Girls 5×04 ‘Old Lovers’: Recklessness and reservation

Girls 5x04 Cover

Relationships, especially in your twenties, are far more complicated than they were before. It’s not necessarily about preserving those relationships at all costs, and it becomes more about how valuable specific relationships are. As you become busier and more entrenched in professional life, high-maintenance relationships can simply be too much to handle. And it can really hurt to let those relationships go, but sometimes that’s all you can do. Eventually, you have to find a balance between having relationships serve you and serving others through relationships. And that balance is brutally difficult to find.

Girls 5x04-1

Source: HBO

Girls, in its fifth season, is doing a great job showing how people actively try to shift into more adult roles as they get older, only to find themselves coming up with a mixture of painful failure and sweet success. The main four female characters were such close friends in the first season (or as close as friends can really be), but growing older and shifting priorities can make it difficult to keep those relationships together. Sometimes, those relationships can just be more comfortable than anything else, keeping you in a comfort zone in order for you to feel like you’re not alone or isolated.

Girls 5x04-2

Source: HBO

Really, the best development in this season is the growing relationship between Jessa and Adam. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was buying their romance, but their connection is crafted in this really complex fashion, where it’s informed by Adam’s somewhat impulsive desire and Jessa wanting to show restraint in her life. It’s no mistake that this episode, the one where Jessa and Adam finally sleep together, is one where Jessa does little else but study for school and go to AA. She’s trying to become something better and is scared that changing things or acting on old impulses is going to shatter that growth. It’s brilliant to place Jessa in this scared, vulnerable position, pivoting her from reckless to extremely reserved in order to show how nervous she is about sliding back to old habits.

Girls 5x04-4

Source: HBO

But Jessa needs to find a balance between recklessness and reservation. It’s morally okay for her to be with Adam, as Hannah is with Fran and has been broken up with Adam for what is probably close to a year. But she hides behind the issue of morality in order to keep from being reckless at all, from starting up a new relationship and acting on a sexual impulse. And it makes sense. Hannah is still incredibly reckless, pulling Fran out of his classroom and having a personal argument in front of a student. Even though Fran instigated it, Hannah still responds to that instigation in a wildly inappropriate manner. So Jessa pushes Hannah away, even if some of her grievances aren’t entirely unfounded (Hannah probably should have known that the rice pudding shop doesn’t take American Express, though it’s really nothing more than a minor infraction). But even though Hannah does try to address Jessa’s behavior, she does what Hannah always does, pushing the conflict over the top, making everything worse. The reason Jessa goes to Adam in the end isn’t just because she’s upset or because she needs him. It’s because she realizes that neither recklessness nor reservation work at all. It’s something more complex, something she has to navigate.

Girls 5x04-3

Source: HBO

Elijah’s new relationship plays into this as well. Elijah has always been a reckless character, the kind of guy who parties and fixates on what keeps him excited and happy. And this budding relationship with Dill is very exciting to him, as Dill is famous and gives him the attention and he desperately wants. It’s almost as if he gets a sort of high from it. But it’s an imperfect high, as their first sexual experience is very awkward (as all first sexual experiences are). Despite that, there’s something to be said about going through that sexual experience with another person and coming out the other side enjoying it. Adam and Jessa have very awkward, very bad sex, but they love every second of it. Sometimes simply being with somebody else irons out the awkwardness, making it not such a big deal. Sometimes life is about embracing the imperfection that, however flawed and imperfect as it may be, still just works.

Season 5, more than Season 4 and maybe even Season 3, is doing a fantastic job pushing Girls into new territory, to the point that it almost feels like a different show. Everybody is trying to figure out the best way to move forward in the world, to become “adults” and achieve some level of maturity that they can’t quite measure. And it’s horribly difficult, as there isn’t some set definition of what you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do. Really, all you can do is be like Jessa, oscillating between behaviors and trying new things, feeling around for what seems to work best. And while trying something new might be a mistake, sometimes it can be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

What do you think of Season 5 of Girls so far? Do you like the development between Jessa and Adam? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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