Season premiere review: ‘Girls’ – ‘Iowa’

“Girls” is back for a fourth season – having already been renewed for a fifth – and I have a review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I think you'd be an amazing “SVU” victim…

Season 4 begins in a way that's at once identical to how the series began and an illustration of how much has changed for Hannah. Once again, she's out for dinner with her parents to discuss her future, but this time they're proud of her for getting into the Iowa Writers' Workshop (and therefore can ignore the passive-aggressive toast she makes about how they cut her off back in season 1), and Adam's now a boyfriend she can bring to dinner with her parents (even if things between them are very tense at best).

In fact, we see all four girls moving on (whether by choice or circumstance) in the premiere. Hannah's off to Iowa, Shosh has finally graduated from college (even if she'll only get a diploma in the mail), Jessa loses her job with Beadie when Beadie's daughter Vicki(*) learns of her role in the assisted suicide attempt, and Marnie and Desi are having a full-blown affair(**), in addition to trying to get attention for their music.

(*) Played by Natasha Lyonne from “Orange Is the New Black.” Given how the episode ends, it doesn't seem like we'll be seeing Vicki again, but Lyonne certainly fit well into the show. I'm hopeful we'll see more of Anthony Edwards and Ana Gasteyer as Shosh's parents, both named Mel Shapiro, which… explains a lot.

(**) The season was in production well before Allison Williams was cast in “Peter Pan Live!,” but I have to think that had Dunham, Konner and company known about it sooner, they still would have opened with such an explicit Marnie/Desi sex scene, which I think has forever ruined all versions of Peter Pan (even the animated one) for me forever. Thanks, “Girls”!

Last season, we saw the show struggle at times to service all the characters at the same time it was telling the story of Hannah and Adam's relationship, with Shosh and Jessa in particular falling behind. “Iowa” is about as ensemble-y as “Girls” gets, giving everyone but Ray at least one significant moment – I particularly enjoyed serious ac-tor Adam getting upset about his depression drug commercial, because, “They cut shit out that made it a cohesive story!” – and centering the episode on a scene featuring the whole cast (including newly-promoted regular Andrew Rannells as Elijah), plus recurring characters like Marnie's mom, Pal (still awful) and Clementine (unfortunately having abandoned her suspicions about Marnie at the wrong damn time). Given that Hannah's about to be 1,000 miles away from the other characters, it was a necessary move, even if, as a result, “Iowa” winds up feeling mainly like a table-setter for the season.

Still, the farewell scenes between Hannah and Adam, and Hannah and Marnie, were emotionally effective – every now and then, it's useful to be see that for all their fighting and period estrangement, Hannah and Marnie are best friends – and the final shot of Hannah in the back of the car, wondering if she's made the right choice even as her parents engage in road trip small talk, was an effective reminder that, as entertaining as many members of the ensemble can be, “Girls” tends to be at its most potent when it focuses on Hannah.

What did everybody else think?