Girls: Season Four

| February 16, 2016

HBO’s Girls is one of those shows (and it’s probably the MOST one of those shows) that divides people, which means ALL of those people are watching it and talking about it. Minor controversy has arisen over its seasons about everything from its racially in-diverse cast to its zeitgeist ponderousness, to straight up accusations of narcissism and shallowness. For anyone living a life remotely resembling that of these post-college/thrown to the wolves of the ‘real world’ characters, however, the show’s arc is proving something of a ‘don’t worry, we’re gonna get through this together’ how-to TV bible.

Season four finds us in the veritable ruins of a cross selection first attempts at post-grad identities, careers, and romantic relationships with everything from late graduation and the perils of job hunting to drug recovery, borderline sinister amorous strategizing, and frivolous and destructive purpose seeking, these searching souls lay out a tangled web of devastating and genuinely emotional interlocking stories. The show’s comedy never lets up but it’s earnestness is the real hook. These character’s feelings are believable to such a degree because for those who relate, they are ENDLESSLY relatable.

Of the six Prominent characters the show has really zeroed in on, the most compelling is still that of triple threat writer/director(often)/star(always) Lena Dunham’s character Hannah Hoorvath. We left her in season three deciding to more or less drop her life in New York City with her aspiring actor boyfriend (Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Adam Driver) for the quaint setting of graduate school in Iowa. When she inevitably finds herself returning to her familiar city life, things have changed and in a big way. Without revealing too much, I’ll state simply that relationships evolved in her absence. Loyalties shifted when Hannah chose to leave her friends to their collective fates. And in a very literal way, Hannah cannot go home again. Instead, we find her and each of the other five leads following paths of reinvention. Hannah drops her lofty dreams of becoming a famous autobiographical essayist and becomes a teacher, revealing a hidden empathy in the character that’s a real reward for any viewer who felt the self-absorbed millennial theme was wearing a bit thin in season three. Hannah’s friends each find themselves taking steps forward. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) decides between a career and a boy. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is forced to clean up her act and finds herself compelled to help others do the same. Ray (Alex Karpovsky), with encouragement from Shoshanna, finds the confidence to channel his otherwise impotent anger into local politics. Adam and Marnie (Allison Williams) get a lesson in priorities and faithfulness. By all these standards, Girls seems to be growing up.

Season four is littered with excellent performances by a swath of uber-charming guest stars including the returning Conin Quinn and Louise Lasser, and bringing on superb performances from the likes of Marc Maron and Spike Jonze, to name just a few. Old favorites like Elijah (Andrew Rannells) and Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) are back in what amount to very well plotted supporting roles with smartly developed, if necessarily glib, battles of their own. For a show who’s critic’s main complaint seems to be a lack of worldview, Girls season four sure manages to cover a hell of a lot of ground.

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