Back to IndieWire

Recap: Lena Dunham Returns Strong With ‘Girls’ Season 3, Episodes 1 & 2

Recap: Lena Dunham Returns Strong With 'Girls' Season 3, Episodes 1 & 2

Recap: “Girls” Season 3, Episode 1 “Females Only”

As much as Lena Dunham pushed the enveloped narratively and sylistically throughout the second season of “Girls,” for a show that celebrates the messiness and uncertainty of young adulthood, the finale wrapped things up in an all too neat bow. But for those worried that headed into season three, the edges might be smoothed down, with the stories becoming more broadly accessible, the sight of Jessa (Jemima Kirke) with the face between the legs of another woman in rehab will allay those fears. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The first episode of season three is really a table setting effort that allows Dunham to re-introduce and re-position the characters for where she’ll take them next. Kicking things off, after reuniting in the final episode of last season, Hannah (Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver) are now firmly a couple, sharing her apartment, and fully domestic. She’s still the main breadwinner, with Dunham telling her therapist (Bob Balaban), “He can only contribute a very small portion to the rent. Whatever he gets from his Grandma and selling things he makes out of papier-macher.” 

That being said, unlike Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) who wanted more ambition from Ray (Alex Karpovsky), Hannah accepts that Adam fills out their relationship in other ways. “He’s not a traditional person. He can’t just be slotted into any job. You haven’t met him, but that’s not how he works, plus he takes care of me,” she says to her therapist. “He makes sure I take my medicine, he makes sure I eat protein, he does this very kind of calming chant…” However, while Hannah has figured out how to live with Adam, and accept his quirks, the men of “Girls” don’t always act so honorably.

In the opening scene of “Females Only,” Adam has rough encounter with his ex-girlfriend Natalia (Shiri Appleby), the out-of-his-league woman he briefly and awkwardly dated. Dragged over by her far more angry friend (played by Amy Schumer), we learn that Adam, after telling Natalia he loved her, never called her again. Initially, Natalia isn’t interested in the confrontation until she learns the woman standing next to Adam is Hannah, which sets her off. “So you know what you have on your hands here, right? You know that you have an off-the-wagon-neanderthal-sex addict-sociopath, who’s going to fuck you like he’s never met you, and like he doesn’t love his own mother,” Natalia declares before storming out. Yes, this is the man Hannah has learned to love.

But suffering an even greater sense of bewilderment, anger and loss is Marnie (Allison Williams), who opens the show crashing on her mother’s couch, sleeping in her childhood Rainbow Brite sheets. As followers of the show know, Christopher Abott, who played Charlie, abruptly left the show as production started on third season, reportedly clashing with Dunham over the direction of his character. But it’s actually the best thing that could’ve happened for the character of Marnie. She’s far more interesting when the perfect plans she has mapped out, don’t come to fruition. Though like Adam, Charlie didn’t have any sense of decorum when it came to ending their relationship.

“I’m so sick of crying, because this whole situation makes no sense. We bought the ingredients to make grilled pizzas, we were going to make grilled pizzas, and the day we’re supposed to that, he left me. On what fucking planet does that make any sense?” Marine tearfully asks. And she finds a sympathetic ear among her friends, particularly from Adam, who shares a fantastic breakup story with a lesson that would mend the heart of anyone who heard it.

“Just because I tasted her cum or spit or could tell you her middle name or knew what record she liked, that doesn’t mean anything, that’s not a connection. Anyone can have that. Really knowing someone is something else. It’s a completely different thing, and when it happens, you won’t be able to miss it, you will be aware, and you won’t hurt or be afraid,” Adam says, in one of the episode’s best moments. But not everyone is so ready coddle Marnie post-Charlie, particularly her mother who sees it as a rite of passage on her daughter’s journey. “He is just one of twenty guys who is going to fuck you over,” she counsels, essentially telling Marnie to get over it.

And while Lena has found stability, and Marnie is adrift, Jessa is completely off the reservation. Enrolled in rehab, it’s not a shock to learn that group sharing isn’t her forte. Insulting, dismissing and provoking everyone in her group (including Kim Gordon, in a small cameo appearance), Jessa makes it clear that whatever she’s going through, traditional therapy won’t be her fix. She finds an ally in Jaspar, a charming old British man (Richard E. Grant) and something resembling a rehab spirit guide, who offers the outspoken Jessa this advice. “You have to learn when honesty is righteous, and when honesty is nothing more than a party trick.” 

But as it turns out, it’s not something Jessa says but rather something she does that gets her kicked out of rehab. What starts as an apology turns into a seduction, as Jessa makes amends with a woman she (ultimately, rightfully) called out as a lesbian during group, winding up making out and then going down on her. Breaking no shortage of rules in one fell swoop, she is kicked out of rehab, and the episode ends with Jessa calling Hannah to come pick her up.

“Females Only” isn’t self-contained and is mostly an orientation episode, and it’s not a surprise that HBO made the decision to pair the premiere with the second episode of the season. On its own, it would feel somewhat incomplete, but as a re-introduction to these characters and this world, it succeeds on those terms, while the developments that have met all the major players feel organic. Moreover, it still has enough going on to be far richer than this kind of episode has any right to be. In short….welcome back. [B]


-Hannah’s e-book is coming along nicely, with John Cameron Mitchell once again appearing as her encouraging, flamboyant editor.

-What’s going on with Shoshanna? We’ll let her explain: “Basically, it’s the beginning of a somewhat sexually adventurous time for me. I’m alternating nights of freedom, with nights of academic focus, so that at the end of my senior year, I will have had both experiences, while also being super well prepared, for professional world.” 

-As for her ex Ray, he’s now managing the new location of Grumpy’s, still mourning his relationship with Shoshanna and living in Adam’s old apartment.

Songs in this episode: Jonathan Richman “New Kind Of Neighborhood”; Kurt Vile “Wakin On A Pretty Day”; Helen Humes & Her Orchestra “Woojamacooja”; Little Majorette “Overflow”; Broncho “It’s On (Audiotree Version)

Watch the full episode below:

Recap: “Girls” Season 3, Episode 2 “Truth Or Dare”

“I just think that women get stuck in this vortex of guilt and jealousy with each other that keep them from seeing situations clearly,” Adam (Adam Driver) declares about female friendships. And while his assessment is perhaps a bit exaggerated, there is a kernel of truth to what he says, especially when it comes to how Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa relate. We’ve already seen Hannah and Marnie’s friendship nearly dissolve after Marnie’s drunken attempted makeout session with Hannah’s ex Elijah. And then there’s Jessa, who completely abandoned Hannah without a trace at the end of last season’s “Video Games” only to reappear in rehab, battling what Hannah calls a “life addiction.” And despite a bridge seemingly burned, here’s Hannah on a roadtrip with Adam and Shoshanna to go pick up Jessa who is checking herself out of the facility.

On the surface, “Truth Or Dare” doesn’t offer up much plot wise, with the bulk of the running spent on the road with the trio driving to upstate New York. But the episode uses that time to highlight the complexity between these characters, even if those on the outside (like Adam), have trouble understanding. This is first underscored in Hannah’s phone call to Marnie, who is busy moving into a new apartment, where she first lies about why she’s on the road, saying she’s in a “couples getaway” with Adam. But when she quickly reveals the truth, Marnie has a typically contradictory reaction.

“I gotta be honest, I’m feeling pretty left out right now,” she tells Hannah. But when asked if she actually would have wanted to come? “Oh my God no, of course not. I just didn’t want anyone to go.”

Meanwhile, Shoshanna — who is a particularly hilarious chatterbox throughout this episode — takes a moment during a detour on the roadtrip, to credit Adam for being the rock that Hannah needed after spiraling at the end of season 2. “Think about it. What would she have done during this period of mental unrest if her boyfriend had been an actual human being existing in society. What if you had, like, a job or responsibilities are places to be during the day or a best friend?” 

But Adam, who as we know can deliver zen-like nuggets of wisdom when required, thinks it’s pretty simple why he’s been so giving and available to Hannah, whom he already thinks gives back as much as he gives. “She is my best friend.” That’s all he needs to say for both Shoshanna and the audience to understand what makes his relationship with Hannah work. 

As for Jessa, if one wonders why her life is one of defensive provocation, it’s because she tends to attract people who have ulterior motives for establishing relationships with her. One only has to look to her ex-husband Thomas-John who used her as a vehicle into a life he wasn’t brave enough to have on his own. And then there’s Jaspar (Richard E. Grant), her one and only rehab friend, who reveals he’s been secreting pills to keep the edge off, and now running out, makes a clumsy pass at Jessa. It makes it pretty easy to understand why her first instinct is to flee when things seem to be getting too comfortable.

But still, those actions hurt those closest to her, who really and truly do care about her. And when Hannah does finally arrive to pick up Jessa (who is officially being kicked out of rehab for fraternizing and “…distributing a zine of provocative cartoons”) she makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, how wrong it was for Jessa to abandon her and their friendship. And then in the next breath, she says, “I’ve missed you so much….and I’d really like it if you’d please stop leaving because I’m really looking forward to you being around more.”  And Jessa promises, “I’m done with all that.”

With “controversy” stirring this week over the show’s nudity, we wish critics would start seeing past the skin and realize that “Girls” is serving up some beautifully complex relationships. Friendships in your ’20s are volatile, and the same people who act like assholes can also be the ones that need you most (and vice versa). Lena Dunham and writer Jenni Konner (who deserves a bit more shine) completely understand this, and the closing shot of Jessa resting her head on Hannah’s shoulder, is a subtly moving one, with their shared history making up for any mistakes made along the way. [B]


-“I hate to break it you, but school is the best thing you’ll ever have. Your job is basically just to feed yourself. That’s why I apply to grad school every single year,” Hannah tells Shoshanna, who counters with her bit of hard truth: “Honestly, the only people I ever hear say that are people who don’t make any money.”

-We’d really like to meet Rachel, Shoshanna’s blueberry Red Bull addict friend, and Adam’s pal Chad who busted his knee in an “illegal and illicit” manner.

Songs in this episode: Maroon 5 “One More Night”; Jenny Lewis “Completely Not Me”

Watch the full episode below:

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox