“Why get mad at fun?”
Despite its critical acclaim, Girls has been a polarising comedy series from day one. Some claim that it isn’t a comedy at all, but a half-hour drama masquerading as one. The lack of racial diversity, the principal characters’ perpetual egotism and Lena Dunham’s own brand of controversy has always divided audiences. What Girls has always so expertly nailed is its depiction of millennials and the many, many missteps people make along the way to becoming a fully-fledged adult – whatever the hell that means.
For five years Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshana (Zosia Mamet) have waded through their own warped versions of adulthood. For Hannah, last season ended on an upswing, finally returning to her writing and drawing upon her feelings about Jessa and Adam’s (Adam Driver) relationship to fuel her creativity. The opening moments of the season six premiere capitalises on Hannah’s triumph in the finale, using only sprinklings of dialogue and tight close-ups as all the significant people in Hannah’s life read and digest her piece in the New York Times, “Losing My Best Friend to My Ex-Boyfriend”. Every reaction is pitch perfect for each character; Ray starts making corrections to the piece, Adam reads anxiously as Jessa watches, refusing to read for herself, Marnie cheers, “Hannah’s in print” – a small but beautiful reminder of their friendship, despite its renowned turbulence.
This sincerity is naturally undercut by Hannah’s self-proclaimed narcissism as she describes how “perfect she is for the aesthetic” of a magazine to her new editor, played by talented comedienne Chelsea Peretti with just the right amount apathy and brutal honesty. Hannah also verbalises the crux of what makes her so polarizing to viewers; “I give zero fucks about anything, yet I have strong opinions on everything. Even topics I am not informed on.” Slag Mag then sends Hannah on an excursion to a female surf camp in the Hamptons, a new trend that wealthy white women and yoga aficionados have monopolised, effectively removing Hannah from New York for the bulk of the episode.
We’ve seen several episodes where Hannah has been pulled away from the main cast, most recently last season when she joined Lorraine on a women’s retreat. Her foray into surf culture begins in a similar manner, with Hannah resisting anything outside of her comfort zone and mocking it mercilessly from the sidelines, even dramatizing a fall on the sand to get out of a surf lesson. Even throughout Hannah’s indifference, episode writers Dunham and Jenni Konner still disperse these moments with classic, hilarious, typical “Hannah” behaviour like going commando in a wet suit and exposing her vagina to the sun to get that unique “Shailene Woodley at an Insurgent premiere” glow. Once again, hats off to Girls for continuing to show real bodies and real vaginas on television.
Season 6’s first episode, titled ‘All I Ever Wanted,’ focuses primarily on Hannah, however, we briefly touch base with the other three girls. Marnie and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) are still together, both with wildly different interpretations of couple domesticity. While Ray ostensibly sleeps at Marnie’s apartment every night, Marnie refuses to allow him to completely move in because her online therapist has grave concerns in the matter and she is still in the midst of a divorce from Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Ray is reluctant to move back into Adam’s crack den of an apartment, particularly when Jessa and Adam lie around naked all day eating yoghurt. Ray follows through on his first suggestion that he live with Shoshanna, sparking Marnie’s jealousy when she is confronted with Ray and Shosh’s natural compatibility and shorthand with one another.
Stretching to forty minutes long, the episode does lag in places, but it is elevated when Hannah starts to finally embrace being away from New York, a change in attitude that is instigated by her surf instructor turned lover, Paul Louie (Riz Ahmed). Their interactions are superficial at first and Louie’s relaxed nature and easy optimism is so at odds with Hannah’s eternal pessimism and general disdain for activities outside of her wheelhouse. But it’s these differences that eventually bring out a side of Hannah that is so rarely seen, as she often seems to revel in her own misery, writing it off as witticism or suffering for her art. This triggers a real lightbulb moment for Hannah:
“All my friends in New York are defined by what they hate. I don’t even know what they like, I only know what they don’t like. God that’s crazy.”
The trip to the Hamptons is by no means a cure for Hannah’s negativity or toxic relationships, but it might be another step along the way to her discovering that it’s okay to enjoy something, simply because it makes you happy. Although the premiere appears to stall Girls until the real action of the final season starts, it does adequately set-up Hannah’s direction as she continues to figure it all out.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10