‘Girls’ Review: “Females Only; Truth or Dare”
‘Girls‘ returns to HBO tonight with not one, but two all-new episodes. Season 3 kicks off with “Females Only,” in which we finally learn where Jessa wound up after she disappeared at the end of season 2, while Adam runs into an old, resentful flame and Hannah hosts a dinner party with her friends. And in “Truth or Dare,” .
The opening scene of “Females Only” calls back to the opening of the very first episode, with Adam replacing Marnie in bed with Hannah, and while everything seems to be going well for Hannah in this episode, this scene is key, I think, to understanding that her problems still very much do exist. ‘Girls’ has always been a show that likes to highlight the ways in which flaws and behaviors are cyclical and and hard to break, and that young women like Hannah and her friends (but apparently not Shoshanna — not yet) often repeat the same mistakes to their own detriment, willfully refusing to learn a lesson, as if they can somehow shape the world to their wants and hopes and desires. If they just want something badly and stomp their feet enough and refuse to accept the world as it is, so full of resistance and complication and flaw, somehow they’ll get their way. But that’s the thing: they were raised with basic privilege that has allowed them to mistake opportunity for entitlement. And that’s ‘Girls.’
So here we are in season 3, and things have changed, a little. Marnie is living on her mother’s couch (guest star Rita Wilson) and sleeping in her childhood sheets, and while she’s definitely putting her life back together after Charlie abruptly ditched her (job, new apartment, etc.), none of that matters to her mother because Marnie’s spent too much time fussing over a boy who’s not even as hot as Ryan Gosling or Jan Michael Vincent (side note: I love that Marnie’s mom thinks Jan Michael Vincent is on Ryan Gosling’s level) instead of working hard to sustain a viable life for herself. But this is good: mopey, wounded (and evolving!) Marnie is better than stuck-up, stiff Marnie, and I also enjoy watching her shove food in her face.
Hannah’s living with Adam, and there’s this great and horrifying run-in with Natalia (Shiri Appleby), his ex from last season, who shouts at both of them about how pathetic and disgusting they are, tapping into their insecurities with this mean girl, superficial self-defense mechanism. It’s both hilarious and terrible: Natalia sees Adam the way he was trying to make her see him, the way he feared she would see him, as this monster human being who doesn’t deserve love. But I also love how much Ray is amused by the whole confrontation in the background, and I honestly hope Amy Schumer’s character returns so they can hook up.
Hannah and Adam’s relationship dynamic is still really fascinating, with the way his quirks and eccentricities clash with her own. But I love how they continue to gently push each other around in this little box of a relationship, awkwardly rearranging the pieces and making new ways for things to fit together. It’s easy to say Adam’s a jerk for not wanting to see her friends or assuming he could agree to something and then not have to actually deal with it, but knowing Hannah (and her friends) as we do, we can see his side of it.
Speaking of perspectives, I love Jessa in rehab, and the scripting of her whole experience there is absolutely wonderful. We’re meant to be just as put off by the patients as she is, while at the same time able to still disapprove of her behavior. We can both empathize with her and want her to change, and it’s very, very cleverly done. I especially like the surrogate father she bonds with in guest star Richard E. Grant, and the unfortunate turn that takes in the second episode when he turns out to be yet another in a long line of disappointing men. And although I support Jessa helping a lesbian come to terms with her sexuality by actually hooking up with the girl, Jessa has a lot of problems she needs to deal with on her own: she’s not an authority on anyone, least of all herself, and she’s certainly not above the “whiny” problems of the other patients. Riding the high horse is merely another defense mechanism, and I think she sees more of herself in these people than she’d like to admit.
And given that Jessa was absent so much last season, these first two episodes definitely give her a ton of story and open her character up even more, which was something I was looking forward to after meeting her father last season. Turns out, she’s just as entitled and spoiled as her friends, and not nearly as wise as all of her posturing might have others believe. We saw some of that last season, but we’re definitely seeing that exterior crack just a little more now. What I wouldn’t give to see Jessa break like Marnie.
Shoshanna has probably changed the least out of everyone, but that’s hardly surprising. She’s dividing her time equally between school and boys, and envies Jessa’s amazing celebrity rehab lifestyle because of course she does. Also, what is up with her sunglasses? Is she preparing to be a senator’s mistress?