Bearing a freshly grown-out crop of bangs and a smile on her face, Hannah Horvath sits across from her parents in a spiffy New York restaurant. Listening to them each congratulate her for landing a coveted spot at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she raises a glass. And for a split second, Girls fools you into believing it’s betrayed its central conceit. That conceit of course being the self-absorbed and endlessly compelling Hannah, who in one breath stomps all over the moment with a back-handed compliment deriding her parents’ supportive natures.
For this quartet of twenty-something New York girls, nothing’s changed and it’s business as usual. Picking up almost exactly where season three left off, the season four opener bridges the gap between Hannah’s acceptance to school and her departure. It’s a sticky, messy period that’s a perfect petri dish for awkward exchanges and fumblesome attempts at maturity. And neither Dunham nor co-writer Judd Apatow miss any chances to wring out the embarrassment from those attempts.
As Hannah prepares to depart, the bulk of the episode’s action revolves around Marnie’s first ‘proper’ gig with her musical partner Desi. Still as risible as ever, her onstage banter borders on cringeworthy; proof that despite her desire to become a successful musician her hopes are strung together by rromanticized cliches. During her chatter with Desi’s girlfriend, she brazenly denies the pair’s clandestine affair (that’s bound to end badly, to paraphrase Elijah) in spite of their explicit season entrance. Where minutes before Desi was nose deep in her butt, her smiles and polite patter suggest that it’s really no big deal that she’s causing a world of pain for his long-term girlfriend. Her sole step towards change is her commitment to becoming a better liar, because, for Marnie the only time she’s ever important is when she’s with a man.
However, the best man she’s ever opposite has to be Elijah – Hannah’s former flame and Marnie’s one-time shag pal. Following Marnie’s crumble into tears after a heckle from a couple of kids, he’s the one who runs after her. As in previous episodes, he snags some of the sharpest lines that we’d all kill to say to Marnie; wake the fuck up! The music industry doesn’t pander to the spineless! Along with Shoshanna, whose brief scene with Ray showcases a new stage in their friendship, Marnie and Elijah’s post-coital camaraderie offers the show a much-needed centre of morality. A simple, straightforward, no-agenda friendship.