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.
On 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.
On 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 10.
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.
All 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 reading.
“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