When “Girls” debuted on HBO in 2012, the show filled a hole in the media: a realistic portrayal of young people in New York City. Before, there was “Sex and the City,” a show about successful women, established in their careers, looking for romance; and “Gossip Girl,” about the drama of trust fund teens on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. To viewers, the women on these shows were certainly #goals; there was no wardrobe more strongly coveted than Carrie Bradshaw’s, no love affair more worshipped than Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass’s. They were glamorous and fun, their problems always fixed with a mimosa and a new pair of Louboutins. And they were totally unrealistic.
“Girls,” the semi-autobiographical brainchild of Lena Dunham (“Tiny Furniture”), tells a much less glamorized story of young women trying to make it in the Big Apple. Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams, “Peter Pan Live!”), Jessa (Jemima Kirke, “Tiny Furniture”) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, “The Kids Are Alright”) live as dysfunctional 20-somethings, navigating unpaid internships, disheveled apartments, college classes and awkward hook-ups.
The girls of “Girls” are cringingly narcissistic, needy and often self-destructive in their personal and professional lives — and while we try hard not to, we see our own millennial selves in them. Or, better yet, we know a self-absorbed Hannah, a micromanaging Marnie, an annoyingly aloof Jessa. Despite the show’s serious flaws — there isn’t a single person of color in the core cast, for instance — the series’s ugly familiarity, the raw and unfiltered misadventures, has kept an audience coming back for five seasons.
But there’s a shift in season five: “Girls,” believe it or not, seems to be growing up. Since Lena Dunham announced in January that the show will end after six seasons, some closure is inevitable — as it’s still a scripted series, albeit a more realistic one, the girls need to find solidity (in life, jobs, relationships, etc.) by the show’s finale.
For Marnie, adulthood is coming in hot — maybe a little too hot. Season five opens with Marnie standing before a window in an upstate New York cottage, dressed in full nude Spanx, glaring down at the preparations for her outdoor wedding.
Turns out, she and her singing partner Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, “The Lake House”) have decided to marry after all, even though he’s a grade-A jerkface. But then again, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Marnie, who fails miserably at keeping her inner bridezilla under wraps. Though she insists on being a breezy bride — she tells Bebe (Bridget Everett, “Trainwreck”), the makeup artist, that she wants an artsy wedding that still reflects her heritage as a “white Christian woman” — Marnie would rather die than have a hairpin out of place.
Naturally, everything falls apart. Hannah, fresh from her stint as a junior high teacher, is back to her old selfish ways — bringing her date into the bridal room to hang out, then later sneaking out for a romp in the backseat of his car — and generally not paying attention to Marnie on the one day she deserves it. Jessa has a sneaky hook-up as well, with none other than Hannah’s ex-boyfriend, Adam (Adam Driver, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”). Even Bebe’s in the wrong: she misinterprets Marnie’s “Joni-Mitchell-meets-Ralph-Lauren” hair and makeup vision as “Selena-Gomez-meets-Jesus,” giving the bridal party shockingly bad makeovers. And on top of everything, Marnie’s biggest fear comes true: it rains for her outdoor wedding.
After a hurricane-level meltdown, in which Marnie confronts Hannah about her lack of support as a friend and maid of honor (“The very least you could do right now is to pretend that I’m doing the right thing,” she says) the girls hug it out, Marnie wipes off her makeup and they all throw raincoats over their dresses. When life gives you lemons, I guess.
Though Marnie’s marriage seems too unstable to last, her actions hint at more growth to come in “Girls,” which will be refreshing to see after years of the characters’ same old antics. But then again, the show prides itself on being realistic — and there’s nothing more human than sticking to habit.