Our favorite gang of struggling, self-absorbed girls returned to HBO last night to kick off their third season with a two-episode premiere that allowed us to properly catch up with just about everyone and each of their journeys towards the unknown abyss of adulthood. As could be expected, there were moments of stunning awkwardness, emotional impact, astute commentary, and even a few laughs. It’s a particular formula that purposely fails to strike a balance between its comic antics and its dramatic misadventures. But for fans of the show, this is the key to its realness. Life isn’t balanced either. Besides, we’re here for the characters, and it seems a lot has transpired since Adam’s dramatic, shirtless rescue of Hannah at the end of last season.
The first episode – “Females Only” – begins in continuity with the premieres of both previous seasons: a tracking shot of Hannah in her bed, starting at her feet and ultimately revealing a new bedfellow. In season 1, it was Marnie. In season 2, it was Elijah. And this time around, she is comfortably in the arms of Adam. Then we get a glimpse of rest of the gang in quick succession: Marnie – now broken up with Charlie – wakes up alone on a couch, Shosh – single and sexually active – wakes up in bed with an unknown male on the top bunk in someone’s dorm room, and Jessa – in an in-patient rehab program – is attempting to wash some dishes, tossing a particularly stubborn plate into the trash. So let’s break it down:
HANNAH IS GETTIN’ HER SHIT TOGETHER: Hannah is back in a committed relationship with Adam, living together, and seemingly healthy. For Hannah, this represents quite a significant arc of progress. In fact, judging by these two episodes, Hannah has taken a clear lead amongst her friends, as far as having her shit together. With the help of Adam, she is staying on her meds, and her debilitating OCD seems to be in remission. She’s back on good terms with her publisher who is thrilled with the quality of her writing which apparently involves a fictional tale about jerking a kidney stone out of some dude’s dick. I’m honestly sorry I had to write that, but it’s true. She’s having positive therapy sessions with her psychologist who’s portrayed by the great Bob Balaban who’ll hopefully have a recurring spot this season. And despite her continuing stress over her finances and the fact that Adam can’t contribute much to the bills besides what his grandmother sends him and whatever he earns from his paper mache creations, Hannah is happy in love.
As testament to the renewed strength of their bond, consider the explosive, unexpected (and surprise!…horribly awkward) confrontation between Adam and his ex Natalia (Shiri Appleby). Despite the gruesome, explicit sexual details, and pointed attacks Natalia and her enraged friend Angie (Amy Schumer) dump upon Adam in front of Hannah (who also catches some shrapnel), Hannah barely mentions the encounter afterwards. It’s almost unbelievable. But at the same time, it’s great. It’s too early into the season to get mired in the past. So let’s continue with our forward momentum.
MARNIE’S EVIL PLAN FOILED!: Okay, I admit it. I was moved by the reunion of Charlie and Marnie last season. But let’s be honest. Marnie had been more or less awful to Charlie from the get-go, and it was only after he achieved success that she decided she couldn’t live without him. So it’s fitting that she is back in the throes of misery and self-doubt after Charlie apparently left her abruptly and without explanation. To add insult to injury, it was on the very day they were supposed to make grilled pizzas together! “On what fucking planet does that make sense?” Marnie poses through the tears. Not sure. Perhaps on the same planet where you would think Charlie could abandon his self-respect to be your lapdog. Let go, Marnie. We’re all excited to see you grow up this season.
SHOSH IS TAKING ON THE WORLD: So the biggest revelation in Shosh’s storyline really comes in her brief top bunk appearance. Besides that, it seems she’s more confident than ever since leaving Ray. She’s still talking a mile a minute and dropping hilarious and often terribly naive observations. We could call these things “Shoshisms” if that weren’t so damned hard to pronounce. What’s more significant, however, is how the nervous confusion that often colored her monologues has been replaced with an easygoing confidence. There’s no telling what this girl could be capable of this season.
ADAM REMAINS ADAM: What’s great about Adam in these episodes is that everything we’ve come to love about the kid is intact. He’s still honest, unafraid, extremely intense, and fiercely intelligent. Except now, he’s simply not doing the scary stalker thing. He got the girl. But besides that he’s unchanged. Hannah wants to invite her friends over for dinner, and Adam is vocally unhappy about it. “I don’t hate your friends,” he clarifies. “I’m just not interested in anything they have to say.” Classic Adam! Am I right?? Like, #AMIRIGHT? Anyhow, Shosh and Marnie come over for tacos anyway, and despite his disinterest, Adam cannot help but drop some wisdom about love on Marnie after several of her dejected lines, relating a story about an earlier heartbreak of his own with signature intensity and uncensored details, as Shosh listens with rapt attention. Afterwards, Hannah is so pleased with Adam’s contribution to the evening, but he only requests for a three-month break from any such social commitments. Unfortunately for Adam, episode 1 ends with an unexpected phone call from Jessa, who’s looking for someone to pick her up from rehab.
JESSA HAS SERIOUS ISSUES: In the first episode, we catch up with Jessa at a rehab facility called Sheltering Winds in Woodstock, N.Y. She explains to one of the administrators she’s only there at her grandmother’s request, and upon her completion of the 60 days, grandma will pay for a plane ticket, and rent, and a pair of Ugg boots. Meanwhile, in group sessions, Jessa is as pretentious and judgmental as ever, never opening up or contributing, but instead making a mockery of the plights of the other patients including one played by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Body/Head (who looks positively, depressingly ancient). Laura, another patient, has been struggling with an addiction to huffing lighter fluid and believes her behavior stems from a traumatic sexual incident where she was abused by her uncle. Jessa raises her hand to suggest in front of the group that Laura is using her abuse as an crutch, and also suggest she comes out of the closet. Embarrassed, Laura throws her coffee in Jessa’s face. But later on that evening, Jessa goes to Laura’s room to apologize and ends up eating her pussy to help her embrace her true sexuality. She was doing her a favor, right? Somehow, this incident gets Jessa kicked out of the program. Before she leaves, however, she finds companionship with another patient. Jasper (Richard E. Grant), a fellow Englishman, is about her father’s age. He’s very intelligent and seems to understand the complexity of Jessa’s character. They become friends and Jessa finds solace in his company. Sadly, in their final encounter, he reveals himself to be an addict as well as a dog who was convinced they would have sex before she left the facility. Disillusioned much?
LOST IN A TIME WARP: By my calculations (i.e. I Googled this shit), the distance between Brooklyn and Woodstock is 113 miles or a little over two hours by car. In the second episode “Truth or Dare,” however, this trip seems to take Adam, Hannah, and Shosh an insufferable amount of time. By all indications, they left early enough, and the sun was bright and shining for a large portion of the drive. But somehow they must stop for the night at a hotel to break up the trip into two days. I smell a plot device! This short break at the hotel provides the episode with its title. Although Adam is ready for bed, Shosh is full of energy and suggests they play truth or dare. He admits he has never actually played it before and doesn’t really know the rules. So Shosh and Hannah give him a short tutorial, and after about one minute of the game, Adam turns off the lights and wishes all a goodnight in his hilariously blunt fashion. Under the covers, he is looking for some sexual contact. Hannah reminds him that Shosh is actually in the room, and he reminds her that he can’t sleep well unless he chums. Charming bastard, eh? Shosh overhears this chatter, and volunteers to hang out outside of the room until they’re done.
THE PICKUP: After what seemed like several long days on the road, they finally arrive at Sheltering Winds. Hannah – posing as Jessa’s sister – is eager to sign the release form to officially get Jessa out of the facility. But in a shocking turn of events, we learn that they was no form to sign, as Sheltering Winds has an open door policy. AND, for that matter, they offered to drive her to the airport (to save her from that dreadfully long road trip), but she refused. Adam is beside himself. Outside, Hannah confronts Jessa about her lying bullshit and reprimands her for abandoning her so callously and proceeding to disappear for months. But after the harsh talk, Hannah goes in for a long embrace which takes Jessa aback, clueless to her own value. “I missed you, and I would really like it if you would please stop leaving because I’m really looking forward to you being around more,” Hannah explains. Jessa affirms that she is done with the bullshit. And in the starkest emotional moment, Hannah responds to her very plainly with “Ok cuz I hate it. I hate it.” And it seems to sink in. She may have actually rescued her friend after all. So together they begin the long, long, long journey home.
Wowzers. That was a lot of words. But give me a break. It was two episodes. Check back again next week for more expert analysis and witty commentary.
Girls, Season 2 Premiere (Jason Kundrath)