HBO’s award-winning series, Girls, is centered around four twenty-something girls following their dreams in New York City, one mistake at a time. The show first began airing in April 2012, and has begun its second season a couple weeks ago. I decided to review the series episode-by-episode, starting with the pilot.
The first episode begins with the main character Hannah, played by series writer Lena Dunham, getting cut off from her parents’ financial help. The scene was interesting and captivating, because the portrayal was so honest. As a twenty-something myself, this is a situation I am not looking forward to and hence was something I found relatable. The scene is also important, as it introduces the subtle style of humor used throughout the series. Although Hannah is panicking and arguing with her parents in the scene, it is still quite funny as her mother quips back and is somewhat harsh. The way in which Dunham structures the dialogue in this scene, and all the rest to come in the series, uncovers how the characters are not purposefully trying to be funny; they are just responding naturally to conversation, and as viewers we see the humor in the truth of the situation. It’s similar to humor of when a young kid says something hilarious but has no idea of their comment’s comedic value; as viewers of Girls, we are privy to the comedy of the characters’ lives while they are busy taking themselves too seriously.
And they really do seem to take themselves pretty seriously throughout the pilot episode, in addition to appearing endearingly arrogant and entitled. Hannah is confounded by her parents cutting her off and not being able talk her way back into their money. She receives this harsh bit of reality, followed by another when she is fired from her unpaid internship at a publishing house, and another when her “boyfriend” continually ignores her text messages. Things seem to just get worse and worse for her, especially when she gets high off opium tea, bursts into her parents’ hotel room and then passes out in front of them onto the floor.
In the midst of Hannah’s melodrama, we are introduced to her beautiful roommate Marnie, whose biggest problems in life are her dislike for her devoted boyfriend and a rude dinner guest. Somehow Dunham is able to successfully express how these things seem like the end of the world to Marnie while still making her relatable to viewers and seem like the most level-headed, responsible one; quite a feat indeed.
Finally, we meet Hannah and Marnie’s free-spirited, British friend, Jessa, has recently returned from France to live with her younger Sex and the City-obsessed cousin, Shoshanna (a nod to the many critics who believed Girls would become HBO’s new version of Sex and the City, which it thankfully is not. The show is much too honest for that; the sex is bad, the girls are poor, and it depicts just how unglamorous life in New York City can be). We do not see much of either during the pilot episode, but both have huge personalities that are sure to mesh humorously well with those of Marnie and Hannah.
Taken as a whole, Girls seems to be a melancholic and realistic look into the lives of girls beginning their adult lives in a big city. Realistically, everything that happens in the first episode is downright depressing, from Hannah allowing herself to be treated badly by her man due to her low self-esteem, to Jessa revealing that she is pregnant. But it is the small doses of humor quietly infused throughout the episode that make watching the show enjoyable, and less like a long, hard look in the mirror.