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Uncertainties linger in 'Girls' season two premiere

HBO

By Radhika Menon, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 25, 2013

“Girls” was arguably one of the most talked-about new shows last fall that made creator, writer and star Lena Dunham a household name. There’s nothing revolutionary about the premise — it focuses on a group of college-educated young women in their twenties, struggling with life in the Big Apple — but HBO’s “comedy” darling knows distinctly what it is and what it wants to say.

Premiering directly on the heels of the show’s two major Golden Globe wins, “Girls” quickly settles us back into the world of Hannah (Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture”), Marnie (Allison Williams, “American Dreams”), Jessa (Jemima Kirke, “Tiny Furniture”) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, “The Kids Are All Right”). The premiere is a bit unstructured, which lends itself to the unpredictability and uncertainty of the cast’s lives.

The season-one finale left us unsure of the status of Adam (Adam Driver, “Lincoln”) and Hannah’s relationship, and “It’s About Time” did little to clear it up. But given their current vague situation, the ambiguity is understandable. Following Adam’s car accident, Hannah has been delegated to take care of her crippled ex-lover while also unsure of her emotions for him. Adam’s future within “Girls” is uncertain, which is unfortunate because he is one of the few characters comfortable with telling it how it is, no sugar on top — a much-needed voice of reason among the jaded girls.

Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy,” openly complained about “Girls” ’s non-diverse depiction of New York City, and season two seems determined to address that with Sandy (Donald Glover, “Community”), who takes up a casual relationship with Hannah. Sandy is a welcome distraction for Hannah, though it is unclear whether or not he will be a constant fixture or simply a placeholder. “It’s About Time” doesn’t spend much time characterizing Sandy — or even showing him as more than a booty call — but he’s easier to like than Adam was at the start of season one.

In the short time that we’ve known Hannah’s roommate, Marnie, her entire world has changed. After breaking up with Charlie (Christopher Abbott, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”), the next blow to life-as-she-knew-it comes as she’s fired from her job as an art gallery assistant. In a series of increasingly bad decisions, she hooks up with Hannah’s ex-boyfriend-and-now-homosexual roommate and then runs back to cuddle with Charlie by the episode’s end. Having once had it all together, Marnie’s trajectory this season is truly one of growth and reexamination, forcing her to address her insecurities head-on.

Though Shoshanna is normally relegated to the background, this episode brings her into the main fold by addressing her blossoming romance with Ray (Alex Karpovsky, “Tiny Furniture”), who took her virginity last season. Shoshanna and Ray’s relationship is one of the bright spots in the series — both are slightly wacky and inexplicably attracted to each other, making their scenes together a delight to watch.

Shoshanna’s scenes come at the expense of Jessa, who is noticeably absent until the end of the episode. When she reappears, she is with her new husband, the two basking in their new marital bliss. But there is a passing look of uncertainty that shadows her face, suggesting that her spontaneous marriage may not have been as great of a decision as she thought.

This uncertainty ties the four girls together: Each one embarks on a new life and struggles to escape the baggage of their old selves. The premiere sets season two up to be one of rediscovery and new beginnings, a march toward new identities — and it seems to be headed in the right direction.