Girls wraps a staggeringly good season five but will Emmy take notice?
HBO’s Girls hasn’t been much of an Emmy contender since receiving a series-high five nominations in both its first and second seasons. That probably has more to do with a cooling off period of star/director/writer Lena Dunham than of the actual quality of the show itself. While none of Girls‘ seasons have been bad, there was a sense of exhaustion around the series leading into its fifth season. Surprisingly, setting an end date (Girls is slated to end in 2017) seemed to have rejuvenated Dunham and company’s creative juices.
Girls season five has eschewed traditional sitcom tropes by further exploring the growing divide between its main characters. As a result, it’s a more emotionally honest season than anything that’s come before. These final hours are most definitely Girls‘ finest hours, the strength of which was echoed in tonight’s hour-long season finale. The next question to pose is just how will Emmy react to the creative growth on display?
The best bet continues to rest with perennial Supporting Actor contender Adam Driver as Adam. He hasn’t missed a nomination since his first from season two. Season five provides ample evidence that Kylo Ren (couldn’t resist) is likely to repeat with the season finale giving him an emotional fight scene with costar Jemima Kirke (Jessa). Kirke could break the Emmy curse against Dunham’s supporting females, none of whom have been able to break into the Supporting Actress race. Not even when last year saw a bizarre eight nominations in that category. Still, Kirke pops more this year than in previous seasons as Jessa seems to be growing up at a faster rate than her once-close friends. Emmy voters pre-disposed to watching Adam Driver’s material may give her a boost since she spends most of her on-screen time with him as they wrestle with a new relationship.
Also potentially competing for Supporting Actor this year is Andrew Rannells as Elijah. Elijah’s always been a reliably funny if slight presence, the gay best friend who says witty things or cuts through the (ample) bullshit. Yet, season five has seen him try to make something of a long-term relationship with potential guest star nominee Corey Stoll (House of Cards). The season finale gives him his “love me, pick me” moment, complete with real tears in his eyes. It’s a sad moment that provides ample evidence of Rannells strength as an actor beyond the witty bon mots. I’d be thrilled to see Rannells recognized above Driver for once.
Allison Williams, dinged for being the pretty face in the group and for that Peter Pan Live! thing, is as steady as ever this season. Dunham gives her a great gift in “The Panic in Central Park” where her character, Marnie, reconnects with an old flame during a night out in New York City. Williams is perhaps slightly underrated in the role, but “Panic” gives her a bittersweet outing as Marnie struggles to accept her mistakes and bad marriage. Still, I don’t see Williams getting close to a nomination, even if she turns in very nice work. Ditto for one of my personal favorites Zosia Mamet as “Shosh.” Even though her character’s Japanese outings provided much of the buzziest material this year, Mamet isn’t the kind of actress that seems to register with a broad voting body. I’ve often thought she was the best of the supporting players, but she never seems to get the attention she warrants. Sadly.
And what of Dunham herself? Where she once received acting, directing, and writing nominations in a single year, she missed on an acting nomination last year. The Television Academy seems to be hip to her portrayal of Hannah Horvath as an unapologetic mess, so you can’t count that against her. What’s perhaps in Dunham’s favor this season is the gift she’s given herself in two separate episodes. In “Hello Kitty,” she is confronted with Adam and Jessa’s new relationship, and her reaction is hands-down Dunham’s best acting on Girls. Her struggle to contain both her tongue and her emotions as Adam and Jessa slink away into the night was a feat to behold. Check it out, Television Academy. This is acting. To top that, Dunham closes her season with Hannah giving a monologue about jealousy and her reaction to the betrayal at the hands of Adam and Jessa. The scene is expertly written and delivered, a poignant blend of humor and acceptance with a smattering of her patented self-deprecation.
It sort of illustrates the great personal and emotional growth experienced by all cast members in Girls season five. It’s rare that a series toward the end of its run can shake Emmy fortunes and return to awards prominence. Yet, if any series could do it, then I imagine Girls would be a great candidate. Season five was that good.
Adam Driver, Supporting Actor
Lena Dunham, Lead Actress
Jemima Kirke, Supporting Actress
Andrew Rannells, Supporting Actor
Becky Ann Baker, Guest Actress
Corey Stoll, Guest Actor