoshanna actually provokes the two most meaningful moments in all three first episodes. During a hike that Hannah wants no part of, she commends Adam for supporting Hannah through her difficult times, saying it’s a good thing he doesn’t have a best friend or anyone else to occupy his time or Hannah might be doomed. This is the kind of mindless, hilarious, backhanded compliment Shoshanna has perfected, but it all folds like tear-soaked tissue when Adam reveals that Hannah is in fact his best friend. Adam wins again. Then, in the motel (again, probably not a long enough trip for an overnight; it didn’t look like Jessa was in Northern Maine) Shoshanna wonders if Jessa really needs anyone at all. Hannah recounts a story from their college days when everyone is taking finals and finishing up the year and Jessa is crying over being left alone. Shoshanna accuses her of remembering the moment wrong, that it was probably Hannah crying having to leave Jessa. On the porch of the rehab center, after learning that Jessa was offered a ride to the airport from the center, we know that Shoshanna’s instincts are at least half true. Hannah bursts into tears and yells at Jessa for abandoning her in upstate New York last season. Jessa is her usual, compassionless, awful self and offers Hannah little more than a scoff. Aside from all this, Jessa is a constant source of excitement and calorie-light drama for the show. If Hannah goes near a Q-Tip, I’m stressed. If Adam get’s that “rape and pillage” look in his eyes, I’m frightened. If Marnie goes near a microphone, I can hardly breathe. But Jessa’s drama seems so natural, so expected that I can’t worry too much about it. But I repeat, please, God Marnie, the singing…

Which is where we pick up episode three, “She Said OK.” Marnie is freaking out because a video of her singing “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians is on YouTube. For some reason, the good people at YouTube won’t take it down for her and she can’t bring herself to call Charlie and ask for the password (ya know, because he walked off the show and all). As an aside, this song was a perfect choice for me. I absolutely HATE this song. I lump it together with “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes as the two songs that would always be playing when my alarm clock went off every morning in 5th grade. So Marnie butchering it while acting out every ‘90s music video cliché is just about perfect (Spoiler alert: I also dislike Rent, so Marnie’s choices don’t get any better). Meanwhile, Gabby Hoffman (not choking on a hot dog or conducting a séance, yet!) shows up as Adam’s sister, who he is less than stoked to see and apparently would much rather watch get run over by the G train than let sleep in his and Hannah’s guest room. Hannah can’t stick to Adam’s plan end eventually invites Caroline to her 25th birthday party, a request Caroline is all to quick to accept.

Hannah’s parents are back, wearing clothes (!) and a funny hat and Marnie is in full planning Yuppie mode. Again, what is the common bond between these two? Marnie is a Madewell ad and Hannah is naked with ice cream smeared on her face (I mean figuratively, but you get the idea). Adam is able to pull off being strange and utterly thrilled to see Mr. and Mrs. Horvath because Caroline has just thoroughly weirded them out. Then Ray rejects Caroline’s advances, just wanting to watch some shitty, electric ukulele band so she bites him on the arm. At this point I’m excited for whenever Jessa gets pissed that Caroline has tried to take over the free spirit/lunatic mantle and challenges her to a full on battle. Only Jessa appears in this episode without a single line. Not sure how something like that happens, but if she isn’t hiding away somewhere in rehab (in a town that takes nowhere near a day and a half of driving from NYC to reach, by the way) she should damn well be talking.

Meanwhile, Ray is struggling with his breakup with Shosh. He confesses to her, after learning second hand of her recent wildness, that he can’t be her friend. It’s interesting that on a show called Girls, the three indisputably best moments of the entire series have been soliloquies from male characters, one being Ray’s confession of love and loserdom in the subway station last season, the second being Adam’s backstory with drinking at AA, and the third coming in the aforementioned scene. Ray is a character whose secondary standing allows him to be an honest portrayal of a late-twenties/early-thirties New Yorker, surviving well below his education and skill level, all the while wondering when it will all pay off. Is it possible to want more screen time for a character while hoping for no further development because it could cloud what he does really well, which is represent the beating heart of a show that often times struggles to find such a thing?

So Hannah and Adam walk home and he gives her a very creepy, very gross necklace that is probably one of his former teeth on a chain (but also may be one of his sister’s teeth, who knows?) that Hannah loves (come on, guys). Upon returning home, Hannah opens the bathroom door to somehow find Caroline there, half naked, squeezing a glass until it breaks and slices open her palm. Adam resorts back to being pissed about his sister being let in. We clearly have only grazed the surface of Caroline’s insanity, something that will no doubt represent this season’s issue between Adam and Hannah. Personally, I’m scared. For one, that looked like a pretty thick glass. And two: if Adam is freaking out over someone’s ability to destroy a good situation (ya know, like he had with Natalia until he thought he could drink booze again), we should all probably batten down the hatches. Job well done, Girls; you once again have our undivided attention.

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Half Cloth

Independent Music & Arts Criticism

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