Girls Season 4 Review: Growing Pains

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For a season that had a lot of promise going in, coming out of it has me counting down the time until Girls ends.

This series has never been a consistent one, often just throwing plot points at its audience and seeing what sticks. For seasons one and three of the show, this worked incredibly well. Season two was a different story, having very big hits, but also equally big misses. Season four falls closer in line with season two, but also had the consistency of just being generally unremarkable.

Going into the season, Hannah was going to Iowa. After the premiere let this sink in, we spent three episodes there before Hannah came home at the end of episode four. So this was a promise from last season that just didn’t pan out. In fact, for a season that looked to be about Hannah finally finding her footing in her career, we once again focused almost solely on her love life. The premiere, “Iowa,” was one of the best episodes of the season because it showed us Hannah putting her career above her love life. But then she returned to New York to find Adam dating Mimi-Rose and her dreams took a backseat to her heart.

Granted, this gave way for one of the series’ absolute best episodes, “Sit-In.” This superb bottle episode highlighted just how strong each major cast member can be when used at their best. It was the rare perfect episode of Girls, where the sum of all its parts added up into one highly rewarding whole. “Sit-In” was the only episode of season four that measured up to the other series greats (“All Adventurous Women Do,” “The Return,” “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident,” “I Get Ideas,” “It’s a Shame About Ray,” “One Man’s Trash,” “Free Snacks,” “Beach House,” “Flo,” and a handful of others).

After that, Hannah’s arc meandered until one empowering moment in the finale. It was great that she told Adam they couldn’t get back together, even if it was out-of-character for Adam to even ask. Hannah can finally rely on herself to be happy.

Oh, wait. Nevermind, six months later she has a new boyfriend.

As for the other characters, Shoshanna and Ray had the most rewarding arcs of the season. Finding a new, plutonic friendship in each other was a great move for them. Having the former couple supporting each other as their respective careers took massive turns was a big reward for longtime viewers.

Marnie’s season-long journey with Desi was pretty much the polar opposite. Actually, Desi proved to be the most unlikable character in Girls history, which is certainly a feat. The writers painted him as so wrong for Marnie that their scenes felt like a complete waste of time. Marnie’s first truly worthwhile scene for herself in season four was in the finale when Desi abandoned her and she had to perform by herself. Girls needs to stop forcing Marnie to rely on men to make her happy. It’s been a problem with her character since the second season.

Then there’s Jessa, who barely did anything worth mentioning this season. There was fun to be had in the scenes she shared with Adam, and her story in the finale was strong, but it’s clear Girls doesn’t quite know what to do with Jessa either.

And I haven’t even gotten to Hannah’s parents yet. Tad coming out as gay is fine, but why is that a major storyline for this show? It doesn’t need to be and should be put aside for next season.

With so many characters seemingly lost in their lives, I propose a time jump for season five. Also, next year should be the last. Let’s pick up two years later for one final batch of episodes with these characters. Give Jessa a career, skip over Shosh in Tokyo, make Hannah and Adam stable apart from each other, and, for the love of god, fix Marnie. Ray can stay the same.

But if season four was any indicator, the writers have lost their way with these characters. One great episode out of ten isn’t enough. This significant of a dip in quality is a reason to end a show. Grow the girls, and guys, in ten final episodes and close the curtain before the story runs dry. From the looks of it, it’s only a matter of time. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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