This Girls review contains spoilers.
Girls season 5 episode 1
Let’s be upfront about this: Girls was a great show in its first and second seasons and now it’s more of an up and down kind of thing. You can usually count on it for a handful of great moments each episode and occasionally a full, standout episode. But the simple fact of the matter is this show had more room to breathe and be weird and experimental in its early years, often feeling like a series of short films, rather than a sitcom.
Early on, I thought the show it shared the most in common with was Louie. But Louie is able to keep doing whatever it wants because it’s happy to break all its rules. There’s hardly a core cast and no sense of continuity except for when Louis C.K. wants there to be. Sometimes it’s not even anchored to reality.
Girls, however, is. There is quite a large stable of recurring characters and they all have their own shit going on that carries over from episode to episode. In other words, after season two, Girls ran into the unfortunate problem of becoming a television show.
So the Girls season 5 premiere begins with the wedding of Marnie (Allison Williams) and Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). This engagement was announced last season, although then, in the finale, Desi disappeared after receiving a stern talking-to from Ray (Alex Karpovsky). Of course, things are rarely so cut and dry in Girls, so apparently Desi and Marnie worked it out somewhere along the way.
This is something I’ve always admired about Girls, the way there are no unrealistic ends to relationships. People treat each other like crap, get in fights, and then just sort of gradually slump back into each other’s lives—much like people do in real life. That said, Mimi-Rose Howard, played by the great Gillian Jacobs, did exit the show abruptly (probably Gillian was too busy with her new Netflix sitcom) by way of one brief scene and I do have to say I’m annoyed we’re stuck with Desi the douche, rather than interesting weirdo Mimi-Rose.
Everybody else is back though, even Adam (Adam Driver), who one might’ve assumed would be too busy off Kylo Renning it up. It’s unclear how much time has passed since the end of season five, but one assumes it’s 6+ months, due to the corny “Six Months Later” chyron that closed the previous season out, and now everyone is talking about the new stages of their lives.
They’re all in sublime awful form. Marnie is, as expected, trying to passive-aggressively (sometimes just aggressively) control every bit of her wedding and Hannah (Lena Dunham) is still being wildly self-centered, even on her BFF’s wedding day. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) took the job in Japan she was offered last season and has instantly become one of those people who can’t stop talking about how her time abroad has changed her. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is mostly, as she often is, the voice of reason here, except she also starts out the episode completely insufferable, breathlessly proclaiming, “I just bathed in a stream and then ran through a field to dry myself.”
The problem with post-season-two Girls is that, in trying to tell its stories, it occasionally falls back on unbecoming clichés for a show that usually successfully sidesteps such stuff. And, though it’s got a bit more of an oddball approach and an atypical number of female characters who are regularly unabashed assholes, in the end this still feels like a pretty rote wedding story cribbed from the lamest of Hollywood. Hannah even says, “It’s like a romcom that even I wouldn’t want to watch. It’s like a really bad romcom that’s, like, too obvious and not funny.” But calling out the problems with your episode doesn’t really excuse them.
In the end, this is a standard story about a wedding where everything seems to be going wrong (the groom’s got cold feet, it’s raining, two of the guests have a sudden passionate hookup, everyone’s makeup looks awful), but it all pulls together in the end and we soldier onward into matrimony. While there are some funny lines (e.g., Marnie wants the style of her wedding to have “a nod to my heritage, which is white, Christian woman”) and Marnie’s overdone makeup is impressively terrible, the plot basically relies on hackneyed tropes. Ray’s pep talk to Desi takes on an added weirdness element by virtue of them having it while submerged up to their necks in pond water, but it’s still a profound motivational speech delivered in dramatic pouring rain. Lame.
True, under all this seems the so-obvious-it’s-absurd truth that no one will come right out and say: marrying Desi is a massive mistake. Marnie can be absolutely awful, yes, but, if nothing else, she’s not stupid. And Desi is. He’s a big, dumb, douchey dummy.
Basically, this premiere was disappointing and fell back on some standard romcom bullshit, but there’s that patented Girls undercurrent of darkness and uncertainty running through it all. Maybe that’ll be brought to forefront as the season progresses and we’ll get some better episodes out of it.