The first two seasons of Girls were divisive ones among viewers, to say the least, and that's because it's an either-or show. You either chuckle or cringe at the self-absorbed antics of Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her pack of equally misguided twenty-something friends Adam, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa (Adam Driver, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, and Jemima Kirke, respectively.) You either love and defend Girls (even when it makes you squirm), or you hate it and attempt to will it out of existence (especially when it makes you squirm.)
If you hated the Emmy-winning HBO series from early on and jumped ship, it's unlikely that you'd ever come back in the first place. But what about the devoted fans who became disenchanted with the latter half of the muddled Season 2, which turned into a bizarro rom-com during the finale when Adam carried off Hannah in his arms just a few episodes after he more or less raped his ex-girlfriend Natalia? This is our 21st century Prince Charming, Girls? Better yet, why would a show rooted in oft unflattering -- but in turn more relatable -- reality go all shiny on us? Was this the show I signed up for? As a fan of the series, it's been a question lingering over my head since we last saw the gals in March.
Season 3 kicked off last night with back-to-back episodes, titled "Females Only" and "Truth or Dare" and while they were new, they were anything but shiny. The episodes -- which played well as a two-parter about the return of Jessa -- were as dark as ever. Here's the good, the bad and the funny of "Females Only" and "Truth or Dare":
Guest Star Amy Schumer
It pains me that this was likely a one-time stint for the wickedly funny comedienne, who played Natalia's passionate and understandably pissed-off pal. As mentioned before, that whole, y'know, rape scene featuring Adam and Natalia last season turned a lot of people off, and Schumer was -- more or less -- the representative for those fans. When Natalia spots Adam visiting Hannah at the new Grumpy's (where she is, shockingly, still gainfully employed) and he ignores her, Natalia's pal steps in and calls him all the things we were thinking last year: "You dumb, tall slice of dog shit." While Natalia eventually stepped in with her own scathing take on Adam (a "neanderthal sociopath" with a "urine-soaked life"), I have a hard time believing she would willingly go along with (let alone hardly initially react to) the pregnancy fake-out scheme her friend thought up on the spot. That said, I'm with Ray: I like the feisty blond pal, particularly when she took one look at Hannah and asked, "Did you leave in a rush?"
Guest Star Danielle Brooks
Since the Season 2 premiere of Orange is the New Black feels excruciatingly far away, it was especially awesome to see Danielle Brooks -- better known as Taystee, the best character on OITNB. Granted, like Schumer, Brooks was likely there to placate a certain hostility towards the show (like, where the hell are all the minorities?), but she was still great. Brooks played Laura, a woman in the same rehab as Jessa (yes, that's where she disappeared off to), who is coping with substance abuse, childhood trauma and her sexuality. Of course, none of that seems to phase the worse-than-ever Jessa who calls bullshit on all of those things... by going down on Laura. Sadly, since Jessa gets booted from rehab (more on that in a bit) for that very act, I don't think we'll be seeing much of Laura, her vests, or her hilarious one-liners ("Fuck you, hairstyle!") again anytime soon.
It's bad when a socially stunted man-child comes to serve as the voice of reason in this group. Rather than pander to a crying Marnie, he outright tells her that when it comes to real love "You will be aware, you wont hurt or be afraid when its right." Damn. That's good stuff. I mean, it's still absurd he refuses to take an active part in Hannah's social life, but then again, would you wanna hang out with this bunch either?
Yes, it's obvious that Jessa uses her bitchy, judgmental, holier-than-thou demeanor as a shield in rehab, but as she admitted to Laura at one point "I often feel like a victim." So why did I still feel victimized watching Jessa? Maybe it's because, as her fellow British comrade in rehab Jasper (played by Richard E. Grant, who at first glance appears like he might be something of a surrogate father figure) says, she has seen too much in her young years, but really she's just being an asshole. She turns rehab for those legitimately trying to get better into an unhealthy, toxic environment just because she's bored; she's still spoiled as ever (she's in rehab because her grandmother paid for it); and she calls Hannah -- the very friend she abandoned -- and asked her to come pick her up. There's a fine line between tortured free-spirit and total sociopath and Jessa really toes that line here.
Still behaving like a toddler (she literally has her boyfriend hand-feed her her medication); still making everything about her and her published works (when Marnie complains for the ten trillionth time about Charlie, Hannah chirps that they don't have to talk about her "incredibly exciting professional endeavor"); still spouting one-liners that makes everyone hate Millenials ("I hold the keys to the prison that is my mind"); and still proving that 24-year-olds don't know shit about the important stuff. ("I'm not interesting in anything they have to say, that's not the point of friendship.")
If this season is going to be Marnie pouting over Charlie while her mother (played by Rita Wilson) snaps at her, we're in for a long year, folks.
- Marnie's middle name is Marie. Marnie Marie Michaels.
- Hannah discovering the wonder that is an edible chocolate cup.
- Just Shoshanna, in general.
"Truth or Dare"
In real life, Shoshanna would be an absolute nightmare of a person to go on a road trip with. On Girls, she's the saving grace. From her certainty regarding the correct pronunciation of Ryan Philippe's name ("I read his autobiography") to her brilliant, correct observation that Adam is "insane" because he finds "no value in watching sitcoms" to her childlike appreciation of the game "Truth or Dare," Shoshanna is a breath of comedy fresh air on this show... even if she never stops talking long enough to come up for air herself.
"Good" is really relative here, because while I still think Jessa is a self-absorbed mess who really would have benefited from rehab, it is good that she turned down the advances of her rehab pal who turned out to be a scumbag. And her promise to Hannah to stay put seemed somewhat legit. While I don't think she'll take Adam up on his kind offer to go to AA meetings, maybe Hannah's story about Jessa crying in college because she didn't want to be alone will start to peel back the layers and make her a real, emotional person again.
"Boredom is bullshit," "I don’t catalog my mind, its unhealthy," and "She is my best friend" were just some of the gems Adam uttered during this episode. And while I think he would almost be worse to have around than Shoshanna (he's a terrible conversationalist for the most part and he refuses to listen to the radio or let anyone be on their laptop), at least he can appreciate the beauty of nature and shows human emotion when someone says something that genuinely hits a nerve (i.e. when Shoshanna pointed out he's a loser with nothing but free time to take care of Hannah.)
Yes, Adam Again
This guy, man. Every time he does something cool or decent, like try to get Hannah out of her element to take a look at the majesty of the world around her ("birdie birds!") or actually try and help an addict like Jessa, he also does something terribly uncool like turn off Friends, or nag his girlfriend to have sex while another person is just feet away in the same room, or say outrageously infuriating things like female friendships are a "vortex of guilt and jealousy" and that a woman could never be President because of their emotions. Gross.
I honestly couldn't figure whether Hannah wanted to see/rescue her friend more (their hug and chat outside of the rehab facility did seem honest and heartfelt) or paint herself as a "model of female friendship" that got to use the road trip as something she could write about in her book. "It's not a metaphor," she whined. No, it's not -- it's pretty straightforward: you're terrible.
She served absolutely no other purpose in this episode other than to bellyache about Charlie again (surprise!) and complain that she felt left out of the trip to go get Jessa. Not because she cares about Jessa, no, but because she just didn't want anyone to go at all. Oh, and she got a new apartment.
- Hannah and Shoshanna's sing-a-long in the car to Maroon 5's "One More Night" (including Hannah's astute observation that the line "Your lipstick got me so out of breath" "doesn't even make sense") that is eventually put to a halt by Adam bashing the radio off. The gals should have played "Please Mr. Kennedy" instead.
- Shoshanna's line: "Adam was there for you when you went totally batshit insane and decided to cut your hair like a little boy on a fancy cookie box" was maybe the hardest I have ever laughed at anything on this show.
- Adam inadvertently quoting The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
- Shoshanna and Adam's diner discussion about their favorite utensils. I could have watched just an entire episode of these two.
- Hannah getting her head stuck in Shoshanna's new rocking chair. If only she stayed there.
- Hannah lying on the ground, listening to "This American Life" rather than hike. Honestly, I'd probably do the same thing.
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