Not Girls, Not Yet Women
The girls are back! Complete with bridezilla Marnie, mostly self-involved Hannah, ex-pat Shoshanna, and incapable-of-not-making-a-mistake Jessa. The episode is all about Marnie’s wedding to the infinitely punchable Desi, set in an upstate New York venue that is exactly where I would have imagined Marnie getting married. Joni Mitchell meets Ralph Lauren is possibly the most basic white girl description of a wedding I’ve ever heard, until the words “a vision from an Edward Sharpe video” are uttered. And of course Marnie wears a crown and tries to control every detail of her wedding day because she is her mother’s daughter. Rita Wilson returns as Marnie’s mother, micromanaging Marnie’s micromanaging.
The episode starts out with each character behaving in typical Girls fashion. Marnie passive-aggressively throws Fran out of the girls’ house (via Shoshanna!), Hannah whines about weddings and is generally a terrible bridesmaid, Shoshanna basically goes full cartoon character, and Jessa plants a metaphorical mine in the field. In a way, Jessa kissing Adam is not surprising at all. The two have shared an easy chemistry, a camaraderie based on a mutual disdain (or most likely on Adam’s part, a lack of understanding) of social norms and appropriate behavior. We’ve seen their friendship grow over the last few years, outside of all the Hannah/Adam behavior. This is clearly setting us up for a major Jessa/Hannah showdown later in the season.
The episode smartly divides its time between the girls and the boys, proving once again how integral Adam, Ray, and Elijah turned out to be in their own right and in balancing the women’s stories. Ray exhibits mensch-like behavior by talking some adult sense into Desi and playing the role of Hannah’s big brother by giving Fran a talking-to. The gesture is sweet without being paternalistic.
Slowly, but surely, these characters are showing signs of maturation and growth. Ray declares his brotherly affection for Hannah despite her being “painfully narcissistic.” Jessa knows she made a mistake and immediately seems to regret it, a new look for her. Furthermore, after Bebe, makeup artist to young Disney stars and past Presidential daughters, makes Marnie look like Morticia Addams in drag, Jessa salvages the wedding by taking charge. Compare this wedding day to the one in Season 1's "She Did", in which the women were ambushed by Jessa's suprise wedding. That episode feels action packed, chaotic and blustery compared to the quietness of this one.
Season 1 Hannah would feel no compunction blurting out Desi’s sordid past to Marnie, in a way that feels supportive yet is irritating. Hannah admits that her fear of this new uncharted relationship with Marnie caused her selfish behavior, and Marie rightfully points out the two haven’t been close in ages. These are conversations people in their late twenties have--ones that have to account for new partners and navigate changing life circumstances. Friendships don’t remain the same across distances, or new jobs, or after kids. Girls has always attempted to negotiate this space--the relationships these women have to each other in the context of the relationship they have to themselves. These characters are painfully plodding towards self-awareness and as the show enters its penultimate season, it will be interesting to see the direction it takes.
We don’t even see the altar--just the four women talking different paths and walking at different speeds to get where they're going. Marnie’s wedding was never about her relationship to Desi, but about the fulfillment of a dream she has had forever. I’m looking forward to seeing how she will respond to getting what she wants. If Hannah’s Season 4 Iowa storyline taught us anything, the grass is not green no matter where you’re standing. After a lackluster Season 4 my expectations were low but this episode has me excited to cavort with Hannah and her sisters for a few more months.
Girls Season 5 is now airing on HBO. All images belong to/ from HBO.