Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The End Is the Beginning: Thoughts on the Second Season Finale of "Girls"

Right back to where we started from It's interesting -- or on second thought, maybe the exact opposite -- that at the end of season two, all four Girls girls are pretty much where they were at the beginning of the series: Hannah is back with Adam; Marnie is together again with Charlie; Shoshanna is single; and Jessa is God knows where (which is from whence she had just returned when the show began).

But while revisiting the past need not mean complete regression, only two of our girls have moved forward in any significant way since then: Shoshanna, my overall favorite character after Charlie (the one person on the show who reminds me of actual people I've known in real life, ones with whom I'd go out of my way to spend quality time, thanks, in part, to the attractive package that is portrayer Christopher Abbott), and Jessa, my least favorite, have both evolved over the course of the first two seasons. They aren't exactly who they were when we met them.

Shoshanna is no longer a virgin. She's now had a boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend, and she's learned how to hook up just for the fun of it. Jessa is a soon-to-be divorcee who had a breakthrough moment with her father (a second season highlight), though she's still as self-involved as she was when we met her. There's a lot of that, self-involvement, going on on Girls, but I was recently told -- by a 20-year-old guy no less -- that it's just the way of twentysomethings.

Meanwhile, Marnie is safely re-ensconced in romantic convention with Charlie (apparently, with better sex, but why would she think she'd have brown babies with him?), which she will no doubt sabotage next season when she starts to overthink it again, and she decides that she wants more -- again. And Hannah? Poor Hannah. She's having some kind of breakdown which led her back to the arms -- literally -- of the guy whom she accused of being partly responsible for putting her in this mess she's in.

Nice torso, Adam, but you're not so Big! After the debacle of his sex scene with Natalia in the penultimate season-two episode, Adam redeemed himself a little with his loyalty to Hannah and his shirtless mad dash through New York City to get to her. But if writer/star Lena Dunham is trying to position him as Big to her Hannah's Carrie Bradshaw, she's way off. Big could be callous and insensitive (he was, after all, a guy), but he was never mean. I suspect he was better in bed, too. Even without the dog shit, in his finale round with Natalia, Adam's sexual proclivities still troubled me: Why do so many guys think fast and furious is preferable to nice and slow?

I'm not sure why Natalia stuck around for more after the dog shit, but at least she returned to being clear about what she wanted. Adam, though, was obviously bored with her and had already checked out of their short relationship around the time he told her to get on all fours, probably sabotaging it because he doesn't think he's good enough for a normal woman (woman, not girl). I felt a little sorry for Natalia when he reunited with Hannah in the end (she deserves to do the dumping), but she's so much better off without him -- cliched consoling words that probably never boosted the spirits of any dumpee.

Am I Jessa? Yesterday, in defense of still-MIA Jessa, my best friend told me that I'm kind of like her -- "the way you leave parties, the way you left this country..." -- and she has a point. But I would never dream of inviting her on a trip with me to see my father, abandon her there without warning, and then let the radio silence continue for weeks, without even sending a forwarding address. I'd at least update my Facebook status to let her know where I am. But then Jessa is so the type to think Facebook is beneath her. The one upside to her being such a terrible friend? The last few episodes have been so much more enjoyable without her being in them to infuriate me.

I don't mind Hannah as much as everyone else does. I believe the general consensus is that Hannah, not Jessa, is the most maddening character on Girls, but I don't find her as unlikable as everyone else seems to. Maybe it's the writer in me that can relate to some of her dilemma and her tendencies: how difficult it is to be motivated to write sometimes, how one can manipulate life for material, how it's so easy to get trapped in your own mind, turning other people into mere characters in your latest chapter.

What I don't understand is where this obsessive-compulsive disorder and mental illness came from. It seems to have arrived completely out of nowhere. My best friend suggested that it's basically Dunham angling for an Emmy later this year. I think it's a lot of that, and an easy way to get Adam back into her orbit. Those two probably belong together -- sort of like Carrie and Big on Sex and the City -- so I'm willing to go along with it. I'm actually more interested in seeing where they end up in season three than I was in seeing how Hannah got home from Coney Island at the end of last season, which was never explained, by the way.

Is that really how e-book publishing works? Is it as easy for an untested -- and as far as I know, still unpublished --- writer to "ink" a deal to produce an e-book and get a generous advance for agreeing to do it? Hannah made it seem like a cinch. James Cameron Mitchell is playing the hell out of her editor, though. I've written for people who act just like that, which makes me glad to not be doing it at the moment.

I'll take Michael Penn wherever I can get him! I don't do TV soundtracks -- no, not even any of the Glee ones that used to be released on a seemingly weekly basis -- but I might actually download the Girls soundtrack, which was released in January and features the new song by Michael Penn that appeared in the finale. The tunes that pop up in each episode are high points of the shows. If the finale felt a little anti-climactic overall, the inclusion of "Elephant" by Tame Impala was the one thing that left me wanting more. Alas, more Tame Impala, not necessarily more Girls.


The suspense isn't killing me. As much as I appreciate the ability of each Girls episode to evoke a strong reaction and encourage conversation, I just can't get into the core four the way I did/do the central quartets on Sex and the City, The Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, Girlfriends, Living Single, or in Waiting to Exhale. Maybe it's because I'm too far removed from my mid-20s to relate to their growing pains (when the Charlotte York/Rose Nylund stand-in is my favorite, we've got a problem), or maybe it's because they now spend so little time together that it's easy to forget they're even friends, or maybe it's because I've got too many other TV shows to occupy my time.

Whatever the reason, I'm not exactly dying to find out what happens next, which has been my biggest problem with Girls all along. Lena Dunham can write interesting characters, realistic dialogue and the occasional brilliant scene. I just wish they were wowing me in the context of more compelling stories. Maybe that's where both she (and Hannah) can really learn something from Carrie Bradshaw (though, preferably, not a penchant for beginning sentences with "I couldn't help but wonder" and "And just like that...").

It's so not a shame about Ray. What am I hoping for next season? More Charlie, Jessa in even smaller doses, and no Ray, who has always been too ill-defined and seems to exist solely to be denigrated, which might be why he's so annoyingly snarky. (Since when does running a coffee shop indicate that one is devoid of ambition?) But even if Ray were more appealing, I would understand Shoshanna's wariness of being with someone who is only about her. If ever there was a guy who needs to disappear after the break-up, never to be heard from again, it would be Ray. But exes always come back, don't they? I just hope an unwanted pregnancy doesn't leave Shoshanna -- and us -- stuck with this one.
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