Watching Girls is a little bit like falling in love. We’re charmed, and we think, “No one gets us like they do!” We’re pleasantly surprised by all of their quirks, and we feel like they have so much to teach us. The sex is awkward at first, but we know we’ll get the hang of it.
In other words, we can’t stop thinking about Girls, and just the way we would to our best friend, we’re going to explain why it’s so wonderful. Starting with our first impressions.
Hannah (Lena Dunham):
We can’t imagine anyone else playing Hannah. Which is to say, she could be off-putting if she weren’t played by Lena. Hannah is a writer, but she doesn’t know how to turn that into a paying job. She was an English major, so surely she can do anything she wants, right? And just because the guy she likes never responds to her texts probably means he’s just busy, right? The fact that Hannah asks these questions, but knows the answer to them almost as soon as she’s said them out loud, makes us like her instantly.
Jessa (Jemima Kirke):
Jessa is an easy character to love. We first meet her in a cab, where she is sleeping on her Louis Vuitton luggage. It’s properly broken in, which is one of the first signs that, as her American cousin Shoshanna says, she’s “so fucking classy.” With her ability to pull off a hat, her British accent, and the fact that she doesn’t use Facebook, Jessa is one of those girls who is so cool only because she has never tried to be cool in her life.
Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet):
We only meet Shoshanna briefly in the pilot, which is smart. She’s a lot to take in. Greeting Jessa in a pink Juicy Couture sweatsuit, she is the only character you could accuse of trying too hard to be happy. She doesn’t only have a Sex and the City poster on her wall, but she points it out to Jessa as a symbol of pride. Then Shoshanna launches into a familiar monologue about how she’s totally a Carrie at heart, but (cue slanted eyes and smirk), she definitely has some Samantha in her. But she definitely tries to be a Miranda at school.
Marnie (Allison Williams):
We like Marnie. She’s gorgeous, but not distractingly so. Marnie almost seems like the down-to-earth one, until you realize that her life is in just as much chaos as the other girls’. Just in a slightly more enviable package. Her boyfriend Charlie is adorable, dotes on her, is extremely polite, and just wants to make her happy. She can’t stand him. One of the most telling scenes for Marnie is when she is talking to Jessa in the bathroom. She wants their mutual friend Hannah to be more practical, now that she has no more financial support from her parents, and no job. She tells Jessa, “This is what you do. You act like I’m uptight, and then I follow suit. I become uptight.” Sadly, we know the feeling.
Girls begins with Hannah, looking a little bored, but generally satisfied. She’s writing a memoir made up of nine essays, five of which she still has to write because, well, she has to “live them first.” She’s out to dinner in New York with her visiting parents, who have a big announcement for her. They’ve been supporting her financially ever since she graduated from college, which was two years ago. It’s time for her to start taking care of herself. “No more money.”
Hannah’s mom seems to be the bad cop, while her father (who wears an earring and also knew what opium tea was – was he a former bad boy, like the ones Hannah lusts after?) is the emotional pudding in the family. Despite Hannah’s knack for manipulating this twosome, as we see in full effect by the end of the pilot, their decision is firm.
“All my friends get help from their parents,” argues Hannah. “This feels very arbitrary.” Played expertly by Lena, Hannah doesn’t come off so much spoiled, but just plain clueless (yes, Clueless was cited later on). When she says that her parents are lucky she’s not a drug addict (“I could be on heroin, or something more insidious like pills”), or like her friend Sophie, who had two abortions “right in a row” after her parents cut her off, she realizes none of it is doing any good.
That’s when she takes a moment to try a version of the truth on them. “I am busy trying to become who I am,” says Hannah, in earnest. The show’s title blows up on screen, and we’re excited about where we’re going.
Our first image of female friendship is an incredibly close one. What appears to be a couple waking up together, limbs intertwined and spooning, is actually Hannah and Marnie. Marnie slept in Hannah’s room to avoid her French-looking, puppy-love-suffering boyfriend Charlie.
The girls bathe together, though Marnie keeps her towel on. Hannah’s self-consciousness about being slightly overweight comes out in rapid succession early on, from calling herself “Fat Baby Angel” to Marnie’s “Victoria’s Secret Angel,” and telling Charlie to look away from her, to her suggestion that Marnie should be the one showing off her body instead of Hannah.
Once Charlie’s out of earshot, Marnie confesses that “his touch feels like a weird uncle.” Hannah asks, “What does it feel like to be loved that much?” Marnie can’t remember. They walk to the subway together and discuss Hannah’s love life, which consists of a tall, weasel-y looking wannabe creative type named Adam. He never texts Hannah back, which Marnie points out is the lowest form of communicating, above only Facebook and Gchat. “Face to face is ideal, but it’s not of this time,” explains Marnie.
Meanwhile, Jessa has arrived from France with her beat-up Louis bags, and comes to her cousin Shoshanna’s apartment in NoLita to stay for the time being. As we mentioned above, Jessa is a girl who has been too busy shucking pearls in Bali and dating surfers who really, really like her to be aware of the Sex and the City phenomenon at all. Jessa is just thrilled to have her because, aside from having someone to talk to besides the voices on her SaTC DVDs, she’s the only person she knows who has a British cousin.
Taking a small step towards responsibility, Hannah tells her boss, “My circumstances have changed, and I can no longer afford to work for free.” Her internship at what looks like a boutique book publisher was supposed to turn into a job eventually, like it did for JoLynn, but JoLynn knows Photoshop, and her boss gets over 50 internship applications a day. This might be the only moment where the recession is acknowledged, however subtly.
Hannah essentially gets herself fired, and on a whim, tries to reach the unreachable Adam, who just happens to be available. She’s clearly thrilled, though Adam answers the door to his cramped Brooklyn apartment (with the obligatory hanging bicycle) shirtless, barefoot, and presumably underwear-less.
What follows is one of the first sex scenes on Girls, and we were actually surprised by how tame it was. The advance reviews read almost like warnings to the faint of heart. More stomach-turning than the doggy-style sex was the way Hannah succumbed to whatever he requested, because she likes him “so, so much.” She wonders where he is when he disappears (“I’m right here,” he says, missing the point), and her perma-smile and insistence on moving “the right way” when all he wants to do is thrust a little and roll off … it would all be so horrible if it weren’t for the nagging familiarity of the whole thing.
To celebrate Jessa’s return to New York, Marnie and Hannah have invited her over for a “dinner thing,” though Charlie took it upon himself to invite his friend Ray and Ray’s probably new girlfriend. Marnie’s disgust for Charlie grows stronger as she observes Ray and the green-orb-eyed girl, who are clearly in their honeymoon phase, having just met at a mall.
Once Jessa arrives, the mood of the gathering changes from uncomfortable to slightly exciting. Jessa lists the places she’s lived recently, and flirts with Charlie a bit, as Hannah finally arrives smelling of sex.
Ray, who is either the worst guest or the best, is mixing up some opium tea from legal poppy flowers he found in the flower district. We remember when an ex-boyfriend suggested this once, and we found the idea terrifically glamorous. As do Charlie and Hannah, who partake with a mug each.
Marnie pulls a sort-of-wonked Hannah into her bedroom to talk some sense into her. But Jessa comes in, looking peaceful, though we doubt high – somehow we suspect that Jessa is just always that relaxed. Hannah has Marnie on one side, telling her to just reason with her parents and get a brief extension on funds while she looks for a new job. Jessa sits on her other side, telling her to just explain to her parents that she’s an artist. “Tell them you’ll get tuberculosis in a garret if you have to. Tell them it’s what Flaubert did. Tell them that Picasso did it. Rappers who were poor and sold their tapes in the street did it.”
Hannah chooses to take both of her friends’ advice simultaneously. She decides that she will head to her parents’ hotel room at the Warwick, and tell them that she is the voice of her generation. Or at least, a voice, of a generation. If they would just read her memoir and see how successful it will be, they’ll see that she only needs $1,100 from them per month, for the next two years. Then she’ll finish it, and become a star.
Predictably, her reasonable mom instantly rejects the idea, while her dad tells her how funny she is. As the realization comes over Hannah that they’re not going to say yes, she starts to either feel the effects of the opium tea or think she’s feeling the effects so that she can use the opportunity to slide off her chair and think she’s dying on the floor.
This scene made us laugh out loud, even after the third viewing. But in between the laughs, there is some brutal honesty about what it takes to try and become who you are as a 24-year-old girl in New York. When Hannah tells her dad, “Coffee is for grown-ups!” she’s telling him that she’s not really ready. The comforts of home, the ease of financial dependence, and the freedom of being on your own in the big world while knowing, in the back of your head, that there’s a huge, cozy safety net made of luxury hotel sheets beneath you, can’t go on forever. But when it’s over, the discomfort of making a new home begins.
The happy homeless guy who tells Hannah to smile in the final scene asks if her heart hurts. She smiles, because it doesn’t yet. But we know, and so does Hannah, that it will. What Hannah doesn’t know, is that she’ll love every minute of it.
Catch the next episode of Girls on Sunday, April 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.
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