Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ Is Back And It’s As Brilliantly Unflinching As Ever

Girls is growing up, but guess what? It’s going to be messy. The season four premiere, titled ‘Iowa’, finds Lena Dunham’s Hannah preparing to leave New York to return to her native Iowa, where she’s been accepted into a prestigious graduate writers’ workshop. She and her boyfriend, Adam Driver’s Adam, are going to try to make the long-distance thing work, but as Adam tells Hannah, “the plan is there is no plan” – and he’s a bit rubbish on the phone.

Meanwhile, Zosia Mamet’s Shoshanna has finally graduated from NYU after a hiccup at the end of season three. “Now I’m just in the world, trying to get it done,” she awkwardly tells her ex, Ray (Alex Karpovsky), but Shosh doesn’t sound like she knows what “it” is yet. Allison Williams’ Marnie knows what “it” is – she wants to be a singer, and is now one half of a pretty twee folk-pop duo – but as she embarrasses herself on stage midway through this episode, it’s safe to presume her path towards musical glory won’t run smoothly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB8y4Zp9UNc

As ever, Jemima Kirke’s Jessa is the most frustrating of a wonderfully frustrating bunch of characters. At the end of season three, she helped Beadie (Louise Lasser), the elderly artist for whom she had become an unlikely carer, to commit suicide, only for Beadie to change her mind after she’d swallowed a fistful of pills. Now Beadie’s daughter has turned up to take her mother home to Connecticut with her, and Jessa gets one hell of a dressing down. “Every time I meet someone five or more years younger than me, they’re a complete asshole,” the daughter (played by Orange Is the New Black‘s Natasha Lyonne) tells Jessa – and the younger woman has no retort for her.

This line suggests Lena Dunham hasn’t lost her flair for highlighting the flaws of her over-entitled, painfully self-obsessed generation. This season premiere isn’t a firecracker of an episode, but it is rich in promise. Shoshanna and Jessa, both somewhat under-used during season three, find themselves at crossroads which could lead to fuller roles in season four – what will Jessa do now she’s lost her impromptu job caring for Beadie, and how exactly will Shoshanna try to “get it done” in the world? It’s also going to be interesting seeing how Hannah, a character who’s fragile even when she seems “together”, will cope with being away from her boyfriend, best mates and the buzz of Brooklyn. The only slight disappointment in this episode is seeing Marnie make a fool of herself yet again, though her performance at a so-called “jazz brunch” does set up the best line of the episode. “I didn’t want to see Marnie sing today,” says Shoshanna. “Because female folk singers remind me of being car sick when I was little.”

So Girls is back: witty, horribly relatable and provocative as ever – this episode features a sex scene so unexpectedly filthy, it feels like something from that other New York-based series about a fascinating female friendship group, Sex and the City.

Season four of Girls begins tonight (January 12) at 10.35pm on Sky Atlantic.