Girls: “Wedding Day” Season 5 Premiere Review

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“It’s like a really bad rom com that’s too obvious and not funny,” Hannah says to new boyfriend Fran after one of the show’s tamest sex scenes. She’s referring to the drama surrounding Marnie’s wedding, but it feels like Lena Dunham herself, who wrote and directed the premiere, is commenting negatively on her own show. In a lot of ways, “Wedding Day” is a really bad rom com, full of on-the-nose dialogue yet devoid of laughs. So when this seemingly self-aware line came right from the horse’s mouth midway through, I was very ready for the subversive, authentic version of Girls to make a roaring comeback. I was disappointed.

Now in its fifth season, Girls has become everything it felt like it was fighting against when it started in 2012. With the show determined to marry off its titular characters before they get a chance to grow up, the feminist angle has faded. To be clear, I am not referring to Marnie’s obviously doomed marriage to Desi (still the show’s worst creation). But for each of the girls, besides Shoshanna, there seems to be a perfect match now waiting for them. In this penultimate season, their paths seem pretty clear. Hannah now has a charming young fellow that could very well be her romantic endgame. Jessa and Adam kiss for the first time here, which, unlike many things in this episode, feels genuine and exciting. Once Marnie awakens from her nightmare of a marriage, she’s got Ray waiting for her. Girls hasn’t matured its characters all that much since the pilot, but the road to maturation or whatever ending the show has in mind didn’t need to be entirely focused on men or love.

“Wedding Day” has the added benefit of having all the show’s core characters in one location, something that happens maybe twice a season now. As Marnie prepares for her big day as the cheap Monica Geller knockoff she’s become, we get tidbits from just about everyone. The best all come from Ray, who appears to be the only character to retain any of his initial realism (if anything, as Girls has gotten worse, Ray has gotten better). Even Adam’s first scene, as he awkwardly fumbles half-sentences around Fran, felt like it was just missing the laugh track.

But then, at the moment where the episode needs something, anything to latch onto, it returns to the real love story at its core. As Marnie freaks out, Hannah has to be the one to calm her down and put her back together, as they’ve traded off doing and failing to do since the show’s inception. Their rocky but ultimately pivotal friendship still succeeds when the rest of Girls collapses because it taps into the series’ most real notion: friendship isn’t always easy and people disappoint you, but then they also surprise you when you need it most. This bathroom scene is hardly the “Dancing on My Own” scene from season one or even Marnie’s essential post-breakup visit to Hannah in last year’s spectacular “Sit-In,” but it’s the only thing in this premiere that showcases the vision Lena Dunham had in the pilot. Does this one scene save the episode? Hardly, but it’s got me hopeful for the future.

So as Girls continues its ungraceful aging process, both onscreen and off, it’s become as messy as the lives of the characters it portrays. But amid the clutter, there’s still hope for the show’s former poignance to break free and run away with a few more episodes, or hopefully a full season, before the show bows out next year. Only time will tell. Grade: C+

Some Other Notes:

  • As awkwardly structured as Jessa and Adam’s kiss was, I’m genuinely excited to see their romance unfold. Adam Driver and Jemima Kirke are the two most talented actors on the show and the scenes they’ve shared in season’s past have been electric. Something about them just feels right.
  • One thing I loved in this episode was Rita Wilson. For who Marnie has become, she’s the perfect mother.
  • “Shoshanna went to Japan and is somehow more like a cartoon.”

By Matt Dougherty

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