With Monday's announcement that HBO has renewed its critically-acclaimed series Girls for a second season, we figured now would be a good time to start bringing you up to speed on one of TV's smartest new shows. Girls may feature more awkward sex than thousand prom nights, but the show is ultimately more concerned with what's happening in its characters' than heads than in their bedrooms, and this week's episode was a prime example of how adeptly the show uses its characters love lives as a means of exploring what really makes them tick.
The creator and star of Girls, Lena Dunham, is more fixated on the risks involved with casual sex than the pleasures (she's a total Charlotte, someone who often makes people want to punch them in the face might say), so it was only a matter of time before she afflicted her protagonist with an STD. Dunham's character, Hannah, finds out that she's contracted HPV while in the presence of her dim-witted friend with benefits. She accuses him of giving her the disease, and he insists that he was recently tested and came up clean. If you're like me and you shouted at the TV screen, "There's no way to know if a dude has HPV!" it's likely that: 1.) you know far too much about STDs and 2.) you should probably keep your voice down when talking to yourself about genital infections. Hannah, of course, has never read the HPV Wikipedia page, but more on that later.
While Hannah copes with her diagnosis, her BFF Marnie is struggling to work up some attraction to her doormat boyfriend. Unfortunately, he's recently decided to shave his head as a show of solidarity for a co-worker who's fighting cancer. It's a nice gesture, but in her words, it makes him look "scary…like Mickey mouse without the ears" and it may be the nail in the coffin for their boring, sexless relationship. Marnie moves on quickly, throwing herself at an arrogant artist who initially rejects her advances, but then leaves her with some NSFW parting words that leave her running to a public restroom to, um…take care of herself. Needless to say things aren't looking good for Baldy McNiceGuy back home.
At this point, it seems everyone is moving on except for Hannah. Party girl Jessa has finally found a job (babysitting, but still); Jessa's ditzy roommate Shoshana is now opening up about her inability to lose her virginity; only Hannah remains stuck – griping to anyone who will listen about a disease she feels she doesn't deserve. Hannah and Shoshanna open up to one another about their respective secrets while bonding over an episode of the gloriously awful game show Baggage. Shoshanna brings Hannah up to speed on the show, as though it requires context, explaining that one contestant "spends $1,000 a month on her weave, which host Jerry Springer thinks is unbe-weave-able." It's a brief, simple scene that manages to reveal a great deal about both characters while packing in more riotously funny one-liners than most shows manage in an entire season.
Shoshanna convinces Hannah to look up Elijah, her ex-boyfriend (and only previous sex partner), and tell him about her diagnosis. She reluctantly meets the guy at a bar ready to share her humiliating news, only to be greeted with a much greater embarrassment. Not only is Elijah now openly gay, when Hannah foolishly asks how he was able to have sex with her, he launches into a cringe-worthy explanation of her "handsomeness." Predictably the conversation turns ugly and Elijah insists that Hannah's dad is an obvious closet-case ("He wears a stud in his ear!") before telling her what every hypochondriac viewer knew from the start: there's no way to test a man for HPV and she's been lied to her by her promiscuous f*ck-buddy.
Few shows on television treat their characters as brutally as Girls, but while the series puts it's central foursome through the wringer week after week, it also takes time to remind us of the minor victories and giddy joys that come with trying to find your way in the world. The episode ends with Hannah and Marnie laughing at their problems while dancing to the annoyingly infectious Robyn song that's been stuck in my head for months. It's another understated scene that speaks volumes: we don't need a treacly Carrie Bradshaw-style voice-over to tell us that the girls will be alright – we know because their struggles are so universal that regardless of age, gender or lack of sexually transmitted infections, we've been there ourselves.