When it comes to tv shows, I’m pretty integralist: I know what I like and I usually don’t give a chance to show which I know are not my cup of tea. I can surely change my mind and start watching something because friends rant and rave about it but it’s really a rare event. Last year I started watching Girls because of the hype around it, but I must admit it was a hate-watch: I hated everything about it (everything minus Jessa’s bohemian hairstyle and outfits), especially its protagonist, the “voice of a generation”, Hannah Horvath. I actually hated its creator and director, too: to my eyes, Lena Dunham was just a daughter of New York artists who had the chance to become famous thanks to her family privileges. I couldn’t find anything in the first season of the show which proved me wrong. Her verbosity, the careless exhibition of her body, the toxic and creepy relationship to the uber-creepy Adam: all about her made me hate her. I hated the character, I hated the show… yet I was kind of excited when the second season premiered. Was I wishing to see the show reaching the disaster point? Maybe, but this time I was glad to be wrong.
I appreciated the structure of this season, where the first 4 episodes remind the tone of the first season (but funnier), but things started getting really interesting in the exact middle of it, with the 5th episode, One’s Man Trash. The episode, directed by Richard Shepard, is probably the most poetic and saddest of the whole series, and it definitely marks a new step of self-consciousness for the protagonist.
Experiencing a taste of adult, settled life thanks to the encounter with a doctor, Joshua, makes her feel the complete loneliness and sadness of her own life. This is a very special episode, centred on Hannah only, beautifully shot and set (Joshua’s apartment is so beautiful and chic), an apparent peaceful pause forerunning her meltdown. Probably the reason why the show failed to get me was the inability to make me feel emotions (other than nuisance, I mean) for the characters. This gap was filled from the 5th episode on. In Boys (6th episode) we see how Hannah is having trouble in coming up with material after getting a deal for an e-book, and that is the moment in which what was roughed out in the first season becomes clear: she’s a loser, not because she has no talent, but because she’s unable to focus on her goals and to prove what she’s capable of.
All the tension she’s feeling on herself as a writer and a human being starts showing in It’s Back (8th episode), where we see her suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder: she repeats all her actions 8 times, thus trying to control a life which seems to implode. Though clumsy, not-so-supportive but stifling, her parents try to help her by forcing her to therapy. Everything about this episode is extremely sad and emphasizes Hannah’s utter loneliness: she’s supposed to be living an exciting time of her life, a twenty-something brilliant girl in New York, but the result is the reversal of the NYC girl cliché – Carrie Bradshaw and her friends (the four protagonists of Girls have often been compared to them) live on a completely different planet.
Tension grows stronger and stronger in the 8th episode, On All Fours, which presents one of the most terrifying scenes ever – Hannah sticks a Q-tip too far down her ear and she goes to a hospital. Even in a case of emergency, she’s alone. She calls her parents, who are unsupportive and un-reassuring as usual; her friends are nowhere to be seen; even Adam, whom she meets out of a bar, on her way back from hospital, doesn’t seem to care. This should make the Hanna-hating me happy – she’s finally been left alone in her misery because of her complaining attitude – but I actually feel compassion for her, and I can see myself in her. I’ve never suffered from OCD, but I know pretty well what depression is and I can tell you it’s hard to go out of that place alone. In those moments you see clearly your own state, you know what you must do to get better but you don’t want to because it’s so dam hard to set on foot again, and again, and again. You feel you’re tired of trying hard to be better, to be fine, and you’d only like to drown in your own sadness and phobias.
Together, the last episode, though not as good as the previous ones, gets all the girls (minus Jessa, who has apparently vanished into thin air) back into action: Marnie has finally won her Charlie back, while Shoshanna has broken up with Ray because of his negativity and hatred for the humankind. Theyseem to have forgotten about her “friend” Hanna, who’s feeling more and more miserable because she can’t write and is even threatened to be sued by her editor. Her OCD gets worse than ever and she dwelves into depression, which culminates in a tragic haircut, inspired to Carey Mulligan’s and performed by her neighbour, the junkie Laird. The symbolical meaning of this haircut is clear: she’s trying to change attitude, but at the same time she wants to look different, to be someone else (her inspiration is a famous actress) but her; the act could also be seen as if she were mourning for herself, for a part of her which is slowly dying.
The only person she can turn to is Adam, who’s restless and shirtless as always and runs to “save” her. The damsel-in-distress final scene has left me a bit cold, to be honest, but it’s a much-welcomed positive note in a sea of sadness.
When Adam lifts up the duvet under which Hannah is hiding, the girl we see is a pale image of the proud and confident girl of the first season. She’s scared and desperately in need for some love, for someone to care about her. One may assume she’s the same old whiny spoiled girl, who can’t cope with the difficulties of life; that’s true, I say, but whatever the case, she’s taken the audience to a dark place, somewhere uncomfortable which mirrors the experience of many of us. I’ve read Dunham has been harshly criticized for her portrayal of a mental illness, too, but I don’t feel like pointing the finger at her; on the contrary, I believe it’s important to speak more about these disorders, to draw the attention of the audience and the media on them. If a show is able to achieve this goal, it has all my appreciation.
Now that the second season has finished, I feel kind of sad, because I know I’ll miss Hannah (not the other girls). Something weird happened to me while watching these 10 episodes: it was like going through a self-therapy session, a feeling I had experienced only with My So-Called Life. It’s not a coincidence if both are coming-of-age shows: I’m a full-grown woman but I think that phase in one’s life (adolescence and the 20s) holds a special meaning and value, a kind of magic which will dissolve with time. Life goes on but a part of you, if you’re nostalgic as I am, keeps on bringing you back to the time when anything seemed possible, when dreams seemed attainable, but also when depression (and hypochondria, in my case) started biting, never to leave.