For all everybody talks about Girls being a show about the empowerment of female friendship, Lena Dunham does not seem to be very optimistic about that particular supposedly unbreakable bond. The fight between Marnie and Hannah in season one’s penultimate episode never fully got resolved, and it probably won’t in the near future. The two best friends may work in the same coffee shop and they may attend each other’s dinner parties, but Hanna will still lie to Marnie about excluding her from the “Pick Up Jessa from Rehab Road Trip”, and that makes Marnie feel pretty shitty, man. Last season, Adam saved Hannah when Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna couldn’t, and that act has had lasting consequences. The first shot of season three directly mirrors the first shot of season one, with Marnie replaced by Adam in Hannah’s bed. Girls will likely end its run with a recommitment to the lasting strength of female friendship, but right now, the most important person in Hannah’s life is a man.
Girls has always been a show about dealing with the world you’ve got once the world you wanted—or think you wanted—shatters. Hannah’s endless supply of money evaporates; Marnie’s perfect professional career and recently wealthy boyfriend move on without her; Jessa’s carefree life catches up with her; Shoshanna puts on her hoodie and sunglasses and sleeps her studies away. Everyone is still in denial that their dreams may not automatically come true by the time they’re 25, and this season will likely be hammering that point home. Each girl is at a different point in the disappointment that is their twenties, and the plot and character development comes from when one character has to measure their success against another’s.
It’s telling that Hannah’s relative happiness is coinciding with Marnie’s downward spiral. Marnie is now outside the city, commuting to Brooklyn every day to work at Ray’s coffee shop. It’s a cliché to be an underemployed barista right out of college and Marnie never thought she would be in that position. Hannah may be on her way out thanks to her e-book deal, and Marnie’s jealousy may consume her. She has a hard time swallowing her change of fortunes—as well as a hard time literally swallowing Hannah’s taco. Watching Marnie (Marie) devolve from uptight art gallery professional to a single, delusional failure yelling at her mom about break-ups being hard is one of the guiltiest pleasures Girls has provided. I like Marnie and want her to succeed but watching her get knocked down a notch, especially in full view of Hannah’s newly found happiness, is a pleasure to watch.
If Marnie is jealous of Hannah, then Hannah is jealous of Jessa. This has always been true, but her jealousy seems to have taken a new form. It’s always been about “living the story” for Hannah, and Jessa is doing just that. At this point in her life, Hannah is in a stable relationship, has her mental disorder under control, and is meeting her deadlines. She’s about to be published on Nerve.com and she’s eating a cup made out of pure chocolate. But Jessa is in rehab and has all the stories people really want to read about. Hannah believes that her own stories come out of self-deprecation and character flaws while Jessa’s come from a more glamorous and dramatic sadness. Hannah explains Jessa’s emotional state to a Chex-Mix eating Shoshanna in the hotel hall way, and it’s like she’s talking to herself three years ago. Shoshanna still sees Jessa’s drug binges and rehab stints as “rites of passage” but fails to see that Jessa’s life is one big rite of passage. Hannah finally sees the big picture about Jessa, but is still jealous, which is the most insane thing about her at this point. She wants her stories without having to go through her pain. “We’re picking up our friend of rehab and I just thought there’d be something to write about in my book,” pretty much sums it up. Hannah’s therapy sessions directly contrast with Jessa’s as Hannah jumps head first into analyzing her issues while Jessa does nothing but deflect in her group sessions. It’ll be interesting to see what form their friendship takes now that they’re reunited.
Hannah’s changing relationships with Jessa and Marnie both exist (or should exist) as background noise compared to her development of a status quo with Adam. I am in the camp that believes Hannah and Adam are completely good for each other. A lot of this season will focus on the growing pains of their relationship but I don’t believe that whatever damage they inflict on each other will be irreparable. There is certainly a huge fall from grace coming for the couple—as foreshadowed by the confrontation with Natalia and Amy Schumer. (Amy Schumer!)
Hannah wants the perfect marriage of her boyfriend and her best friends, but as Adam sagely points out, “You can’t always get what you want.” The second episode concludes with Adam reaching out his hand to truly help Jessa with her addiction problems, resulting in Hannah literally saying the word “yay.” Up until that point, Adam had spent two episodes complaining about having to spend time with Hannah’s friends. “You have to change, it’s called being in a relationship,” Hannah tells Adam. Despite the impromptu hiking and smashing of car radios, Adam actually, begrudgingly, takes her words to heart and reaches out to first Marnie, and then Jessa. Less likely is a friendship between Adam and Shoshanna who make one of the funniest pairs of characters the show could put together. The choice to throw Hannah, Adam and Shoshanna in a car together provides some of the straight-forward funniest moments Girls has had in a while. Shosh’s response to Adam deciding that his favorite utensil is a fork is one of the Zosia Mormet’s best all-time line readings.
In fact, Mamet pretty much steals every scene she’s in. I’m hoping that we get a lot more focus on Shoshanna this season, especially now that she’s a free-wheelin’ college co-ed alternating “nights of freedom with nights of academic focus.” Shoshanna has always represented the wide-eyes girl Hannah used to be, the one who—like Jessa’s melodramatic group therapy enemy—still wants to see New York as fresh and exciting and full of opportunity. This season will likely see the beginning of her disillusionment. I don’t know when or even if I want her back together with Ray, but I hope we get at least one season of her “sexual awakening.” No one has the potential for a more dramatic character growth than Shoshanna, considering where she started the series.
The primary draw of Girls for me has always been the funny—it usually is for me with shows like this—but the reason I stay is because I trust Lena Dunham’s vision for these characters. I believe she knows where they should end up, but it’s watching her get them there that’s the fun. Dunham is still only 27, which means that she’s only three years removed from Hannah. Dunham’s perspective changes with every passing year so her show never feels stuck in a rut to me. Girls will go through good and bad phases wholly dependent on how well of a grasp Dunham feels like she has on her recent past. Right now, it feels like Dunham’s got 24 down pat.