Jan 22, 2014

TV Recap: Girls - "Females Only"

Left to right: Alex Karpovsky, Lena Dunham, and Adam Driver
Welcome back to the TV Recap column for the Golden Globe-winning HBO series Girls. Join me as I capture the exploits of the Lena Dunham-penned series as it ventures through another season of scandal, accidents, and life in general. Will it be another great season for the Tiny Furniture director and her growing cast of friends? Tune back every Friday to find out more.

It feels so great to finally have Girls back on with season three and being possibly more vibrant than ever. After season two left us practically in a rebooted form that seemed to suggest that they were at the same place as in "Pilot." It left many questions regarding romances and job descriptions, specifically if Hannah (Lena Dunham) was going to get sued by her editor David (John Cameron Mitchell) for not pulling together a book in time. Was Marnie (Allison Williams) going to make her return relationship with Charlie work? And also, what happened to Jessa (Jemima Kirke) after "Video Games?" Many questions get answered in the first episode that almost seems to suggest that while the show feels rebooted, reality is keeping them from any form of regression.
The episode opens with a montage of everyone waking up in the morning. Hannah is still with Adam (Adam Driver), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is sleeping with random guys, and Marnie is living her life in the wake of another break-up with Charlie. Things are going fine as Adam and Hannah head down to the newly opened Grumpy's to pay a visit to Ray (Alex Karpovsky), who has moved into Adam's old apartment. Midway through conversation, Adam notices that Natalia (Shiri Appleby) and her friend Angie (Amy Schumer) are at the same place. He is embarrassed to approach them, but they quickly flag him down.
In an embarrassing bout, Natalia and Angie decide to accuse Adam of being too sexually aggressive. Natalia is disgusted by the events from "On All Fours" in which Adam ejaculate all over her chest, which causes her to feel violated. She even makes false accusations about being pregnant in order to make him feel guilty. As they bring Hannah into the conversation, they demean the relationship and call it disgusting and trashy. It really gets to Adam, who seems to be disappointed by those comments.
Marnie is talking with her mother (Rita Wilson) about how stressful things are since she broke up with Charlie again. Mother is trying to get her to relax and think about the good things that will happen. Marnie is clearly becoming a mess and is a little late for work at Grumpy's, where she works alongside Ray and Hannah. During this time, Hannah attends a therapy session to discuss how happy she is feeling since her book deal went through. She even has made peace with David about potentially writing stories about her mental illness, which she was embarrassed to tell him about.
Jemima Kirke

Meanwhile, Jessa is discovered to be in rehab, where things aren't going well. She is mostly there because her grandmother would pay for it. She ends up insulting the other patients in her group for being weak and illogical for blaming others for their emotional struggles. It gets the attention of the staff, who threaten to kick her out if she doesn't behave. It eventually comes to the point where she insults Laura (Danielle Brooks) of being a lesbian, which causes her to run off and hide.
After talking to her friend in the rehab center named Jasper (Richard E. Grant), she comes to her senses to talk to Laura. She enjoys talking to Jasper, as he has a great collection of cigarettes and shares the cynical views of the staff at the center. When Jessa finally addresses Laura and apologizes, Laura opens up that she is hiding her sexuality in order to not get involved with the theory that lesbians like sports. This leads to a sexual encounter between the two and Jessa's final push out of rehab.
Meanwhile, Hannah is deciding to throw a party at her house. Adam is not interested and demands that he doesn't get involved in buying tacos and listening to her friends' boring conversations. Because Hannah convinces him, he sticks around as he hears what everyone has to say. Shoshanna is going through a renaissance of sexuality and trying to balance it with a college lifestyle. She is excited and hopes that it works out. Marnie is still grieving over Charlie, which causes Adam to give her advice to move on based on a story of a Colombian girl he dated who went to Colombia.
As Hannah and Adam are winding down for the night and having sex, Jessa decides to give them a call. Among the confusion and excitement, Hannah discovers just exactly where Jessa has been the past few months. When it is announced that she is in rehab in someplace unknown, she asks Hannah to go pick her up. Where Adam doesn't want to see Hannah's friends for awhile, he gets roped into having to rent a car to go pick Jessa up from rehab.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Left to right: Kirke and Danielle Brooks
This episode is actually part of a full hour special that ran for its premiere. Despite feeling like a captivating introduction to where things are, it does feel like things barely get started in "Females Only" when Hannah leans over to Adam in bed and says "How old do you have to be to rent a car?" This is pretty much an exposition episode that is only complimented by the stronger, second half (which I will be covering tomorrow). With that said, it does feel like the show continues to get into the complicated, darker side of being in your 20's and hints at potential conflicts for further down the road. 
Then again, looking back at season two premiere "It's About Time" and then the finale "Together," it is hard to even suggest where the show will end up. Nobody would think that Hannah would end up a mental case by "Together" or that she would fall back for Adam. In a sense, that was the fun of a series feeling like it was back at square one for season three. It meant we got to address issues with characters that felt familiar that related to their cores. We saw most of them go full circle only to land back at square one, and now we can embrace a deeper understanding.
The notably strange thing is how Adam seemed to become the voice of wisdom by the end of this episode. It could largely be due to a scene that has come to feel like Lena Dunham's annual audience addressing. In season two, she addressed race with a two episode arc with Donald Glover spouting the show's lack of black people. This year, it feels like it came from Natalia, who went on about the controversial moment in "On all Fours" where Adam questionably raped her. Even if it was just aggressive sex, it was creepy. In a sense, the powerful, quick, funny exchange between Adam and her feels like Dunham's acknowledgment of the show's sexual subject matter and that it is kind of wrong and disgusting. Most of all, it feels like the catalyst for Adam to change.
He doesn't necessarily change too much however. Based on information provided in the episode, he is still living off of money that is sent to him. Hannah is working a menial job with barely any income. The only change is that she didn't botch her writing job in the first episode. In a sense, it feels like the small success to show progress in a show that has been sketchy with continuity. She actually seems to be doing well because of her therapist (Bob Balaban), and who knows how far things will go later on. Maybe the stress will come back and ruin her life again. The only hope is that it isn't redundant if it happens.
Marnie feels kind of pointless in this episode. If you recall back to "Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too" in season one, she was moping and listening to Selena Gomez. The only difference is that she is talking to her mom, who is only insistent that she gets back out into the dating field. It is strange how Marnie has fallen to one of the lesser characters on the show, if just because her arc for the first two seasons revolved around Charlie. Since, Christopher Abbott has publicly admitted to not liking the direction of the character and has left the show. I am still unsure if that means that he shot something and isn't in all of the episodes, or if his vague mentions throughout "Females Only" is as close as we'll get to closure on their relationship.
The other big story is Jessa, whom is deliciously snarky again in her rehab stint. She doesn't seem to care about anyone and her comments about heroin being bad are great. Jemima Kirke hasn't been this cynical and funny in quite some time. It also helps to display the complexity of her emotions, which feel bottled up and hidden under these jabs. We also get as close as I feel that we will to my failed season one theory that she was secretly gay based on innuendos with a brief oral sex scene with Laura. It may mean nothing, but it at least suggests bisexuality and instability in the character, which I hope will be exploring more interesting territory as the season progresses.
That is all for this episode. I do feel like this one doesn't work unless viewed as a whole with the next one: "Truth or Dare," which dives further into the Girls mythology and better establishes the characters. We have started off strong, but hopefully that means that the train will keep on rolling. This season feels like it is taking more chances than the past two seasons and while that isn't saying a lot, it is nice to see a show that continues to push boundaries and still mean something with sharp characters and unpredictable continuity. It actually makes the show kind of exciting. I think more than anything, I am just glad to see the characters on a somewhat straight and narrow path for the moment.

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