Girls Season Two: all about the boys

The craziest parties all involved varying degrees of karaoke, the craziest costume came from the unlikeliest source (Marnie in that see-through plastic concoction, although Shoshanna’s croissant-shaped handbag came a noteworthy second), and they were all just that little bit less high on life. While the second season of Girls may be criticised for being slower and admittedly less exciting than its first, was it actually ‘worse’?

As a writer, Lena Dunham was indulgent in true HBO style this season, exploring the depth of her characters. Which is, giving four and then-some voices of a generation, the show’s true achievement. A greater focus on Hannah was perhaps Dunham’s greatest liberty, but it was used wisely; Dunham the writer knows precisely how to write for Dunham the actress. Like Tina Fey writing brilliantly for her own relatively  limited range in 30 Rock, so Dunham also comes out on top. Case in point, episode nine’s haunting Q-Tip scene.

This exploration, however, often sacrificed the possibility for sustained plot arcs. Deftly showing how each quarter might deal with a particular situation or react to a newfound facet of ‘adult’ life has meant that show often squeezes a miniaturised plotline within an episode – which, more importantly, is also a by-product of the Girls no longer being packaged as a group.

The key difference, and criticism, that can be made between the two seasons is that Hannah and Marnie are estranged, Jessa could care less about her own cousin, and so the group has somewhat fallen apart, with hardly any scenes where more than two of them interact. While this drifting apart might not be unusual for a ‘real life’ posse, it poses a problem for the show: the Girls are a useless support system for one another.

Shoshanna has been effectively sidelined from her otherwise tentative position in the group (talks of Zosia Mamet being cut from the cast are grim – while caricatured, Shoshanna is by far the most blank canvas). Dunham’s reliance on Jessa somewhat failed in terms of Jessa’s own unreliability as she simply disappeared before the season’s end, and Marnie’s priorities are arguably as skewed as Hermione Granger’s.

The answer to this problem is boys. Avoiding the cliche of having the four discover themselves as part of something just shy of a coven (a true counter to every infuriating Sex And The City comparison), Dunham enabled the ironic rarity of self-discovery as individuals. So far, so good. They can’t be truly alone, though. As they are of course ‘independent’ women who shun their families save in desperation, the next best thing are their love interests. Whether these boys end up being less than ideal options (Jessa, Shoshanna), they are there and apparently willing to be used and re-used (Adam, Charlie).

More credit is due to the Girls’ male counterparts (this season also to Donald Glover, Patrick Wilson and Andrew Rannells, but with exception to Charlie, whose blandness is jarring); they are secondary characters, but integral to the show’s future. For the three visible Girls, the finale was governed by their relationship status while all else falls apart. Dunham often comments on how indebted she is to Adam Driver on a personal level, such as at the Golden Globes and indeed so is the show. Girls and the girls are indebted to their boys: for giving the show body and stability (or so they think) to the ever-selfish ladies.

The next season may well either cement Girls forevermore into televisual greatness, or lose its viewership to a lack of original insightfulness about ‘that’ generation. The quartet need to have successes of some kind – which doesn’t have to mean, and knowing Dunham is unlikely to, idealisation – and they need to be re-formed in some way as the eponymous unit, if only for the sake of, well, unity. And who knows, perhaps the boys are the perfect facilitators for exactly that.