Girls, Ep. 2.01: “It’s About Time” reveals new insecurities, more awkwardness and a dose of confidence
Girls Seaseon 2 Episode 1: “It’s About Time”
Directed by Lena Dunham
Written by Lena Dunham & Jennifer Konner
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO
Courting with controversy even before it hit the air, Girls has been lavished with praise, criticism and outrage as it portrays the awkward lives of a group of twenty-something Girls trying to make it in New York City. Headed by Lena Dunham with the aid of all around comedy philanthropist Judd Apatow, the show has become, for some, the voice of a generation, while for others, it represents the worst of popular culture: a white-washed, clueless and privileged representation of life in the big city. I can’t help wondering if the same controversy would even follow a show made by and about young men under similar circumstances, if the same amount of hatred and criticism would be levelled against a more male universe. It seems that without ever meaning to, Lena Dunham has been forced to hold the torch for everyone everywhere who has been waiting for a smartly packaged show about women for women to return to the airwaves. She is holding the weight of expectation of people all over the political, social and cultural spectrum and she brushes it off with a few winks and an uncomfortable nod here and there. Often evoking a meta-textual relationship between herself and the character she plays, part of the continual controversy comes from the inability to differentiate the show’s actors, writers and creators from the characters they play as some of the controversy last season came from social media responses of those involved in the show’s production.
Jumping straight into season two, everyone who tuned in for the first season is eagerly awaiting to see the follow-up of the previous season and whether or not Lena Dunham will directly address some of the criticism levelled at the show’s first season. Set a few months after the events of the season finale, Elijah is all moved in, Lena has a new “boyfriend” – Donald Glover and is taking care of her invalid ex-boyfriend Adam. Enjoying being the best roommates ever, Elijah and Lena decide to throw a home-warming party which ends in tears, sex and reunions.
In an episode rivalling the best of season 1, Lena Dunham brings the characters into new stages of their lives. These are not the same girls we saw in the pilot, as circumstances, personalities and relationships have transformed on and offscreen. Especially considering the half hour time slot, Dunham deftly sets the stage for a new season of adventures as the characters reach new emotional highs and lows, and suggests a season of new experiences. Not satisfied with reworking the same scenarios and insecurities over and over again, Lena Dunham pushes the envelope through her characterizations.
This is especially evident through Hannah, who seems to have really grown up since the last season. One senses through some of her actions, like an impulsive desire to change outfits in the middle of a party, a lingering insecurity in her character, but these moments are greatly undermined by an assertive sense of worth. Her transformed relationship with Adam, in particular, stands out in this regard – while maintaining the same aching ambiguity that keeps the show hacking at your sense of self-worth. Plagued with guilt, Hannah continues to care and spend an inordinate amount of time with Adam, who is distant and bitter due to his newfound emotional and physical dependence on Hannah. However, by the end of the episode she tells him what is really on her mind, breaking up with him in a spectacularly blunt way. This is a huge change from the previous season, where she was intensely dependent on him for her sense of worth. In spite of his continued insistence that it was just sex, she pushed and shoved her way into his heart, before realizing she was not sure she even wanted to be with him. Her evolution is totally sincere, and it is gratifying to see her speak her mind for once, seemingly certain of what she does and does not want from the man she is dating. At the same time, she got what she wanted and just threw it back in Adam’s face for no real reason. The heart may be fickle, but this flippancy, if it remains a trend will result in a lot of heartache in Hannah’s future.
Criticisms that the show was not fair to its male characters are really addressed here, as each male character is allowed incredible vulnerability and depth in this episode. In spite of questionable behavior in previous episodes, Adam in particular has become a strong-hold of great character evolution and has become incredibly sympathetic as a kind of victim of Hannah’s newfound confidence. Ray, my personal favourite male character, also makes a re-appearance as he tries to reconciliate with Shoshanna who feels burned after losing her virginity to him in the previous season. In spite of a cruel sense of humour, to date, he remains possibly the kindest character who never really acts out of jealousy, malice or deception. He is a perfect match for the shrill, but creepily honest Shoshanna, who seems no less assertive post-hymen. It’s also impossible not to mention the presence of Donald Glover, who seems to be a huge wink-wink at criticism that the show was a little too white. He doesn’t have a huge role in this episode, but nonetheless makes his mark as Hannah’s sex-friend and soon to be boyfriend. I am excited to see where they take his character, and how new assertive Hannah copes with this new and seemingly healthier relationship.
The episode has no obvious flaws, though the brief segment with Jessa adds little to her storyline except reminding the viewers that she recently got married to a stranger. The ever shallow Marnie takes another trip down an awkward road, and one wonders what happens to the charming but chubby boy she was making out with in the season finale. Though I can’t speak for all audiences, the show packs the same punch as it did, and will leave your skin crawling if you are the right age, hang with the right crowd and more likely if you menstruate. Lots of promise for this season, let’s hope that Girls is able to go above and beyond our expectations, setting the stage for some major awkwardness and growing pains.