Hannah (Lena Dunham) is attempting to take care of her infirmed on-off lover Adam and is also indulging in a casual relationship elsewhere. She has a new roommate, while her old one (and estranged BFF) Marnie is jobless, with vague plans of working her way up the trendy NY party set with her new artist acquaintance, all the while still hankering after ex, Charlie. Shoshanna and Ray reignite their former fling and Jessa returns from her honeymoon with new husband (Chris Dowd, relishing the opportunity to reprise his role as an obnoxious, wannabe-hipster trustafarian).
Creator and star Dunham has wisely chosen to adhere closely to the same winning formula of the first series. Hannah is still as flighty and overly-reflective (an infatuated ex-junkie neighbour ultimately recognises her true nature, yelling “You’re the most self-involved, presumptuous person I have ever met, ever,”). This time around however, Dunham has introduced an old affliction which has had a debilitating effect on Hannah in her past. In a lesser show, this could have come across as an attempt to boaster a flagging mid-season plot, but here it feels like a natural and organic extension of the character.
There is also much more room for the male figures to breathe this time around, with Ray (a coarser, more aloof version of that nebbish Woody Allen archetype) receiving a hefty screen time and a little more of a character arc. It’s down to both the writing and Alex Karpovsky’s pitch-perfect performance that Ray remains a very watchable creation, despite his egregious flaws. Tortured artist Adam (the great Adam Driver) also takes on somewhat of a transformation, becoming more humanised. He is given a new, sophisticated girlfriend who unexpectedly brings out the gentleman in him, however fleeting that may be.
Even though each episode attempts to cater for all the characters and the world around them, Dunham allows for the odd narrative deviation. Episode five (entitled ‘One Man’s Trash’) is a wonderful standalone story, recalling the kind of brief but meaningful human interaction found in the classic short stories by the likes of Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolf. In the episode, Hannah temporary shacks up with a rich doctor in the midst of a divorce (Patrick Wilson), who lives around the block from her work. Realisations are explored and worked through by Hannah (in-between bouts of energetic love-making!) and it’s the kind of nuanced, deftly-written episode which will undoubtedly be singled out for solo recognition, come awards season.
Season 2 rarely puts a foot wrong, and Dunham and her creative team (including co-writer/producer/project godfather Judd Apatow) maintain that perfect balance in their characters, walking that fine line between solipsism and empathy, with a sometimes risky blurring of both. Dunham is fast turning into of the decade’s great writers, and like Hannah’s continuous shedding of her clothes, she shows little inhibition when it comes to digging deep and showcasing those less-than-appealing human traits we all possess. Long may she rein.