HBO was kind enough to send me a copy of Girls Season 2 this week on blu-ray, which is the only excuse I needed to run out and pick up season 1. I’d been intrigued by the idea of the show since a number of guests mentioned it during our interviews, so I was quite eager to sit down this weekend and take it.
I mainlined this thing, and I have to say I love it.
Lena Dunham not only created the show, writes it, directs a huge portion of the episodes while always serving as its producer alongside Judd Apatow, she also plays the series lead, Hannah Horvath, a twenty-something writer living in New York, surrounded by 3 friends who are alternately the best and the worst that life can give you.
Now while to the uninitiated this reads as a Sex & The City knock off, the comparison can end there. These girls, the almost neurotic and self-destructive Hannah, the beautiful but insecure Marnie (Allison Williams), the least virginy virgin ever (her words) Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and the Mother Earth, zen, hippie goddess Jessa (Jemima Kirke) are real, and their perceived or actual flaws are there for all the world to see. They aren’t model thing, they aren’t worrying over shoes or meeting for drinks, they worry about rent, jobs, and the very realistic interactions they have with one another and their boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, and anyone else who comes into their lives.
That’s not to say the show isn’t funny, it’s hilarious, or more than a few occasions I burst aloud laughing, but then it can turn around and break your heart. It was pretty amazing how quickly the show can take you in and wrap you up in its world.
Dunham says it best in one of the extras, with which both sets are packed, that she couldn’t make the character of Hannah the likable TV neurotic type character, she has some real problems, and as we learn towards the end of season 2, some real mental health issues which just figuratively kicked me in the balls when they are revealed.
Dunham has created a show that feel real, that these women are fully formed as are the characters and the world they interact with. She has a unique vision that hasn’t been seen before in television, and it’s a welcome relief.
I don’t wish to spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it yet, so I will keep my discussion of the seasons to a bare minimum, which is how I went into it, and consequently enjoyed it all, because I never knew where things were going, but loved the journey I was on with these characters.
The first season sets up the world, and introduces us to the characters, including the men in their lives, Hannah is seeing Adam (Adam Driver), who is a little dark, treats Hannah like crap, and yet there is still some undeniable connection between the two of them, under all the filth and abuse, there’s a real core of something true there. Marnie is feeling trapped by the too nice, and bit of a pushover Charlie (Christopher Abbott), he’s an honest, down-to-earth nice guy, but it’s almost too much for her. Shoshanna is just struggling to find someone she connects with, and can finally lose her virginity, while Jessa doesn’t confine herself to any specific guy, and is undeniably a free spirit.
There is humor, and a lot of adult (in the sense of being grown-up not nudity, though the show does have a fair share of that as well) themes, but again I don’t want to give anything away plot-wise, but some of it made me bust a gut, others had my empathy, and some I could relate to personally, a lot of which were drawn from or inspired by incidents in Dunham or her friends’ lives.
The first series sees the characters growing and developing in a real way, you never feel as if things aren’t happening organically, it feels incredibly natural, which to me is the sign of a great writer.
Season 2 picks up shortly after the stunning ending of Season 1, and if the first season was about introducing us to these characters, the second season is not only about stripping each of them down to their core, but shaking up the world they live in, as well as the way they relate to it and each other.
We see relationships developing and the introduction of Ray (Alex Karpovsky) as a bit of a curmudgeon in season 1 pays off in season 2, as well as changes in relationships as lives change and perspectives, wants and desires change. Hannah is at the center of it, and if there’s a choice to be made, there is never any doubt that she’s going to make the wrong one, but it’s never because of shoddy or poor writing, it’s a natural progression for the character. It’s like watching a dear friend make mistakes constantly, and even as you try to help them, you know in your heart that all you can do is stand beside them, help them when they ask, and give them your love and support. Hannah is the queen of those mistakes, but her support group is almost non-existent, especially in season 2, as all of the girls deal with issues and problems.
The dialogue is sharp, funny, and as revealed in the plentiful extras that fill these blu-rays, there is a lot of improv on the set to get the best out of the characters and the lines the speak.
If the end of season one was shocking for a number of reasons, the ending of season two was heartbreakingly painful (in that good way, cause that’s a thing) and romantic., and now it seems like a long wait for Season 3.
The blu-ray sets, in what seems to be the way HBO is packaging their television sets now comes with the entire season on blu, as well as DVD and digital copy.
In 1080p the show looks beautiful, the backdrop of New York looks amazing, the picture is sharp, clear and full of detail, and the cast looks that more amazing for all their reality, as most of them have to strip down and bare themselves emotionally and physically throughout both seasons.
In terms of extras both seasons are packed, with the highly enjoyable gag reels, docs about the making of the season, discussions with Dunham and Apatow, a sit down with the Guys of Girls, music performances, an inside look at each episode, and fun, informative commentaries, which I always enjoy.
This is smart, fun television that couldn’t have been made even 10 years ago. It’s intelligently crafted, perfectly cast, and filled with real conversations, humorous, honest, and occasionally painful.
HBO has a very strong history of making brilliant and intelligent television, and I’m glad to see that they let Dunham and her cast and crew join them.
Both season 1 and 2 of Girls are now available from HBO.
Have you seen it? Addicting right!?!