The show’s called “Girls,” but in the premiere episode of the second season, Hannah Horvath (Golden Globe-winner Lena Dunham) is in the land of boys, boys, boys. Within five minutes, we see Hannah in the arms of three different men. She snuggles with new roommate, Elijah (Andrew Rannells), Hannah’s one-time serious boyfriend who realized post-college that he was gay. She has sex with her new boyfriend, Sandy (Donald Glover), who she met while working at Grumpy’s café, her day job. And we see her tangled in the clutches (literally and figuratively) of her ex-boyfriend, Adam (Adam Driver), who was nicked by a truck in the finale of Season One, and is now languishing at home in a leg cast, not minding Hannah’s self-imposed guilt to play his nurse maid. (UPDATE: The 9 pm Sunday season premiere drew 866,000, 1.6 million for three telecasts.)
Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams), having lost her boyfriend and roommate last season, is now facing the loss (or “downsize,” as her brittle blonde boss puts it) of her art gallery job, and of a considerable amount of weight. During a passive-aggressive lunch with her mother (Rita Wilson), Marnie’s told that she looks like “a float at the Macy’s Day parade” -- a bobbing bauble-head wavering atop a tiny body. It’s a short but perceptive scene, exposing the body-image difficulties that exist between many mothers and daughters. Shared genetics tend to bring about both disappointment and blame.
Hannah and Elijah throw an apartment-warming party. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) arrives, dressed like she just attended the Technicolor fashion sequence in 1939’s “The Women” by way of a figure-skating competition. She initially stews over Ray (Alex Karpovsky), who “deflowered” her in last season’s finale and then promptly became a stranger. All of this is water under the bridge and beer on the carpet when Ray admits his still-passionate feelings for her, and the two make out.
The party doesn’t go so well for others. Hannah has to leave mid-festivities to take care of Adam. Elijah’s wealthy older boyfriend gets sloppy drunk, and is booted from the apartment. Marnie runs into ex-boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott), who is inflicting his sweet-but-smothering ways on his new girlfriend, waiting outside the bathroom for her to finish peeing. When Marnie and Elijah are the last partyers standing at the end of the night, belting Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery” (ha!) in the empty, fluorescent-lit living room, the situation gets precarious. Elijah has a drunken-4am moment thinking he could be bisexual, and Marnie has one in an ongoing series of moments worrying that she’ll be lonely for the rest of her life. They have brief, awkward sex. Oops.
A running theme of “Girls” is the vagaries of perceived self-improvement, and this episode is no different. The young women of the show are constantly taking strides to organize, streamline, enlighten and brighten their lives, but these attempts to “almost get it kind of together,” as this season's tagline goes, usually result in a calamitous falling-apart. Hannah seems to be more liberated, frolicking with a new, charming boyfriend (while purposely not inviting him to her party), but she’s still shackled to Adam, caught in a half-attracted, half-repulsed trap of her own design. And living with one’s ex-boyfriend, gay or nay, is probably not a good idea.
Marnie has lost so much in the past year that she’s trying to gain some feeling of self-control via her body. The weight loss is concerning, if not unusual for young, beautiful women living in cities populated by many other young, beautiful women. And for all her righteous discipline (“I’m not going to eat six pizzas like Hannah”), she still stumbles, having sex with Elijah, and then crumbles, landing miserably in Charlie’s bed at the end of the night.
The title of this episode, which was both directed and co-written by Dunham, is “It’s About Time.” There are many interpretations of what this could mean, but I prefer to think it has to do with Sandy, who is black. Dunham was under fire last season for the lack of minorities in a show ostensibly about some real version of New York City. Our introduction to Sandy is to-the-point: Hannah has steamy sex with him, and then a blunt cut to the (black-and-white) “Girls” title card. Dunham seems ready to address the issue of race this season, and to do it on her own terms. It’s about time.
Bits and pieces: