With an obliquely-titled second episode (“Good Man”), the fifth season of HBO’s Girls returns to its native New York, the ever-so-slightly heightened version of the real city that doesn’t quite require scare quotes but almost does. Marnie and Shosh have the week off (along with Marnie’s new husband Desi, assuming last episode’s wedding hasn’t already been annulled), as “Good Man” splits its time (girl-wise) between Hannah’s progressively less chaotic transition into adulthood and Jessa’s desperate attempt to fend off the newly-smitten Adam.
The cold open features the quite Girls-y scenario of Hannah, and then Fran, being awakened by what Hannah thinks is a burglar but is really Fran’s roommate, acting in a manner that Lena Dunham’s lead (characteristically using herself as a point of reference) recognizes bluntly, and with little diplomacy, as “crazy.” This almost leads to violence, and the event does lead to Fran moving in with Hannah and Elijah, with the immediate effect of threesome invitations from the latter and general third wheel-ness. (Next week’s episode, apparently, deals with the neat linear progression of this dynamic into full-blown relationship conflict, but we’re not there yet.)
Jessa and Adam’s imminent coupledom certainly seems all the more inevitable now, as Adam follows Jessa from an AA meeting to Coney Island, where they have a surpassingly cute day confronting a carny who owes Jessa $30 for unspecified reasons, proceeding to all manner of breezily pleasant diversions. The storm cloud hanging over the whole thing is the glaringly obvious, stated repeatedly by Jessa, that they will be a disastrous couple. Adam’s inadvertent killing of the goldfish he won for Jessa seems to bear this out as an omen, which he acknowledges. They then agree to “be together, without touching,” which leads to a funny scene of the two of them sitting on opposite ends of the couch, furiously masturbating just out of frame — kind of adorably tame by earlier seasons’ standards. They may or may not be doomed as a couple, however before the two fuckup weirdos ride dysfunctionally off into the sunset, there is certainly rather large drama with Hannah to come.
Hannah deals fairly gracefully with something that would likely have rendered her catatonic in the past, retrieving her father’s wallet from a man he’s traveled to New York to sleep with. This comes after Hannah left work early once both her school’s principal and one of her 8th graders suggest that “Goodbye Columbus” might not be the best reading material for middle-schoolers, despite Hannah’s typically self-centered yet literarily astute protestations. She manages to accomplish this despite Elijah flaking on her; he ends up meeting a charming Anderson Cooper/Shepard Smith-esque TV journalist instead.
Ray’s complete failure to convince the successful coffee shop across the street to stop their customers from stealing his lids leads to a scene where rival shop proprietors (Grace Dunham and Yassir Lester) hilariously and effortlessly thwart him. And, in the episode’s funniest bit of physical comedy, we are treated to the sight of Adam holding a baby more awkwardly than anyone has ever held a baby. It’s a scene that highlights one of the show’s ongoing marvels: no matter how inconsistently the part is written, Adam Driver always manages to make it work in any given moment.
In short, “Good Man” is a fine and pleasant episode of Girls. The series may not be as wild and crazy as its earlier and edgier self, but the even strain continues to fit neatly with the theme of maturation. On to next week!
Danny Bowes (@bybowes) is an artist and critic whose film and TV writing has appeared in Premiere, Tor.com, The Atlantic, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, RogerEbert.com, Salt Lake City Weekly, and The A.V. Club.