One of the greatest risks that Lena Dunham and the rest of the Girls writers take, and a large part of what keeps the show interesting, is refusing to soften the characters for the sake of making them more likable. For all their growth and experiences over the past four seasons, Hannah is still a narcissist, Marnie is still a passive-aggressive control freak, Shoshanna is still a pesky flibbertigibbet, and Jessa is still generally horrible. And yet, you just want everything to work out for them. With Girls, as in life, it’s impossible to really know someone and still hate them. It’s a testament to the Girls writers’ (not to mention the four lead actresses’) ability to create fully realized, three dimensional characters that one cannot help but get in the central foursome’s respective corners, no matter how brutally flawed they may be. It is the flaws in these characters that make them interesting and serve as the show’s primary antagonist; Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa are struggling against their own weaknesses to find happiness and a place in the world. Heading into the show’s fifth and penultimate season, it is still compelling television.
Girls season five premiere “Wedding Day” finds the Girls counting down the final hours before Marnie’s marriage to Desi (Girls’ closest thing to a recurring villain), the likelihood of which was unsure at the close of season four. Marnie is, predictably and delightfully, the world’s most passive-aggressive “bridezilla”. She throws the dutiful bridesmaid, Shoshanna, under the bus by asking her to eject Fran (still hanging in there with Hannah!) from “women’s hour” and then issuing a lighthearted reprimand for doing so. In similarly predictable fashion, Hannah and Jessa are as disengaged from the wedding prep as Shoshanna is engaged, offering only (in Jessa’s case) empty reassurances about wedding day rain being good for fertility, and (in Hannah’s case) snide remarks about the shallow selfishness of weddings. Marnie feels, not incorrectly, a lack of support and is deeply unsure whether or not her decision to marry Desi is a good one (it’s almost certainly not). She needs Hannah to offer advice and perhaps recognize the aesthetic danger presented by hairdresser/makeup artist Bebe. (Marnie’s dress/makeup combo makes her look like Tawny Kitaen playing Princess Leia.)
The Boys are all present as well, with Ray pouting, Desi fretting, Elijah prepping for an ecstasy-enhanced reception, Fran maintaining, and Adam, looking more dreamboat-y than ever, stealing a passionate kiss from Jessa, undoubtedly foreshadowing a disaster to come. When it is revealed that Desi seems about to abort his eighth engagement, it falls to Ray, who has strangely become Girls’ moral center, to talk his nemesis back into marrying the “love of his life”. It’s nice to see Fran (played by the always affable Jake Lacey) hang out with the weirder, longer-tenured Girls guys. As an island of normalcy, one doubts that he is long for the show; he’s just too well-adjusted.
“Wedding Day” serves to bring all of Girls’ principal characters together in one setting before they most likely set out on separate adventures for the remainder of the season. At the end of the episode, each of the principals seems to be standing on relatively solid ground with friendships intact (Hannah and Jessa having stepped up to the plate and delivered Marnie to the altar). Of course it’s all doomed, but we look forward to the hurdles ahead, especially those before the Marnie/Desi marriage. Hopefully it all works out. A-
Girls – “Wedding Day” – Season 5, Episode 1. HBO
Format: Half-hour comedy
Creator: Lena Dunham
Starring: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Andrew Rannels, Ebon Moss-Bachrach