10 reasons why you should be watching girls season 5
The penultimate series of Girls may be one of its best.
When Lena Dunham announced the next season of Girls is to be the last, the current run, series five, felt a little redundant. Girls is that kind of show; miss out on a couple of episodes and you don't fall over yourself with FOMO. Hannah will still be there being Hannah, Marnie doing her best WASPish Zooey Deschanel impression, Shosh desperately searching for a storyline and Jessa being someone you think all of these people are only friends with because they think she's so Downton. Those of us who are watching series five know it's been densely packed with subplots like weddings (Marnie and Desi), would-be affairs (Jessa and Adam), and a fresh start (for Shosh, in Japan). But for all the plotting, no one is actually going anywhere fast, especially Hannah. Even if some of the storylines don't stick (get on with it, Jessa and Adam), the series is showing the potential to one of the show's finest. Here's 10 reasons why (warning there are spoilers):
1. Hannah's deep, deep funk
After the creative writing school stint sent Hannah running back to NYC in series 4, Manhattan life is working out for her. She's got a steady job and an even steadier boyfriend, Fran, who takes all her cray cray in his stride. Around her, various responsibilities and irritations grow (Marnie's married, her dad's on Grindr). A lot goes on around Hannah but not for her. The early episodes find her roaming around in a funk. She's seething, and about what even she seems unsure. It doesn't make for a quick turnover in plot terms, but something substantive, and potentially more satisfying, is brewing.
2. "Honestly, you look like a Starbucks cup."
Marnie's wedding mood board (episode one) is Ralph Lauren and Joni Mitchell. Unfortunately, her mum is on hand for some home truths about her look. Series 5 starts as it means to go on, with zingers like this.
3. Shoshanna's alarm clock
If you want a disposable pop cultural fix, Girls can still deliver on that. It just has to go to Japan to do it. Shoshanna's standalone episode set in Japan (episode 3) had a scene stealer in the form of a talking clock. The Clock Man comes in four colours, according to blood type and is an actual thing you can buy on eBay. It speaks only in Japanese and is, much like its owner, irrepressibly cute/irritating first thing in the morning.
4. The title cards
More scene stealing in the form of Girls title cards. This series we've had the title written in Japanese (episode 3) and red lettering against a backdrop of a school jotter (episode 4).
5. The gender scene
In episode 2, Ray went over to the new coffee shop on his block, Helvetica to confront them over their customers stealing his coffee lids - Helvetica being too on trend to cover up Long Blacks. He misgenders a member of staff, who with their colleague, turns the tables on Ray, making him out to be straight, white male dickwad. It's a weird scene tonally. The affronted shop employee is played by Lena's sibling, Grace, who identifies as genderqueer in real life (and who you can see in the forthcoming HBO doc Suits). The scene - which you think is going to be a lesson in getting your pronouns in order - plays out so the sermonising feels pedantic, even dumb (it ends with the employees bullying him out of the shop, shouting 'white man, white man!') It's the strangest, most intriguing note in the series and a reminder that the show still has the power to go for uncomfortable rather than right on.
6. The entire Japanese episode
Bored of the Brooklyn hipster aesthetic? Girls too. So why not relocate to Japan for an episode where kitsch doesn't quite describe a sauna that serves ice cream and candy floss.
7. The inbetween vibes of it all
When the end game is afoot, narratives tend to sag in the in between. Think Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which is two and a half hours of Harry, Hermione and Ron plodding about in an existential fug and waiting for Voldemort to rock up. But that kind of aimlessness is at the heart of the Girls project, never more evident than in series 5. Scratch the surface and really we're watching a group of supposed friends waiting around for the end to all that.
8. Christine and the Queens
Episode 4 closes with Hannah and Fran working in silence, their backs to each other as the song IT by Christine and the Queens strikes up. IT was Christine the the Queens first song, written, the genderqueer, French artist says about 'wanting to have a dick just in order to have an easier life'. The theme feels too closely connected to the characters to be simply background music. If the camera moves between scenes - to Elijah in his underwear after hammering his new love interest, then Jessa post (bad) sex with Adam - the moment feels all of Hannah's and that depression she finds herself in. Hannah is locked in and wants out. The musical director of Girls sure feels in tune with the series mood.
9. Marnie being Marnie
On her wedding day: "I'm totally easy, easygoing girl, you know me, right? And just make sure you run everything by me before it's final."
10. Hannah gets quietly, really weird
GIRLS comes alive when Hannah really gets weird. I don't mean kooky weird, or verbal diarrhoea weird. I mean that time she stuck a cotton bud in her ear and had to be hospitalised (series 2, episode 9). Or that whole episode she spent shacked with a random, older guy in his brownstone for a whole weekend (also series 2, episode 5). I mean real life, off-the-rails, no-one-might-notice-it weird. Series 5 might fly under the radar a little, but the most interesting stuff is bubbling away just beneath the surface.
Images via HBO