“This is the day.”
Something about a wedding warrants evolution and disaster in equal measure. In this way, a wedding is perfect to open the new penultimate season of Girls. The fifth season comes after a transitional fourth season that was above all else a tale of regression and arrested development. A wedding, especially one as ill-advised as Marnie’s union with Desi, feels like a false push into adulthood. This premiere curates a nice and expansive fertile ground for the clumsy growth we can anticipate this season. “Wedding Day” fosters a feeling of momentum throughout, suggesting that the end is near without calling too much attention to this truth. In that right, this episode has begun a countdown which insists these girls (and guys) better grow the hell up somehow and in some way quick or risk getting left behind because all of the self-indulgent flailing isn’t cute anymore.
The show is as funny as it’s ever been. Girls is not necessary a laugh-out-loud comedy, but it garners some good humor, some chuckles and perhaps one real moment of wide-smiling amusement. Here, the comedic verve is turned up a notch but thankfully does not do so by losing sight of its characters and their shared history. There’s a point in the episode where Marnie’s insufferable mother asks Marnie why she even bothers with Hannah at all anymore. Viewers have been asking this from day one, even some loyal fans of the show wonder why this group is still with one another. This episode calls back to a season three episode, “Beach House” ever so slightly and is all the better for it, a reminder that they are all they have…for now anyway. It is clear that even with everyone at this fixed environment, somewhere in a beautiful setting of upstate New York, their minds are elsewhere. Shoshanna’s time in Japan has her more spunky than ever, if you can believe it and Hannah is enjoying the less dramatic, more normal relationship with new boyfriend, Fran (Jake Lacy).
Fran clearly does not fit into this less than merry band of eccentric twentysomethings. In this group he stands out in a pretty acute way. Nothing about him (that we know so far anyway) is anywhere near the strange and excruciating faults regarding the crowd we have been watching for four seasons now. Everyone seems to like him fine enough, but…what else? Not even Desi, in the middle of his hilarious faux brotherhood speech (which for some reason includes Elijah) can find anything to remember about this cute-as-a-button normal dude, not even his name. But Adam sure remembers him. When Fran is jettisoned from the bridal suite by Shoshanna (courtesy of passive-aggressive bridezilla, Marnie) he inevitably runs into Hannah’s ex-boyfriend and they share a mostly non-verbal exchange that insists on a mutual trepidation regarding one another. It’s probably one of the funniest moments in an episode full of them. One might figure that Adam is still harboring some complicated feelings for Hannah, but there’s more going on behind the scenes…
What has come of Adam and Jessa’s friendship (a highlight storyline of the fourth season) now veers into some messy territory. It may be a predictable plot development, but with characters like Adam and Jessa, nothing is predictable at least not in a conventional sense. Wherever or however they go, both characters have a tendency to leave scorched earth no matter how lightly they intended to tread. The chemistry Adam and Jessa share is palpable and surely writing scenes between these two must come naturally. The scene they share together feels carefully calculated; Jessa is in mid-preparation for the wedding, curlers still in her hair while Adam is fully suited and prepared, which mirrors how Adam is perhaps ready to move on and jump into a new relationship while Jessa is still trying to figure out a way to reconcile her friendship with Hannah and her new attraction to Adam.
Their conversation at first comes across as innocent banter about the impending wedding until you realize that what they’re both doing is parsing where everyone stands in relation to them, especially regarding their relationships with Hannah. What’s interesting about this is that all Adam has done is transfer his affections onto Jessa who is a direct extension of Hannah—the show has on multiple occasions played up a big sister, little sister dynamic with Hannah and Jessa. Adam’s only choosing the other sister now that Hannah has thrown him to the wind and clung to someone else. Still, these two are sweet to watch together. It feels like this storyline might be a season highlight already.
But the meat of the story belongs to Marnie, who remains in rare form on her wedding day. She begins observing the setting, insisting that it’s going to rain. It’s the first line in the episode and one that carries the most weight. She’s already predicted her future, she already knows what she is doing is a mistake, even if she only half knows it. Still, the episode’s story isn’t about that. This is about how her friends will support her even in the midst of this big, depressing mistake. It helps that most of Marnie’s scenes, especially the ones with the makeup artist, Bebe (Bridget Everett) are hilarious. Even in the eye-rolling disaster of it all, she tries to persevere. Marnie may be delusional but she’s not dumb, so when Hannah gets news about Desi having been engaged seven times before and the ring on Marnie’s finger originally belonging to his ex-girlfriend, Marnie doesn’t really need to be told. The specifics are not necessary. In choosing to doing this, the episode sees Marnie making a leap from flailing twentysomething to married adult woman. And all she wants is the unwavering support of her friends on what may be the biggest day of her life, even if it is doomed to fail.
Hannah disregards Marnie’s feelings throughout the episode and is eager to tell Marnie of Desi’s sleaziness, half because of her inability to stay out of other people’s business and partly because she knows this union will change her and Marnie’s relationship forever. Sure, their relationship has been on the rails for a while now but one’s best friend getting married is no small change. No matter how much they’ve fought over the years or the amount of bitter feelings harbored, Hannah is worried about what happens next for her and Marnie. So she remains indignant contrary to Marnie’s pleas for support. What’s so interesting is that what Marnie says is true. She has in fact supported her friends wholeheartedly in all of their endeavors even if they seemed like mistakes and even if it was false support. I doubt she assumed they would learn from their mistakes and grow into wiser, more adult people but Marnie, even at her most judgmental, never outright disparages her friends’ dreams. Here, she is only asking Hannah to return the favor and even with Hannah knowing what she knows, she does it. As complicated as it is, this is growth and per usual with this show, one moment of growth declines another and makes room for brutal failure or clumsy triumph.
One of the most notable displays of growth comes with Ray, who arguably endures the most throughout the episode. After all, the supposed love of his life is getting married and he sits sulking, belly and chest full of misery and silent rage. Ray, expresses his feelings to an unsuspecting Fran with his usual dramatics and in the middle of a crisis remains astute enough to help the groom fulfill holy matrimony. The real MVP of the episode is Ray, without him Desi’s usual habit of running in the face of judgment would have prevailed. And that’s is at least partly what a wedding is all about; a judgment of commitment in front of all your friends and family. Then comes the actual marriage, which should fall into a dramatic nosedive by the end of the season. But for now, even Desi grows up a little and puts a ring on it. But how long will that last?
Girls has always seen its characters grow in baby steps—baby steps that struggle to balance the full ugly weight of a messy world with messy people who disappoint and enrich, often at the same time. It’s a frustrating walk especially with these characters, but it’s not gonna walk itself. This wedding feels more like a graduation, one that insists to everyone they will soon be disbanding their quartet and going their separate ways. At this point the show seems interested in exploring how growing people let go of friendships and relationships that no longer serve them and their development. Shaking loose from the muck that has informed foibles and contradictions may result in personal enlightenment and needed catharsis. This group’s journey toward adulthood is still a damn mess, but at least they’re on their way. “Wedding Day” gets 4 out of 5 stars.
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