Girls has returned with a third season of misadventures from our favorite aspiring memoirist and her compatriots as they slouch reluctantly towards adulthood in the post-collegiate kindergarten of Brooklyn. Where we last left off, Hannah was valiantly rescued from mental illness by her brooding, perpetually shirtless inamorato, Adam. Marnie and her on-gain off-again smartphone app gazillionaire boyfriend Charlie had rekindled their boring relationship over artisanal Bushwick pizzas. Shoshanna had dumped sad-sack thirty-something Latin scholar-cum-coffee shop manager Ray and was last seen sucking face with “adult blonde male.” Jessa went AWOL after a whippets-fueled joyride at her father’s house in upstate New York.
If the season’s opening tableau is any indication, all is well in the house of Hannah and Adam. The camera tenderly pans over their intertwined sleeping bodies. Soft, folksy guitar music plays in the background. He wakes up and hand-feeds Hannah her meds with a glass of OJ. The pair are a picture of mental heath and domestic bliss. The rom-com heroics of season two’s finale redeemed Adam overnight from a sadistic troglodyte sexaholic into the World’s Most Perfect Boyfriend. Hannah seems to have fully recovered from her downward, Howard Hughesey spiral of ruptured eardrums, experimental Carrie Mulligan-inspired haircuts, sex with Laird, and broken e-book deadlines.
It turns out Hannah and Adam aren’t the only ones dancing the horizontal mambo these days. Shoshanna awakes in the brawny arms of an anonymous dude on the top bunk in her NYU dorm. While Sosh is enjoying her newfound period of sexual adventurousness and self-realization, juggling nights of casual sex with academic focus, Ray seems to have fallen from charming slacker to walking Zoloft commercial. He declines Hannah’s invitation to yet another one of her godforsaken dinner parties, telling her that he has no intention of seeing Shoshanna ever again: “We live in a huge sprawling metropolis where it’s very easy to avoid the person you don’t want to see, forever.”
Seconds later, however, Ray’s hypothesis is shattered. Adam and Hannah run into beautiful, jilted Natalia and her confrontational, grudge-harboring brunch companion, who just-so-happen to be dining at the café where Ray and Hannah work and where Adam is hanging out because he dropped his house keys down a subway grate and doesn’t have a job. The token angry friend calls Adam a donkey and tells him that Natalia is pregnant with his baby. For a brief, horrifying moment, we are left to contemplate some Dickensian spin-off series where baby daddy Adam struggles to buy diapers on Hannah’s barista salary. Thankfully, she isn’t really pregnant. Token friend is just fucking with Adam. Shit really hits the fan when Natalia realizes that Hannah and Adam are back together: “You know what you have on your hands here, right? You know you have an off-the-wagon Neanderthal sex addict sociopath who is going to fuck you like he’s never met you and he doesn’t love his own mother.” Natalia twists the knife by calling Adam an untidy ejaculator, questioning the lactational capability of Hannah’s breasts, and telling the happy couple that they would negligently murder their hypothetical child by feeding it spoiled baby formula. Angry friend nods like a dashboard bauble-head and repeats Natalia’s every other word. They skip out on the check. “It’s on the house,” says Ray. He likes Natalia’s friend because she’s a “feisty shiksa.”
Cut to Marnie, who, like Ray, has taken up permanent residence at the heartbreak hotel — that is, the West Elm couch in her mother’s beachside condo. Charlie has dumped her and she has fallen into a depressive tailspin. Rita Wilson as Marnie’s milfed-out, skinny jeans-clad mother tries dispensing a bit of needed tough-love: “He is just the first of twenty guys who is going to fuck you over. That’s what guys do! Why focus on this one? It’s not like he was Liam Hemsworth, or Ryan Gosling, or Channing Tatum or Jan Michael Vincent!” Despite the encyclopedic knowledge of teen dreamboats past and present, her mother’s sage advice doesn’t sink in: next time we see Marnie, she’s sobbing and spitting up taco detritus at Hannah’s inevitable dinner party.
Hannah may still be hawking fair trade half-cafs, but her literary aspirations are looking more and more real. Her sassy e-book editor, David Pressler-Goings, takes her to a nauseatingly twee patisserie with edible coffee cups to fawn over the first chapter of her memoir, which apparently features a passage wherein Hannah jerks “a kidney-stone out of a Puerto Rican Jew’s dick.” Hannah is relieved to find out that David no longer wants to sue her for the advance she accidentally embezzled last season. She assures David that she has fully recovered from her psychotic break and is “totally ready” to get cracking on her book: “This isn’t the manic thing I say before I chop my ear off and send it to you in the mail.” Dramatic irony? I hope not.
Hannah triumphantly tells her therapist that she holds the keys to the prison that is her mind. In fact, her only problem these days is money. The rent is too damn high for her to cover alone, and Adam can only contribute a small amount with the monthly checks from his grandmother and the money he makes selling paper mache object. (Yep. Adam makes stuff out of paper mache, but Hannah refuses to go into specifics). While Adam might not bring home the proverbial bacon, Hannah assures her therapist that Adam takes care of her in other ways: for instance, making sure she eats enough protein, and doing a “very calming chant.”
Speaking of self-help, Jessa is alive and in rehab, where her main activities include not taking heroin and making people cry. She’s in a group therapy with a lighter-fluid huffing, closeted lesbian named Laura, a meth-addict named Mindy (played by the sublime Kim Gordon), and a sad dude named Kelvin (that’s “Kelvin,” like the temperature scale), who is bummed out because his New York has become gentrified and is no longer the carnival of bohemian misfits it once was. Jessa tells him to stop bitching because a fro-yo place opened up on his block. In a really mystifying piece of dialogue, she calls Kelvin a “dark horse” and accuses Mindy of secretly liking scrunchies.
Jessa is called into the rehab equivalent of the principle’s office. A middle-aged authority figure lady with newscaster hair tells her off for being rude, entitled, and unconcerned with her recovery. Jessa explains that she only agreed to do 60 days in rehab so that her grandmother would to buy her a plane ticket and a pair of Ugg boots (“They’re from Australia,” she explains). Let the viewers decide what’s a worse sartorial offense: Jessa in Uggs or Kim Gordon in a scrunchie.
Undeterred by her recent bureaucratic slap on the wrist, Jessa lashes out at Laura, who has just revealed that she is a victim of incest. “I’m really sorry that you’re uncle fucked you, but we’ve all been through a lot,” she says. Surprise, Jessa’s brutal honestly has metastasized into gratuitous cruelty. She then proceeds to out Laura in front of the entire group, citing the fact that she hated having sex with her boyfriend (“even though he played hockey”) and her puffy vest as evidence. Laura retaliates by throwing coffee on Jessa’s lap and inexplicably shouting, “Fuck you, hairstyle!”
After being doused in hot liquids and non sequiturs, Jessa temporarily disembarks from her broomstick to chain smoke and play Chinese checkers with an unnamed aging British hipster, played by Richard Grant, who conveniently doubles as the human manifestation of Jessa’s Oedipal desires and her only friend in rehab. They gesticulate fabulously with their cigarettes and say cool, worldly things in matching patrician accents. Dancing on a tightrope between flirting and dispensing fatherly advice, he tells her he has a twenty-something daughter, who, like Jessa, has “the accent of someone who grew up somewhere between Heathrow and JFK.” Despite present company, Jessa denies having “daddy issues.” Of course you don’t, honey.
On the heels of her introspective powwow with ersatz Keith Richards, she decides to make amends with Laura. “I’m sorry for your uncle fucking you,” she says. Not the most gracious apology, but we’ll take what we can get. Jessa explains that she, too, had a weird uncle. Only he didn’t molest her. He just “said a lot of awful things” to her. For example, he told her he had AIDS when she was five. Apparently moved by Jessa’s sad-yet-entirely unrelated uncle story, Laura admits that she is a lesbian. She is afraid to come out because she’s worried that if she tells anybody they’re going to ask her to play sports. Jessa predicts that once Laura accepts her identity she won’t ever want to do drugs again: “They were a place-holder for pussy,” she postulates. “Have you ever kissed a girl?” she asks with a mischievous glint in her eye. Cut to Jessa going down on Laura. Ironically, this act of neighborly cunnilingus turns out to be Jessa’s trump card. It succeeds in getting her kicked out of rehab.
Meanwhile, Hannah is contemplating the taco-to-ice cream ratio for the aforementioned dinner party she’s planning. Adam doesn’t want to go and indicates his reluctance with a primordial grunt. Hannah asks him why he hates her friends. “I don’t hate your friends,” he replies, “I’m just not interested in anything they have to say.” Clearly, Adam does not understand the byzantine dynamics of female friendships. “I’m not interested in anything they have to say,” Hannah retorts, “That’s not the point of friendship.”
Adam loses the battle and is damned to spend an evening with Hannah, Shosh, and Marnie. His soulful lion eyes glaze over as Hannah tactlessly gloats about her “incredibly exciting professional endeavors” and Shoshanna chirps away incessantly about double-fisting homework and casual sex. Marnie begins to sob uncontrollably when it’s accidentally reveals that Charlie is not ailing from a personality-altering brain tumor as she had hoped, but was recently spotted strolling down Bedford Avenue like any self-respecting twenty-something yuppie with hipster pretenses and a disposable income.
“We bought the ingredients to make grilled pizzas,” she laments, “and we were going to make grilled pizzas and the day we were supposed to do that, he left me. On what planet does that make any sense?”
If you thought warm flatbread was a sacred vow of love and commitment, think again, ladies. Adam, of all people, gets through to Marnie by telling her about the time he had his heart broken by the beautiful distant relative of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “She was an intellectual and I was a thug,” he reminisces, “And I just stared at the ceiling all day remembering the first time we fucked on my couch in Sunnyside after a rainstorm on a Thursday.” He explains to Marnie that that infatuation isn’t the same as real love: “Just because I tasted her cum or spit or knew a record she liked that doesn’t mean anything. Really knowing someone is a completely different thing and when it happens you won’t be able to miss it. You will be aware. And you won’t hurt or be afraid.” Shoshanna and Marnie are shocked and impressed with Adam’s sensitivity and emotional candor. In bed that night, after a pithy requisite sex scene, Adam tells Hannah he doesn’t want to see her friends for at least three months. Hannah then gets a call from an unknown number. Of course it’s Jessa. Of course she needs Hannah to pick her up from rehab.
Season two flirted with darkness, giving us a nervous breakdown and borderline date rape, and then dubiously wrapped things up in a Disney ending for Hannah and Adam. Here, Girls returns to lighter, more comedic footing. Marnie’s tears over Charlie are more funny than sad, especially when accessorized with bits of masticated Mexican food. Weirdly, Adam seems to be the only character on the show with a deep emotional life. Even the heaviest subject matter — Jessa’s rehab stint — seemed couched in irreverent quotation marks. As the saying goes, first as tragedy, then as farce.
Image via: HBO/Mark Schaffer.