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Emmy FYC: Best Comedy Series - Girls

Emmy nomination voting begins Monday. For the next week or two we'll be sharing FYCs of some kind. Here's Chris...

Once a series falls out of Emmy's favor, it's rare for a show to bounce back into competition when up against unwavering favorites and shiny new toys. No show on television deserves to be welcomed back as much as HBO's Girls.

This year's fifth season was the show at its most character-driven, putting aside its zeitgeist grabbing self-referential devices in favor of a more laid back pace. Though its downshift in cultural focus arguably took it out of the headlines, there's now more breathing room to keep the antics organic and the progressions satisfying. Each episode is a self-contained gem with the story lines flowing coherently between them while it takes characters to emotionally rewarding places. It's the kind of payoff you only get from a incisively directed show in its prime. It's the kind of payoff that only comes from a show that knows its characters to the core. [More...]

There is a passion running through this past season for each character, especially the sidelined charactres. As Hannah has gained more emotional maturity, it's fitting that the show has become more sensitive to the wider span of its characters - with Hannah's parents (unsung heroes of the show Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari) and Andrew Rannells's Elijah becoming the key players they always truly were. As the show approaches its sixth and final season, the long game of character development is finally paying off in touching and unexpected ways.

Episode six "The Panic in Central Park" was a season highlight - an unexpected reuniting of Marnie and Charlie.The brief fling is a mini capsule of the series's deep sense of longing and regret. The rekindling reflects Marnie's abandon with other people's emotions right back at her, and she finally takes some ownership. Allison Williams has long been game for playing the thorniest character and developing shades to her selfishness, and here she makes Marnie's shift feel seismic. It's a heartbreaker that the show has been building up to, and drops at the perfect moment.

Interestingly, the show's near constant Emmy presence Adam Driver could be missing out this season but if Driver's Emmy place will be taken, it should be claimed by Rannells. He plays Elijah's need for validation as if Elijah is naive to his own emotions, as if he's still discovering himself. Aside from being as acerbically hilarious as ever, he delivers honest pain that's all too uncomfortably relatable. If it's anyone's Emmy time on the show, it should be his.

While Elijah learns that putting yourself out there doesn't always pay off, Shoshana similarly suffers from an earnest attempt. The show has struggled to make Shosh more than comic relief, but her Tokyo experience is the perfect showcase for Zosia Mamet to express the character's melancholy. Once she hits her stride back in America, it feels all the more triumphant thanks to the bubbly sad duality that Mamet does so well.

And of course, there's Hannah. The writing has stealthily revealed her present life as diversion - a nice boyfriend that's entirely wrong for her, a steady job for which she's unfit. She's as aimless as she's ever been, even if her trademark recklessness is comparatively muted. But the definitive trait she's really lost is her writing, a sudden realization that stirs her greatest moment of clarity. When she finally begins to write again, it's more confirmation that she's getting her shit together than any pseudo-decisive action thus far.

In focusing its narrative ambitions on character rather than the meta, Girls has brought its gracious and humanist heart to the forefront. This past season has broadened its sights without slacking off any of its insightful and hilarious pain. It feels like the journey to adulthood it is always trying to emulate. Don't confuse it for suddenly becoming a warm and fuzzy sitcom, but for the first time it's also telling us that everything is going to be okay. Even if there are still more mistakes to come.

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Reader Comments (12)

What a great season! I love this show. I can't understand how Rannells, Karpovsky and Zosia have never been nominated. Stoll, Abbott and Rita Wilson should all be nominated in the guest categories.

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

best season thus far.

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCineJAB

This season was so strong, the funniest it's ever been, and Alison Williams is the mvp of every episode she's in.

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Excellent analysis of season 5; definitely one of the best seasons of the series! "The Panic in Central Park" happened to be my favorite episode despite my dislike for Marnie. Great writing, acting, etc.

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

I could not agree with every single word of this any more. I was so impressed with the show this season, and even if it wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, Veep, it was so incisively written and directed, and so superbly structured, that I would be kind of upset if it didn't return to Emmy's good graces.

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

This season was the best yet, which is saying something. The only mistep fore me was the episode involving Hannah hitchhiking back to New York after a series of incidents leave her stranded out of town. Felt out of step with the season.

I hope Alison Williams in particular gets recognised this season. The Panic In Central Park episode was such a knock out for so many reasons, and she handled it so well.

June 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

I was really impressed with this season too. TBH i'd totally lost interest in the series but everything from Marnie's arc, to Shosh in Japan, to all things Elijah reeled me back in.

June 10, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Being very much NOT the show's target audience (I'm a geezer with twentysomething kids), I liked it from the beginning (I'd seen and been impressed with Tiny Furniture before it began), but I was slow to actually love it. It has improved steadily, deepening its observations and making better use of its large, excellent cast. I thought this season was absolutely outstanding, with fewer missteps than the earlier ones, and one instant-classic episode after another.

Ironically, my kids are now a couple of seasons behind, since I still follow the appointment-TV model I've always known religiously, but they "will eventually get around to watching it" on their computers. I keep telling them that the show has been great and they should watch it already!

June 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

I have no clue what it is or who she is,i am british though,maybe that show doesn't air here.

June 10, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

Best season of the show (definitely since the first). So very excellent and I'd love to see it brought back into Emmy's good graces for all involved.

June 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

This season was aces. I feel like in Season 5 Dunham got away from this urge to make it seem like it's about the friendships between these four women and instead made it about these four women on their own individual journeys. The result was very satisfying. And it makes sense. The age they are, that's the time in your life when you shed a lot of friendships that were just there because of college or habit, frankly. I can't wait for Season 6.

June 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Season 5 is the truth! "The Panic in Central Park" is a SERIES highlight BTW. The show itself deserves full-fledged Emmy nods this year, and start with the stunning Lena Dunham in acting, writing, directing, and producing.

June 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterReynolds

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