The first season of HBO’s Girls was met with endless critical praise, winning plenty of awards, and launching show creator and actress Lena Dunham to stardom. With the show’s sixth and final season premiering in February, the show’s fifth season finds its way onto home video release courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. Despite some standout episodes, the show has struggled to reclaim much of the magic of the first season, the fifth season feels more confident and assured than ever, and it’s an entertaining look at the struggles (and occasional successes) of four mid-20’s New Yorkers.
The following contains minor spoilers, and presumes the reader has watched the first four seasons of Girls.
At the beginning of season 5, all four girls are embarking on new adventures. Hannah (Lena Dunham) is taking a break from her dreams of becoming a writer to focus on teaching, alongside her boyfriend Fran (Jake Lacy). Marnie (Alison Williams) is getting married to her musical collaborator Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) has moved to Japan, and thriving in her new environment. And Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is studying to become a therapist, while slowly edging towards a new relationship that the show has been subtly hinting at for quite some time.
A lot of the appeal of Girls depends on your interest in the characters, and despite their foolish, obnoxious and occasionally baffling attitudes and decisions, there is something intrinsically enticing about each of the four leads. Girls has also built up an exceptional supporting cast, and characters like Elijah (Andrew Rannells), Hannah’s parents (the terrific Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker) and Caroline (Gaby Hoffman) are given compelling story arcs. There is a lot of rewarding material in season 5, which feels like the beginning of the end of our journey with these characters. While no episode reaches the greatness of season three’s “Beach House”, they remain consistently entertaining, and the show feels far surer of itself than in previous seasons. The fifth season manages to hit the reset button on quite a few of the characters’ lives while still staying true to their traits, allowing for new opportunities that feel organic, resulting in one of the best seasons to date.
The home video releases of previous Girls seasons have been absolutely loaded with special features, including commentaries, making-of featurettes, table reads, interviews and more. The latest season’s release is unfortunately sparse on extras, particularly in lieu of previous seasons. What is on the disc are small “Inside the Episode”, featurettes lasting a few minutes per episode. Mostly narrated by Dunham, each one picks up on both the broader themes of the episode as well as some bits of trivia. Also included are over two dozen deleted and extended scenes. Both Blu-ray and DVD versions come with a digital copy of the entire season, which is a nice touch. While what is here is enjoyable, it’s a shame that there is such a significant drop-off from the breadth of extras found in previous seasons.
As Girls enters its final sixth and final season in the coming weeks, the fifth season regained much of what made the show such a cultural phenomenon in the first place. The show looks beautiful and sounds great on Blu-ray, and despite the lack of extras, this release deserves a spot on the shelves of Girls fans everywhere.