Hello, and welcome to the torch passing of Girls reviews over at Paste. I’ll be taking the task over from Paste Senior Girls Reviewer (and videogame editor on the side), Garrett Martin, who’s been following Hannah Horvath and her crew of 20-something New York women who are just trying to figure it all out and live happy, healthy lives over the course of Girls’ first two seasons. If you weren’t a fan before (but you were watching the Golden Globes and aren’t a supporter of Woody Allen), maybe you caught a glimpse of the show’s third season last night. Or, like me, maybe you have been counting down to Girls day for a while.
Either way, welcome to Girls: Season Three. It starts with maximum drama, with Adam’s ex-flame/Hannah rebound, Natalia, berating him in Grumpy’s coffee shop over the age-old dude-tells-woman-he-loves-her-then-just-never-calls-her-again scenario. It all happens right in front of Hannah and a chuckling Ray—and although it’s about as comfortable as watching your parents argue, somehow it feels like home again. Immediately, I’ve got questions: Does Hannah love Adam more or less for his dumping of this new love interest for her? Or is she stressed about how he just up and left her without saying anything? Does Natalia really think that Hannah, who’s got a long history with Adam, doesn’t know what weird bedroom shit he’s into? It’ll all (kind of) come out in the episodes to come, but before we launch into new Girls (not to be confused with New Girl), let’s look back on last season’s up-in-the-air finale.
We were following a late-blooming (read: sexually liberated) Shoshanna, who was eager to explore relationships outside of Ray, whose own ambition was defined by the expectations Shosh put on him. Jessa’s slowly unearthed family life shined at least a little light on her carefree, globetrotting ways—but that’s before she dropped off the face of the earth, resulting in a profanity-laden voicemail left by Hannah at the peak of her breakdown. Marnie and Charlie appeared to finally put an end to their on-again-off-again relationship after Charlie hit it big with an app company. It was an uncomfortable ending with them, especially when she uttered something along the lines of “I don’t care about money—I don’t even know how much you have” (pause for that weird “you have money, right?”), and Charlie confirms that, yes, he’s got plenty. So the two stare lovingly and smile into each others’ eyes, probably thinking of the private school they’ll send their Ugg-wearing kids to, or how awesome Charlie would look in a Porsche. (That’s what young people with money dream about, right?) But the character left with the most room for redemption (and one with the most hope) is Lena Dunham’s Hannah, who we last saw being scooped up by the walking, hairless torso that is Adam, right after Hannah nearly broke down from her struggles with OCD.
And immediately we’re given at least a little insight as to how it all worked out. Hannah and Adam are as happy as they could be after shacking up—and that’s not something I saw coming after the years of seeing Adam brooding between the stacks of wood and books that made up his apartment. But the arrangement seems to have worked out nicely for them—Adam even gives her pills in the morning and “makes sure she eats enough protein,” Hannah tells her therapist, later admitting in that Horvathian half-question/half-statement squeak: “I hold the keys to the prison that is my mind.” So without a doubt, our goateed, ever-shirtless male lead has turned a corner—now he’s leaning more on his understanding, sweet side than the antisocial, sadistic guy who once told the very woman he’s caring for that he would send her home to her parents covered in—well, not rose petals. The only exception here being his near-child pout when he doesn’t get his way about Marnie and Shoshanna coming over for dinner. Shoshanna’s the next best off here—we see very little of her in the opener, but she’s waking up with random dudes and still making some time to study—so you keep doing you, Shoshanna. YOLO, etc.
Here’s where our ladies get a little rough around the edges: Marnie’s a mess (like, more than usual) after a sudden breakup with Charlie. The writers kind of had their hands tied here—actor Christopher Abbott made an abrupt exit last year, the reported reasons ranged from an interest in other pursuits to butting heads with Dunham—but I think it still made for a convincing and logical event within Marnie and Charlie’s relationship. And so now, Marnie is doing the living-at-home thing, running her mouth off to friends and family about the “C” word that’s swallowing her conversations and relationships whole. Mom’s worried, and her friends are kinda over it after she spends a dinner at Hannah’s lamenting her relationship (all while Hannah tries to turn the subject back to her own ebook), and it’s up to Adam to show some empathy and give a pep-talk.
Oh, and Jessa’s in rehab.
Although she’s the loudest, most self-assured woman in the Girls pack, you’ve got to wonder how that’ll turn out in a roundtable of people just as vibrant as her. But if you’ve learned anything about Jessa in the last two seasons, she’s not one to be outdone, speaks the loudest, enrages plenty of patients and ends up getting herself kicked out of rehab (yeah—you can get kicked out of rehab) after going down on a fellow patient right after Jessa outs her for being gay. Jessa’s rehab stint is entertaining—one part Girls, another One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon making an appearance here—but that still leaves room to be concerned for this character, whose new tattoos, place in rehab and self-destructive behavior in the last few seasons just seem to accelerate with intervention. Her late-episode call to Hannah to get her the hell out shows that the gang will be reunited shortly, even if they’re all a little worse for the wear. The way Jessa frames it, she’s got to have someone—anyone, really—pick her up, so a roadtrip leads Shoshanna, Hannah and a begrudging Adam out to the facility. The ride up is unpredictably boring for Hannah, who expects the trip to take on some monumental, overarching theme. Instead, she gets boring walks in the woods with her beau, and Adam’s treated to his first, short-lived game of “Truth or Dare.” The three finally make it to the facility, and it’d be almost a nice encounter, that is, if Hannah didn’t learn that the day-long drive wasn’t necessary. Jessa—the bold, self-sufficient world traveler—could have signed herself out and simply left. And although Hannah is predictably furious, Jessa’s need for a friend is apparent enough to let it go, at least for now.
Episode one’s a bold leap into what appears to be the roughest territory so far for the set of women. And although their moves might be forehead-slapping (like how no one could stand to listen to each other at the dinner table, focusing only on their own problems, or Jessa throwing down legitimate help), that gritty take on friendship in the Internet age has been the heart of Girls since its inception. And even though they’ve battled HPV, tumultuous relationships, abortion, family health problems and OCD, this looks an awful lot like a set up to test the limits of every character on the show. It’ll be a learning experience, at least, and it’s come with an entertaining setup.