The return of Lena Dunham’s Girls is like catching up with a group of old friends. But while it may feel familiar, it’s just as sharp and shocking as ever.
Rejoining our favourite dysfunctional twenty-somethings, we found Hannah living with Elijah – her gay ex-boyfriend – while more recent ex Adam (can anyone else remember the moment he went from creepy to adorable?) was laid up with his leg in a cast feeling like he’d been hit by a truck because “I have been hit by a truck.” Unbeknown to him, between changing bedpans, Hannah was off embarking on yet another strange sexual relationship: snogging a new man in a bookshop and imposing rules like “don’t say the word love around me.”
Marnie’s perfect facade has begun to crumble, her role as the successful and sorted member of the group slipping away from her at supersonic speed. Having broken up with her long-term boyfriend Charlie and moved out of Hannah’s flat in series one, Marnie was made redundant and called a prude by her mother (played brilliantly by Rita Wilson) within the opening minutes of series two. And to top it all, she ended up having inadvisable, awful sex with Hannah’s gay (or maybe bisexual) ex and new roommate Elijah on her best friend’s sofa…
Meanwhile, charmingly naive Shoshanna was in the midst of an identity crisis after being “deflowered” by Ray – “It’s not that I miss it, it just feels like something’s missing…” Newlywed Jessa was nowhere to be seen, only reappearing from her honeymoon with Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd sporting the tiniest of shorts) at the very end of the episode.
Life in Girls is messy, grim and confusing, peppered with awkward sexual encounters and flawed relationships. These girls aren’t “strong”, smart or sexually assured. They make bad decisions, fail to learn from their mistakes, and play at being grown up while barely holding down poorly paid hipster jobs or, even worse, slogging away at unpaid internships.
Although Girls may owe a lot to the US sitcoms that came before, notably Friends and Sex and the City, it continues to distinguish itself by refusing to be glossy. (As a penny-pinching journalist, would Carrie Bradshaw’s feet really have been shod in never-ending pairs of Manolo Blahniks? Wannabe writer Hannah’s peculiar and often poorly fitting wardrobe is surely more realistic.) And after causing something of a sensation with her penchant for uncomfortable sex scenes and revealing her wobbly bits, creator and star Lena Dunham still seems intent showing it like it is: pointedly and unashamedly stripping down to a greying thong as the episode came to a close.
Although the characters and their situations are now familiar, season two of Girls feels as clever as ever – and only gets better from this series opener. Dunham’s Girls continues to be a showcase for refreshingly offbeat comedy, sharp writing and witty women who courageously veer away from what is expected of them.
Girls continues on Mondays at 10:00pm on Sky Atlantic