"I hate it when you look so concerned about me."
"It's Back" is a promising title for Girls with the series experiencing quite the decline in quality over the second half of the second season. The sophomore year started out very well for the comedy, with the opening four episodes equal to or better than any from the first, but ever since the divisive "One Man's Trash," things have been increasingly shaky. There are still moments of brilliance every week, the kind that can either reassure of frustrate fans, however, it's been too long since the series delivered a thoroughly solid episode. "It's Back." Is it? Can the eighth installment of the second season live up to its name and puts Girls back on track as the finish line inches closer? With only two more episodes before the end of the year, there's no more time to waste...
"So. Adam's bringing the cookies."
And waste, it did not! I've been saying all along that Girls works best as an ensemble comedy and "It's Back" was not shy about spreading the love and almost every single thread was engaging and enjoyable. Even if the driving force being one was a bit of a stretch or, maybe more apt, shoe-horned into the story. We'll get to Hannah and her OCD a little later, both the issues I had with the development as well as, well, how entertaining it turned out to be, but first I want to talk about the boys. I love the boys. Adam Driver is always welcome and immediately adds an extra bit of life, almost an ineffable spark, to any Girls installment when he appears. This time, he was on the periphery of the action, helping to kick start Hannah's crazy eights (nailed it) at the beginning of the show before going to AA and getting a date. From his reaction to the spoiled milk through his great speech and charming dinner, I was completely on board. Oh, and Carol Kane always kicks ass, Cloris was no exception.
"Vintage. You're about to make me cry and I don't even know you."
The other star of "It's Back" also happened to be a boy, with Alex Karpovsky's Ray once again stealing every scene in which he's featured. He and Shoshanna have been doing well since the big news broke that they had been living together without her knowing but their relationship went through the ringer, starting with an innocent enough fight about Shosh spending too little time with her girlfriends. This is a common problem for couples, especially young ones, and I didn't think much was going to come of it until we were introduced to the handsome doorman pre-party. It doesn't take long for her to realize she's now out of sync with her former crowd but just because she's not a party girl doesn't mean clubs are out of the question. Or the mail room, anyway. And can you really blame her? She went from virgin to living with her 30 year old boyfriend in no time flat, obviously, to use an old expression, there are going to be some wild oats to sow. Poor Ray.
"Marnie learned another life lesson, how adorable. Want a gummy frog?"
Of course, he could have just swallowed his pride an accompanied his girlfriend to her party (if he wants to date a college student, he should be prepared for some of the keg-party bullshit that comes with it) but instead he makes fun of her friend and tries to 'educate' his girlfriend by insisting that they abstain from the event. And from using air-quotes. This leaves him at home, well, her and Marnie's home, when the latter comes back from her trouble with Charlie. It turns out, Charlie has more talents than just music and has struck it big with a clever new app inspired by Marnie called Forbid. The meteoric rise seems a little unbelievable but time has never been too clear on Girls. Although the last three episodes had to all take place within the same month because of the book deal... Hm. Either way, Charlie, when he's not acting like a dick (justified or not) once again manages to make Marnie jealous and she returns home from work full of steam only to be supported and encouraged by, who else, Ray. Their exchange was my favorite scene of "It's Back," being awkward, funny, sweet and mean, all in a few minutes.
"You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are fine and good. You are good and fine. You..."
Let's get back to the real meaning of "It's Back," namely the introduction of Hannah's number eight (hey, that's the same number as the episode!) related compulsion. While the new character trait did come out of nowhere, you would think someone as self-centred as our heroine would have mentioned something as serious as OCD in the first eighteen installments, it also provided for some really fantastic sequences. Does that forgive the feeling of it being tacked-on? Not entirely but it sure goes a hell of a long way. The initial gags with the worried looks and chips had me worried but once her parents entered the picture everything changed, culminating in the 'classical' scene between Hannah and a new psychiatrist played by guest star Bob Balaban. I'd read about a world saving bionic dog. The challenging exchange comes to an end with the pointed but not overplayed 'are you okay?' before leaving us feeling cold with the lovely shot of the Horvaths on the subway. Yes. I think it is back.
Girls returns with Episode 9, "On All Fours," next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Lena Dunham, the series stars Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams, Adam Driver and Christopher Abbott.