Television series that gain quickly popularity during their first season almost are certain to be setup for disappointment for their sophomore effort. Audiences build up expectations regardless of what the reality will most likely be. Lena Dunham and her “some voice of some generation” is back for a second go around in the subsequent season of Girls. This time things are little more serious while still keeping the quirky humor from the first season.
Thankfully HBO always puts a 2-3 minute recap for the previous season(s) on their discs. I will not try to drop any major spoiler but be aware I will talk about some occurrences in the show. The season begins fairly close to where the last season left off. Hannah and Adam are no longer dating, however she is still hanging around him as he recovers from a broken leg sustained in the finale of season one. And he is still saying awkward things like “When you love someone you don’t have to be nice to them all the time.” in his usual blunt tone. Hannah has seemingly matured and grown a little bit since her relationship with Adam, at least as far as relationships go. She is dating a young African American republican named Sandy (Donald Glover). Marnie and Charlie’s lives continue to run into each other even while several significant others are in the picture. Jessa and Thomas-John are now married in living in a nice apartment and are seemingly happy. Outside of the Hannah plotlines with her own love life and her friendship with Marnie, the second biggest plot deals with Shoshannah and Ray as they try to define what their relationship is and how to move it forward.
Throughout the first set of episodes there are some nice critiques and jabs at society and the unique people that make it up. There are a couple of instance of bosses or interviewers shown as shallow and eccentric. An example of this is when Marnie is interviewing for a job as a curator and the prospective boss berates her assistant in from of her for bringing her the wrong kind of tea. Then she asks to “get juice number 6” ready for her, as if she is on some kind of intense juice regime. There are other insights into alternative life styles with Jessa being the main vehicle for that material.
Episode Five entitled “One Man’s Trash” (which costars Patrick Wilson) in particular got a huge reaction on the twitterverse and the internet in general. It was divisive among fans as the episode had a largely different feel then what has been shown before. It feels like a thirty minute movie separate from the other major plotlines of the show. Although episode 5 feels segregated from the others it is still pertinent as far as Dunham’s character progressing forward and maybe even contributing to the future woes she will experience in the remaining episodes of the season. She has a glimpse into a possible life that she could have, only if she can get through the seemingly obligatory and isolated trials and tribulations of young adulthood. You start to see her unravel here and it scares her.
After that unique fifth episode the rest of the season starts to get a little uncomfortable as awkward situations seem to take control. Episode 7 has shades of being like episode 5 as it takes place without the majority of the other cast but still goes deeper into wanderer Jessa’s relationship with her dad. However, the series really delves deep into uncomfortable-ness with episodes 8 and 9 when Hannah’s past issues start to emerge and she tries to keep it together. There are many cringe-worthy topics and situations that play out in which it seems like Dunham is challenging her audience to experience the nadir of these people’s young lives. The show does end up on a relatively positive note depending on what the viewer is willing to accept.
Watching the show is like watching a therapy session, not just for the characters but for Dunham herself. Many of the challenges she and her friends face on the show ooze contemplativeness and experienced wisdom, whether it’s been realized internally or influenced through external factors. The series shows experience chipping away at young people, forming them into hardened adults. Dunham’s life lessons for her characters are rough but true. The romanticism of perceived adulthood is slowly peeled away as characters realize that the idea of love doesn’t match what they had previous thought. Or when presented with the possibility of success, what some people will do to unintentionally destroy their opportunities. Each set of character goes through their own relationship woes and the result is a lot of talk and realizations that love is never what people think it is going to be. It’s never what they imagine. It never ends up being fireworks and infatuation but more like realizing that you miss them when they are not around. Love a slow creep and it’s not always with who you think it should be. Dunham’s portrayal of love is not nearly as schmaltzy or specifically tuned as it is in most mass-consumable romantic comedies. The conversations that characters have with each other are based on gained wisdom through experience. This leads to a mature feeling to the show. As an adult male I found her dialogue highly palatable and was able to relate to the issues the female characters were going through.
“Girls: The Complete Second Season” is released on Blu-ray in 1080p in its original aspect ratio of 16:9. I will say, although the image has incredible detail in almost every shot, it is just a little dark. It seems to stem from on the sets where none of the scenes are completely bathed in artificial light. This is not a mark against the disc; it’s just something to be aware of. This is a show that has a muted color palette and is intentionally dim.
The usual DTS-HD Master Audio track which HBO puts on most of its discs sounds excellent. Being a dialogue driven show, the conversations are clear and never problematic. It really shines when music comes into the show and every episode has an apparent example of this, especially in episode three with Booth Jonathan’s television art piece.
This release is loaded to the brim with great extras that fans or anyone interested in Dunham’s creative process should love.
Commentaries – Every show except for 2,6 and 8 have a commentary. Each is interesting in their own right. I found Richard Shepard’s commentary for episode 5 the most interesting.
Deleted /Extended Scenes – Each episode except episode 7 has one or two deleted or extended scenes.
Gag Reel – This a typical gag reel but if you like the characters you will find the them hilarious.
The Making of Girls – A fifteen minute look into the process of making of a girls episode.
Guys on Girls – Dunham discusses the male characters of the show.
The New Yorker Festival 2012: Emily Nussbaum Interviews Lena Dunham – This is a comprehensive hour and a half interview with Dunham followed by some audience Q&A. Every topic associated with “Girls” is discussed in depth. Fans will love this feature.
Charlie Rose Interview with Lena Dunham – A half hour talk with Dunham. A little redundant with the information at this point. Rose does not contribute too much here.
Episode Five Table Read – Patrick Wilson and Dunham read the entire script for the episode.
Inside the Episodes – These are nice, little morsels where Dunham talks about how each episode progresses the series.
Music – 3 music videos of some songs that appear in the series.
HBO’s second season of “Girls” is not the outright, cathartic season fans probably hoped for, however there is genuine progression in all the character’s lives. Dialogue and plots are satisfyingly deep for people looking for more than light fare and fashion tips. Dunham’s creation is full of wisdom and challenges. It may not always be easy to watch, especially when Hannah’s past issues come back up but there is a satisfying way the show deals with its problems. With terrific audio, video and extras, this is highly recommended.