Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Girls: The Complete Second Season' on Blogcritics.
With the first season of HBO’s Girls, Lena Dunham flipped the bird at another HBO show, Sex and the City. Thankfully, my wife abhors the so-called “shenanigans” of Carrie Bradshaw and company, but she does love Girls.
For most women in their 20’s, she should be a god-send, shedding light
on what it’s really like to be young and naïve while trying to meander
their way into full-blown adulthood. But Girls isn’t strictly for
the ladies; there’s every bit as much fun to be had for the boys too.
How much of that comes handed down from producer Judd Apatow we’ll never
know, but there are at least two major characters who are given the
chance the shine in Girls: The Complete Second Season, now available in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Digipack.
In season two, we find the Girls
a little more lost than they were in season one. Hannah (Dunham), has
decided that she wants to be more in control of her relationships and is
dating Sandy (Community’s Donald Glover), while dealing with
taking care of Adam (Adam Driver), who’s suffering from a broken leg
after getting hit by a truck in last season’s finale. Hannah also winds
up taking shelter with a man named Joshua (Patrick Wilson) who helps her
see that all she really wants in life is to be happy; easier said than
done. Hannah is also offered the chance to write an e-book from a
publisher (John Cameron Mitchell), to author a tell-all about her sexual
misadventures (usually gone wrong).
Meanwhile, the rest of the group isn’t finding life any easier.
Marnie (Allison Williams) has just been downsized from her job and must
deal with the fact that Charlie (Christopher Abbott) is more successful
than ever running an internet company. Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is
finding herself on a sexual awakening after losing her virginity to Ray
(Alex Karpovsky) in season one, who is now also her boyfriend. And Jessa
(Jemima Kirke) has just returned from honeymooning with her husband
Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd), only to find out that the honeymoon was over
before it even began. Can the girls find peace with themselves and each
other this season? Not to delve into spoilers, but the answer is a
little yes, and a little no — which is exactly how things should be in
this self-absorbed, neurotic land of Girls.
Blu-ray, the MPEG-4 AVC encode looks exactly like the first season,
which is mostly positive. The only drawback to the digitally shot
production is that the series has a very flat look to it. While
details are exuberant, the blacks could stand to be just a tad inkier,
but I suppose that if that were the case, there would be a lot of little
details we’d miss. We should be able to read the writing on the dinner
plate hanging in Hannah’s kitchen, and the cross-stitch sign that reads
“You’re a Hooker” on the wall of her living room. Since it is a digital
production, everything has a smooth look to it, but noise never creeps
in either. The audio comes in a 5.1 DTS-MA HD which delivers more
subtlety than most shows, but since the characters are mostly sitting
around their apartments, the surrounds kick in nicely whenever they
attend a party or when Michael Penn’s score is finally used. Dialogue is
mostly crisp and clean, which should be expected considering that’s
almost all the show is.
You want special features? You got em! Girls: The Complete Second Season
comes fully loaded, covering everything you could possibly ever want to
know about the making of the show and then some. Disc One features
audio commentaries on episodes 1 (featuring Allison Williams and Andrew
Rannells), 3 (director Jesse Peretz), 4 (Peretz, along with Zosia Mamet
and Alex Karpovsky), and 5 (director Richard Shepard). These four
commentaries are admittedly, the most boring, self-congratulatory
commentaries of the bunch. Listening to Shepard drone on and on about
things he used to try to mess with the viewer to decide if any of it
actually happens just comes across as super smug. Just because none of
the other Girls were there, doesn’t mean we have to question Hannah’s lucidity.
disc two, the commentaries fare much more entertaining. Episode 7
brings back Shepard who makes it clear that he loved working on the show
(even if he delivers two of the more boring episodes — particularly
episode 5); episode 9 features Dunham for the first time, along with
producer/co-writer Jenni Konner; and finally, episode 10 delivers the
true goods featuring Dunham with the man who gave the show life,
producer/co-writer Judd Apatow. Lots of anecdotes abound on disc one,
but disc two’s are definitely worth a listen; especially episodes 9 and
Disc One and two features 32-minutes worth of interview clips with
Dunham called “Inside the Episodes,” which are Dunham, by herself,
discussing each episode in 3 minute bursts. Disc one has a 23-minute
“Episode Five Table Read” which is even more boring than the episode,
which sheds light on the fact that it originally had a happier ending
which would not have worked. Disc Two has a segment called “Guys on Girls” which runs 18 minutes and is highly entertaining. Dunham meets up with the boys of Girls
— Alex Karpovsky, Adam Driver, Christopher Abbott, and Andrew Rannells —
to discuss what it’s like to be on the show and we learn how it has
even affected their personal lives.
of the aforementioned special features can also be found on the DVD,
but fear not, there are tons of Blu-ray exclusive features. “Deleted and
Extended Scenes” can be found spread out on both discs and run a
whopping 56 minutes. Clearly, each scene was cut or trimmed for time,
but if there are just as many laughs to be had in this collection as
there are in any episode. If there’s anything to be learned here, it’s
that the show honestly could have used more Adam Driver. Especially with
his dating attempts with Natalia (Shiri Appleby), whom Adam is hooked
up with after meeting her mother (Carol Kane) at an AA meeting. “The
Making of Girls” can be found on disc one with more interviews of
Dunham, Konner, and Apatow, while showing on-set footage and more table
“Charlie Rose: Lena Dunham” can be found on Disc One and runs 29
minutes, while Dunham is interviewed again in the staggering 86 minute “The New Yorker
Festival 2012: Emily Nussbaum Interviews Lena Dunham.” These two
features are probably for the more diehard fans of the show, but are
definitely entertaining thanks to Dunham. Disc Two rounds itself out
with the 10-minute “Gag Reel Part 1” and “Part 2,” and finally, a
“Music” section, consisting of two performances by Judy Collins, singing
“Song for Judith” (Open the Door) and “Someday Soon,” while the Swell
Season are joined by special guest Daniel Johnston to perform “Life in
Vain” from 2008’s Austin City Limits. While Judy Collins performs in
episode 8, there’s no reason for the Swell Season’s performance.
Considering it’s The Swell Season, there’s no reason needed; having them
included is a treat in itself.
As you can see, no stone was left unturned in the special features department, and Girls: The Complete Second Season
certainly doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump. Featuring stellar
video and engrossing audio, the season may be a little darker, but still
even funnier, it just left me wanting more from the misadventures of
Hannah and her “sisters,” making the Blu-ray set a must own for both
fans and the uninitiated alike.
Photos courtesy HBO