“A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” These are the first and only lines of Girls main character Hannah Horvath’s failed book, which she attempts to write in the season two finale of the series. Now, as season five begins, it’s very clear that they’re not college girls any more. With the girls more focused on their own separate lives than their relationships with each other, the show has lost a lot of its most interesting drama.
The premiere drops us in the middle of wedding preparations the morning of Marnie’s big day. She’s marrying pretentious hipster singer-songwriter Desi, who Hannah learns has been engaged seven times before this one. Marnie is trying to be zen, but she is ripping at the seams, as she is wont to do. Everything is going wrong: rain, overdone makeup, and strained relationships with her bridesmaids, the titular girls and her supposed best friends.
After a small breakdown, Hannah follows Marnie behind the closed door of a bathroom, where Marnie asks her if she thinks she’s making a mistake. After learning about Desi’s secret fiancée-filled past, Hannah definitely believes the wedding is a mistake. Yet, Hannah looks into Marnie’s overly made-up eyes, fear pouring out of them, and answers no. They sigh and embrace, neither seeming to believe the lie… but also neither of them seeming to care enough to actually talk about it any real way. The moment is so subdued – the only thing that feels “grand and dramatic” about it is emotional detachment between them.
Girls has always depicted some profoundly sad moments, especially for a series that competes in the comedy category at award shows. But I’ve found few moments as sad as Hannah’s lie to Marnie – mostly because it was so dull. It felt like the cinematic equivalent of someone smiling with dead eyes.
Hannah’s decision to lie to Marnie is mature, sure; it keeps Marnie docile. But it’s also a weak decision. There is emotional distance between these characters, so much distance that they simply seem over it. It’s sad news for their friendship, and it’s also a boring plot choice.
Gone are the days of bathtub heart-to-heart sessions and door-slamming fights in the girls’ shared apartment. They’ve tired out of their emotions toward each other, and actually seem a bit uninterested in their own interactions. Now, instead, it’s all about Marnie’s douchebag of a fiancé, and Jessa making out with Hannah’s ex, and Hannah getting over her ex with a straight-laced new boyfriend, and Shosh leaving her long-distance boyfriend behind and attending the wedding alone. These characters are focused on the boys in their lives, not the girls. They’re singular entities floating in the same vicinity, not really impacting each other’s lives, but rather making observations as they orbit each other.
So why are we still watching? Girls is supposed to be about the girls. If they no longer care about each other, I wonder what’s left for the audience to care about. Their romantic relationships? Plenty of other movies and TV shows depict those relationships in countless ways.
Or, has the focus of this series become the disillusionment of these friendships? If so, it’s a compelling concept, but not one that is the most captivating to watch. It’s much more enthralling to watch the explosive nature of a relationship that characters are invested in, rather than the dead air that floats between them after years of growing distance. This season of Girls was marketed with the tagline, “Finally piecing it together.” Maybe their lives are getting pieced together, but so far it seems like their friendships are only falling farther apart. And with those friendships, go some of the most interesting dynamics Girls had to offer.
Sarah is a New Yorker living in Chicago who thinks she actually might actually be a Bay Area gal at heart. She’s a writer, filmmaker, and photographer who produces work about pop culture and entertainment, feelings, feminism and everything in between. You can find her work on sarahhallecorey.com. Sarah is usually drinking way too much coffee and/or tweeting @SarahHalleCorey.