Monday, March 24, 2014

Girls: Season 3

 This has been a season of growing pains on Girls. Season 3 ended last night with a bit of a whimper as all four characters went off in different directions: Hannah to the Iowa Writers Workshop, Shoshanna trying to get back together with Ray, Marnie trying to start a new relationship with her coupled actor/musician friend, and Jessa helping an aging artist kill herself. (The artist changes her mind at the last minute, probably because Lena Dunham didn’t want to have to deal with Jessa being charged with murder in the fourth season.)
Now that the novelty of Lena Dunham being a 27-year-old writer/actress/wunderkind has worn off, the time has come for these characters to break out of their 20-something solipsism and figure out the kind of adult women they want to be. One encouraging development this season found the girls leaving the hothouse atmosphere of their native Brooklyn and venturing to the Hamptons for a little female bonding session. This episode had great potential, because it showed all four women airing their previously unknown grievances about the other women in the group. I founded myself saying “Yes!” as they brought up such things as Hannah’s narcissism and Marnie’s perfectionism, but by the next episode, these grievances were forgotten. It was as if their drunken escapade never happened.
One of the great things about this season has been the remarkable casting choices (which were recently noted in a New York Times article), which included not only New York micro-celebrities like the J. Crew executive who was so believable as Hannah’s magazine boss that I thought she was a real actress, but great real actresses like June Squibb from Nebraska as Hannah’s grandmother and Louise Lasser as the aging artist who wants to kill herself. Another highlight of this season has been the reappearance of Andrew Rannells as Hannah’s gay best friend from college. As much as I want to hate Mr. Rannells for being so blessed with looks and talent, I have to admit that he steals every scene he’s in with his comic timing and absolute believability.
The problem I’ve had with this season (which also extends to Looking, Girls’ gay counterpart) has been the characters’ self-centeredness. Maybe that’s been intentional on Lena Dunham’s part, but it’s hard to root for characters that are so emotionally tone-deaf. In the last episode, for example, Hannah decides to tell her boyfriend, Adam, about her acceptance into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop right before he’s about to make his Broadway debut. Hello?
Another minor source of irritation has been the way Hannah seemingly drifts in and out of jobs with no apparent consequence to her living situation. I mean, I know that one of the singular achievements of this series has been its exposure of the dark underbelly of trustafarians, but it impinges on the show’s credibility.
While I still give Lena Dunham lots of credit for breaking barriers, whether it’s by exposing her less than model-perfect naked body in almost every episode or writing parts for and casting older actresses, I’d appreciate it if the characters were a little more outward-looking and less navel-gazing. But that’s a minor quibble on a show that is still one of the best-written and most thought-provoking comedies on television.

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