Sophomore slump: Second season of Lena Dunham's 'Girls' aimless, scattered

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMarch 20, 2013 

Like so many entertainment writers across the country, I was taken by "Girls," the half-hour series about four 20-something girls living, learning and loving in Brooklyn, written and starring then-TV newcomer Lena Dunham when it premiered on HBO last year.

Despite emerging from relative obscurity, "Girls" was embraced by critics and audiences alike, Dunham became a household name (assuming your house also contains copies of The New York Times, whose writers couldn't seem to stop themselves from writing about the show) and the awards came rolling in.

Then season two premiered.

From the start, it felt like a different show, like a written-for-network TV rip-off of its former self.

Characters with whom we were once enchanted suddenly had muddied motivations and bizarre justifications for their erratic behavior and, worst of all, the narrative that flowed so effortlessly through the first season had gone missing.

Sure, there were beautiful moments, like the poignant, heartfelt chat between Shoshanna (portrayed by Zosia Mamet) and her boyfriend Ray (played by Alex Karpovsky) on the subway platform that felt like something out of Woody Allen movie, and I loved every second of Adam (played by Adam Driver) and Ray's ill-fated trip to Staten Island to seek out the owner of a vicious dog Adam stole.

But unlike the first season, there were no great episodes.

And I'm certainly not counting the "Louie" rip-off in which Hannah meets and, for a day, lives with a handsome doctor and then simply walks away, leaving the audience to wonder if any of it was real.

This season, which concluded Sunday, was an unmitigated mess.

Marnie, played by Allison Willams, is somehow engaged in the least interesting identity crisis in the history of television and though the odd couple pairing of Shoshanna and Ray produces cute moments, watching their relationship crumble produces very little actual drama.

And don't get me started on the out-of-left-field obsessive compulsive disorder that Hannah rediscovers after (finally) getting a book deal. Well, it's an E-book, but still ...

Dunham wants us to care about these characters and what happens to them but seems to have forgotten that we've only spent a (short) season getting to know them.

To some, this critique might feel like the press lying in wait for "Girls" to be anything less than brilliant than seizing on it with vigor and vitriol but that's not the case for me. I like "Girls" and I want it to be good.

It just wasn't this season.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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