By Michael Sullivan
There are few things more depressing than when a committed streamer finds a new show, and the last season available comes to an end. In this case, it’s Girls on HBO.
At first, I had been hesitant to tap into the show, mainly because I thought it was going to be an overly emotional, glamorized, soap-opera-type relationship drama. I don’t know exactly where I got that notion (does the word “girls” just imply that?) but it’s more about character development than storyline, which allows any superficial emotional roller coaster crud to take a back seat to the rawness of the actual people. The glue that holds all of this together is Girls star and creator Lena Dunham.
The show follows four young women as they make their way through life and men in New York City. (Girls acknowledges that this is familiar territory; early in the series, one major character was obsessed with Sex and the City.) Hannah Horvath (Dunham) is a struggling writer who is so personally vested in her own comfort zone that she seems to forget that anyone else may have one. Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams) works in the arts — first in an art gallery and then as a musician — and is desperately seeking “the one,” though she has been known to throw away the good for the bad. Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) is a British hippie child who seems to have a particular affinity for pain and chaos. Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) is the good girl who just wants to be bad (maybe because she is Jessa’s cousin?).
Along with these women come a slew of men and their drama. Hannah’s first boyfriend on the show, Adam Sackler (Adam Driver, who we now know better as Hans Solo’s son), is an actor. She moves on to a less dramatic relationship with her gay roommate Elijah Krantz (Andrew Ranells). Finally, in the last two seasons, Hannah dates someone relatively “normal,” as it were, a respected teacher, Fran Parker (Jake Lacy), who puts up with all of her BS. But of course, that relationship isn’t going to work for Hannah, who then relies on a faithful friend, Ray Ploshansky (Alex Karpovsky), to bail her out. She bails on him when Ray gets into an accident she helped to cause. So maybe there is a tinge of soap-opera drama, but the lack of pretentiousness is truly intriguing.
In the end, it all boils down to Dunham. As a woman with any number of hang-ups about how I should look versus how I do, this character and actress supersedes all of that nonsense. Hannah (and Dunham herself) has enough confidence to blow right past any body image hang-ups that Hollywood or society might throw at her, flaunting the hell out of her perfectly pear-shaped body and boyish haircut. She is the antithesis of the pretty girl and unintentionally puts comedians like Amy Schumer — a serial complainer when it comes to her being body shamed — in their place.
Whether one would call Hannah’s attitude confidence or narcissism, somehow she is able to keep four women together, caring for one another and loving each other — a rare feat indeed (though Blanche may have done it just as well in Golden Girls). The combination of all of these crazy characters and their quirks and flaws is why it was just so hard to say goodbye until the next season airs — which won’t happen until 2017, and it will be the last one. Sniff.
Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.