From the first episode to when fans watch the Girls Season 5 premiere Sunday night, Lena Dunham’s fabulously naive 20-somethings have been roasted by their haters.
The worst sin of all, it seemed, was Lena’s central character Hannah Horvath herself. Detractors hated Girls because they found her lack of self-awareness and personal responsibility grating instead of comedic. Watching that first season of the program, it’s hard to imagine being able to stomach Dunham’s character if you weren’t laughing along.
Since then, the universe of Girls has changed significantly. Hannah went from being totally devoid of direction to briefly working at GQ, trying her hand at grad school outside of New York and eventually landing a job as a public school teacher. Each one of these jobs was met with the cringeworthy social interactions of Ms. Horvath. Memorably, her back-and-forth quitting at one of the most respected magazines on the planet, and her public meltdown before deciding to throw in the towel on higher education.
The teaching job, where the audience left her at the end of Season 4, seemed to offer her a certain stability; but as had been the case before, fans watched the heroine of Girls awkwardly violate the contracts of adulthood — again, memorably, by aggressively sending private text messages to a high school student she wanted to be friends with.
Moments like these are the hate-it or love-it breaking point of Girls. For those who find themselves seeing a little bit of their own lives in Lena’s life skills ineptitude, it’s nice to see someone on screen who just may have had more self-inflicted humiliating moments than you. For others, she’s completely intolerable and makes the show too frustrating to watch.
Yet the more that the Girls grew up, the less engaging the show became. Season 4 was regarded nearly across the board as the weakest offering yet, even though it saw Hannah making some of the most levelheaded decisions she had on the show (saying no to getting back together with Adam Driver’s character among them). Most longtime viewers can probably agree: Dunham was a lot more entertaining when she was even more clueless and selfish.
That’s not to say watching Girls get its act together hasn’t been satisfying. It’s great to see that Horvath is indeed capable of learning from her mistakes, and one can only hope that Season 5 will be full of moments that will further re-affirm that she’s not the same person early seasons present. Maybe Hannah isn’t that girl asking her recently deceased agent’s wife about her pending book deal at his funeral anymore.
Either way, Girls is down to its final act with just Season 5 and 6 left before it permanently closes down shop. Despite the slow ascension to maturity of Horvath and the other three women who lead the show, it does seem like that arc is coming to a close. After all, how are things supposed to conclude: Hannah as a mother-of-three/investment banker?
In the end, Lena Dunham’s show as it stands is one that’s occasionally funny, often messy and rarely compelling. While devotees tune in to watch the Girls Season 5 premiere Sunday, one might wonder how many of them have graduated from pirating it online to streaming via paid HBO Go subscriptions. If the series is any example, the former group would probably make better TV.
[Image via Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]