Girls returns with the perils of growth and couplehood

HBO

I really liked the last season of Girls, but I worry that the final season won’t be able to keep that going. Some plotlines aren’t as interesting to me.

The relationship of Adam and Jessa was previously shown as an explosive, sexually charged thing of danger and it’s now settled into a dysfunctional mess. Mild progress, but the way these two bring out the worst in each other isn’t particularly great. The fact that they care more for a “space for sex” than Ray’s belongings is a particular sort of selfishness that is completely consistent. Adam and Jessa were always weird about sex, and it makes sense that it becomes the only thing that they really care about.

It may turn out that things aren’t so simple, but for now, their reaction to Hannah’s expose on their cruelty is essentially nothing at all. I find myself less interested in those two right now. Shosh didn’t have anything this episode about her, but only acted as an impetus for a series of bad decisions. I’ve always enjoyed the stupidity of Marnie’s spiral of self-destruction and gradual growth, but after last season, I was hoping for something a bit less reductive. Here we see Shosh and Ray’s high level of compatibility driving a nerve in Marnie’s psyche.

Marnie is driven by her self-perception and self-image, which means when she feels unwanted, she loses herself. Virulently awful Desi merely has to say “I see you” as Marnie begins to express self-doubt and Marnie is willing to regress again. That’s frustrating, and I don’t know that I’m okay with it. It’s the sort of thing that will entirely depend on how the rest of the season shakes out. A simple love triangle would seem too simple.

HBO

Of course, Shosh and Ray’s interaction was funny in how shallow it was, but part of it was how their rhythm was so pleasant, while Ray and Marnie’s was passive aggressive. Cursing out Paul “Krugman” versus the impolite menace of Adam/Jessa versus the passive-aggressive jealousy of Marnie. She does best when she’s honest, with herself or others. But it seems too rarely happen.

So I’m wary on the Ray/Marnie/Desi/Shosh storyline but I’m not pessimistic. Jessa/Adam though … I dunno.

As for Hannah, she was the focus of everything. As per usual, she’s arrogant and ridiculous and cowardly, but her growth is noticeable. She admits to her new boss that her brand is about having a loud, uninformed opinion and enjoys having an alternative “look.” Also typical is that she’s so accepting of expressing her sexuality, despite her insecurities.

The life of co-opted surfer rich ladies is an interesting target, even if it’s also reductive itself. I was glad the episode didn’t focus much on the shallowness of the women, instead focusing on Hannah’s attempt at a casual relationship with a surf instructor, Paul-Louis (a well cast Riz Ahmed), in an open relationship.

His line about “Hate takes energy, love gives vibes” is a theme running throughout the episode. Adam and Jessa are in the mix with both, and so their world is a mess. Shosh and Ray aren’t hating, yet Marnie can’t help but feel it. Thus: It’s messed up there too. Hannah tries, but she wants to find that lost love and get over the betrayal she doesn’t realize hurt her badly. Her pretense is her armor, but that’s illusory.

The song that ends the episode is “She’s So High”, which is itself an illusory song about putting a girl on a pedestal — the line of the chorus is “She’s so high – high above me.” It’s actually quite a sad song, and it reflects the other hurt we see; the instructor playing the guitar seeing a girl he likes hook up with someone else, the flash of confusion and pain on Hannah’s face as we fade to black.

I like the themes and secrets of the season opener, but it’s not the level I want to see from this show, the level I know it can reach. But I’m hopeful it’s not too high a bar too reach again.

What did you think of the season premiere? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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