GIRLS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Blu-ray)
HBO Studios / 2013 / 300 mins / TV-MA
The women of GIRLS are not the typical TV-image of females. The main characters are mostly young, flawed individuals trying to find their way in life as they hop from job to job and partner to partner. Think of it as a hipper, more realistic version of SEX IN THE CITY. And while the characters of this show are thoroughly developed, they seem to be thrown into some very ill-fitting scenarios.
In fact, most of these episodic situations seem completely unneeded as there is plenty going on. Hannah (Lena Dunham) is struggling with her mental state and writing career after breaking up with Charlie (Adam Driver). Marnie is trying to find a new job after being fired and also breaking up with her boyfriend. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is trying to settle down with her husband Thomas-John (Chris O'Dawd), but feels like she knows nothing about him. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) struggles to make her relationship work with Ray (Alex Karpovsky). Their lives and relationships evolve in a manner that may be uncomfortable to watch, but feel very real.
Unfortunately, this season takes a wrong turn when it tries to cram certain odd situations into the story. Sometimes they seem pointless as when Hannah sleeps with a doctor for one episode only. Sometimes they feel stock as when Jessa visits her strange parents out of town. And sometimes they're just bizarre when Hannah decides to take cocaine for her writing assignment (by recommendation of her employer no less). Elements like that really remove the series from what it's all about. It's hard to root for Hannah when she does stupid things like snort drugs to be inspired especially since it's treated like a one-shot joke.
The series is written/directed by Lena Dunham (who also plays the character of Hannah in the show) and is executive produced by Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP). And it certainly has that Apatow atmosphere of natural jokes mixed with moments of maximum awkwardness. That being said, the show is certainly not for everyone with how unpleasantly the characters break-down in their scuffles. They're the kind of moments that are less like juicy drama and more of those situations where you feel like you should just leave the room. Whether it's one of the characters struggling through a breakup altercation or Hannah coping with her OCD, it gives the show a bitterly truthful taste.
GIRLS does receive points for having an unusually natural flow. The arcs these characters go through are quite organic and really give the show flesh and blood. Some of these characters you'll love and some you'll want to reach through the screen and strangle, but none of them feel one-note. That is what makes the series truly enjoyable. It's just too bad these great characters didn't have better plots to work with, even if they are strong enough to hold the series.
The 1080p transfer is stellar given how the show was shot digitally. The video is rich and smooth as you'd expect from digital video, far superior to that of the HD broadcasts.
The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 track is just as brilliant with a wonderful mix of crisp dialogue and accenting ambiance. The music, in particular, is perfectly balanced and really enhances such scenes as the thrilling season finale.
The most interesting extra on the two-disc set is the featurette Guys on Girls in which Lena Dunham has a roundtable discussion with the male protagonists of the show. It's a lengthy segment and provides some interesting perspectives on how these characters are portrayed.
Plenty of insight is provided by series writer Lena Dunham in other extras including her interview at The New Yorker Festival and The Charlie Rose Show. There is also the HBO standard Audio Commentaries and Inside the Episodes featuring more Lena.
A handful of deleted/extended scenes as well as a mildly amusing gag reel are included. There is also a table read of the fifth episode if you're still more curious about what goes on behind the scenes.
Rounding out the set are some extras that focus on the music from the show which includes extended scenes and music videos.
Despite some missteps in this season, GIRLS still works for both its characters and controversially provocative nature. It may be one of the most truthful depictions of 20-somethings on television, flaws and all. If you like your dramedies raw and relatable, GIRLS comes highly recommended.