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

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 13, 2014 at 10:00AM

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.
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Girls

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." 

Girls

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.

Girls

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.

Girls

"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." 

Girls

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]

Notes:

-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:

This article is related to: Television, TV News, TV Reviews, Girls


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