'Girls' returned to our screens last night, for the beginning of its penultimate series.
The girls are definitely growing up in their own unique way - which means, for the second time, attending the wedding of one of their own - in this case Marnie's to Desi, a bad idea, whichever way you look at it.
However, in the four complete seasons so far, the show has proved to be so much more. At the helm is writer, director and star Lena Dunham as protagonist Hannah Horvath, articulating so cleverly, funnily but painfully, exactly what it's like to be all grown up (sort of) and everywhere to go, left to navigate her twenties "one mistake at a time". She is ably abetted by her cronies in crime, Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), as well as the unwitting gentlemen in their fold.
Jemima Kirke, Allison Williams, Lena Dunham and Zosia Mamet have altered the cultural landscape for young women
It's been undoubtedly hilarious and clever, with Emmys, Golden Globes and even Directors Guild Awards for prodigious Lena. But between all the jokes and the tears, what have we learned along the way?
- It is possible to be attractive, smart, witty, incredibly self-aware and still have absolutely NO idea what you are doing with your life in your early twenties (for that, insert any age). From the outset we see Hannah's determination to be a writer, and yet creative block stymies her as soon as she gets a real gig. Does she REALLY want this? Equally Shoshanna's study habits, Marnie's art gallery aspirations and Jessa's… thing all appear to be fill-ins before they find their real calling. In this post-Stepford age with all the freedoms women have on offer, this lot are almost atrophied by choice. If these girls are the fantastical prequel to the ladies we met in 'Sex and the City', it's going to take more than a wing, a prayer and a fantastic pair of high heels before any of these four turn into any of that awesome, self-sustaining quartet.
- Girls can be effortlessly, casually, jaw-droopingly horrible to each other, and still be best friends in the final reel. Matt Le Blanc and co showed us how friendship is the new family, now these girls take it to a whole other level, saying things to each other that only a generation ago would have caused a semi-permanent family rift, and still be propping each other up the morning after. If you don't believe me, watch this bruising beach holiday conversation…
- Blokes hurt too, as proven by the episode where circumstance brings together those two lone wolves, Adam and Ray. Neither of these two intense young gentlemen seem to have an easy time forming friendships, yet a chance encounter takes them to Staten Island to see a man about a dog (quite literally) and inadvertently give us an extraordinary insight into men's view on relationships. And, oh dear, it looks like they can sign off just like girls do, misunderstanding each other, taking things personally, and one walking off in a huff, leaving Ray all alone. Except for a dog.
- Sometimes older people just don't get it, and it's not even their fault. We see Hannah in all her drug-riddled horror when her parents announce that the allowance is being cut off, to encourage her to forge her own path. "I may be the voice of this generation, or a voice, of a generation," she wails. Similarly, Marnie's mother believes her daughter's future is assured if she can just be a bit more like her - on the outside, specially.. The hostility of Jessa's brand new in-laws is probably justified in the circumstances, but they have no idea they're freshly igniting the ticking bohemian bomb within. But, seen through the prism of Lena Dunham's own close relationship for her parents, it's clear they all really mean well. The only unforgivable adult in the whole set-up - Richard E Grant's walking mid-life crisis that is Jasper. Making a pass at a girl young enough to be his daughter in a rehab facility - not cool, just creepy.
Parents... they may despair, but they're always there
- Girls without 'perfect' bodies needn't be lacking in confidence, we're told time and time again, usually by Californian honey-kissed starlets sucking on a lettuce. It's taken Hannah Horvath to walk the walk, stripping down to her pale, tattooed essentials and showing all us 'normal' girls how it's done, how letting pointless body issues get in the way of having fun is a personal choice when it comes down to it. And what is her reward? Topless table tennis with an acknowledged hottie. It's the least she deserves for this priceless gift to a generation.
- Conversely, don't ever be fooled by the pursed lips of a beautiful, smart woman - this apparent paragon of all that is ideal, has just as much chance of being a loose cannon and mistress of her own misfortune as the rest of us mortals, particularly if she's as insecure as the rest of us, or sometimes more so. Don't believe me? I give you Miss Marnie Michaels, a girl who stays with her college sweetheart, only to sneak off to the bathroom to despair at his devotion. Consider the way 'conceptual artist' Booth Jonathan treats her, and she LETS him. And this is all before her disastrous pairing with actor-songwriter Desi, summed up as "keep singing, keep smiling, keep thinking he WILL leave his girlfriend for you." Oh dear, put all this together and no wonder it's not just Marnie's mother who despairs. Next time you come up against a beautiful, smart woman who can effortlessly snare the chaps from under your nose, be kind.
- Something we always thought an abstract concept is actually true - i.e., it is quite possible to dance, literally, like nobody's watching. Hannah and Elijah prove this with their drug-fuelled antics, but substances are not essential. Adam proves this on the dance floor with his teetotal friends, and his joy and splendour so doing are the beginning of Hannah seeing him in a whole new light, and soon insisting that he becomes her boyfriend.
- Finally… if Hannah's great gift is her topless table tennis and all it proves, then Adam's even greater gesture is the speech he gives Marnie, and thus the rest of the world, at the beginning of Series 2. It's worth watching every episode before, just to get to this. The response? Marnie speaks for herself, her friends, and for everyone who's ever doubted themselves or what they're doing in a relationship, when she sighs with relief and says simply, 'Thankyou.' Here it is again in all its splendour…