It started in a bed. And it starts in a bed, again.
In a mirror shot of the pilot’s opening scene, Girls season two pans up from the feet of two intricately laced bodies. But instead of Hannah and Marnie, it’s Hannah and Elijah, her gay ex-boyfriend and new roommate. We see the differences right away: Marnie was uptight and questioning, a counter to best friend Hannah’s puppy-like inability to grasp consequences. But Elijah is fun on overdrive. He and Hannah plan parties with themes like “Japanese snack night” and finish each other sentences. Their Brooklyn apartment is no longer an eclectic jumble of mismatched colors and patterns, but a baby blue lacquered, twinkly lighted abode thanks to Elijah’s tasteful eye. In a lot of ways, he’s the perfect answer to last season’s Hannah vs. Marnie clash of the century. But, as Hannah’s soon to learn, you never really realize what you’ve lost until it’s gone.
Lucky for Hannah, she’s in a better place overall than last year. She has a steady job, a healthy home life and a new boyfriend, Sandy (Community’s Donald Glover). But she’s still nursing her secret tumor: Adam, who was hit by a car during an argument between them in last season’s finale. Adam is one the thing Hannah can’t seem to shake, her “third full-time job” as she calls him. Even with a new boy on the side, she still sits with Adam and watches movies, still tends to him when he needs it, and, thanks to a hilariously giant leg cast as a result of the accident, is responsible for cleaning his bedpan. Hannah even sneaks away from a party she and Elijah throw to bring Adam pain meds and granola bars. Unfortunately, Adam’s accident was an epiphany. He now realizes what he had with Hannah was special, and he wants nothing more than to rekindle that magic. “You’re the best thing in my life. I don’t know how to behave without you. I’d die if you go away,” he tells her. All of this correlates rather obnoxiously with Hannah’s newfound desire to be free. If this premiere is any indication, we’re in for a lot of turmoil between these two this year.
But even with her less-than-stellar love life, Hannah’s still better off that Marnie, who’s in the beginning stages of a quarter-life crisis. She’s shockingly thin, a fact she blames on her stressful break-up with Charlie, and a developing wino (she’s gulping down glasses in almost every scene she’s in). Oh, and she loses her job. And she doesn’t really have a home. It’s after an uncomfortable lunch with her neurotic mother (guest star Rita Wilson) that we start to see why Marnie is so unhinged: She was practically bred to be. Her mother, perky and fun on the outside, is calculative and controlling in conversation. She boasts about her own weight loss after derailing Marnie for hers, and laughs off her current fling with a much younger man. Marnie rolls her eyes and points out her mother’s hypocrisy, but it’s easy to tell how unsettled she is. Is this her fate, to put on a cushy shell but live scathed underneath?
Then there’s Shoshanna, newly de-virginized, who can’t figure out how to tame her attraction to the much older and less communicative Ray. They haven’t spoken much since the deflowering, and when Shosh shows up at Hannah and Elijah’s party, it’s clear he’s on her mind. When he arrives later, they awkwardly avoid each other at first, Shoshanna asserting her power over him. But she can’t deny her feelings, and when Ray confronts her in Hannah’s bedroom as she looks for her purse – and after some hilarious bickering about iPhone emotigees – they rekindle their flirtation with a passionate kiss.
The party doesn’t go so well for most of the other attendees. Charlie and his hipster girlfriend Audrey annoy Marnie, who gets good and wasted after running into them. And Elijah’s rich, older boyfriend George sings drunken karaoke and makes fun of the young crowd who won’t sing with him. It’s a particularly meta moment for the show – a way to call out the phony lifestyle white, urban kids from upper-middle class families play out when they’re freshly graduated from college and unsure of who, or what, to be. Most detractors of Girls have this very complaint: that Hannah and friends are selfish, spoiled and entitled. Which is absolutely true. But that’s what makes them so riveting. And no other show on television captures this demographic with such accuracy.
Take, for instance, the next turn of events. With Hannah’s help, Elijah kicks George out of the party. Then she sneaks off to be with Adam, leaving Elijah alone with Marnie. The two sing drunken karaoke together, before they start a heart-to-heart about what it is they want. Elijah isn’t so sure he’s even 100 percent gay, but is afraid of being bisexual when it’s the most taboo sexual orientation. Marnie grieves about her job and her loss of Charlie. The two are on two similarly disheveled plateaus, looking down at their once-perfect lives. And in the heat of the moment, they kiss. And then they have sex. On Hannah’s couch. Her ex-boyfriend and best friend. Her current roommate and her former roommate. And though it’s miserable sex that ends too soon and all but confirms Elijah’s true sexuality, it’s an act that can’t be undone.
“You know, you really don’t have to try to be anything that you’re not,” Marnie tells Elijah once they’ve finished.
“Neither do you,” he says back.
Meanwhile, Jessa returns from her honeymoon with doofy new husband Thomas-John, and isn’t sure what address to tell the cab driver because she isn’t really sure where they live now. They laugh it off, but it’s signifies just how little thought went into their nuptials. It’s almost a disservice to the part just how sweet Chris O’Dowd is – he manages to give pathos to a really unlikable character. The two fly off to their newfound domestic bliss, but it leaves a sour taste in the viewer's mouth.
The episode ends with Hannah and Marnie on the doorsteps of different men. Marnie, to Charlie’s, where she tells him “I just need to sleep next to someone tonight.” Charlie, still hurt from a tiff with Audrey, lets her.
Hannah shows up at Sandy’s asking to borrow a copy of The Fountainhead. Which is code for “I’m going to take off my clothes and wait for you in your bed.” Which she does. Without affliction or guilt.
It’s nice to have her back.