"Why are you so mean to me?"
"I'm always mean to you."
"Yeah, but usually it's way nicer."
The new trailer for the fifth season of HBO's Girls promises a wedding and Japan, but the most compelling reason it gives for tuning in is the possibility that the show might finally address something that's bothered fans and critics for years. Namely: Why the hell are any of these people still friends?
When the series debuted in 2012, it was about a close-knit group of friends. However, in recent seasons, the girls of Girls have become so disenchanted with each other that they barely share storylines anymore. Hannah, the frustrated writer character played by series creator Lena Dunham, got caught up with her boyfriend, left for grad school, dropped out of grad school, and tried to find new purpose. Her college friends Marnie (Allison Williams) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) dove into new work endeavors and set about trying to disentangle a lifetime's worth of personal hang-ups. Meanwhile, Jessa's cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) continued to flit around the show's edges, hyperactive and nervous, just like she had since the very start.
The characters' evolution and distraction from one another makes sense; drifting apart is what people do. But Girls has frequently struggled to acknowledge that the way its characters have evolved since season one makes them less likely to be friends, or even to regularly cross paths.
The strain of insisting that Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shosh share an impenetrable bond that can withstand even the greatest distances and nastiest fights is wearing on the show. Increasingly, even its best episodes can be stymied by efforts to force togetherness upon its characters, like making an estranged family hang out and grit their teeth at each other during the holidays.
There's no shortage of television shows about friends who live and dream of bigger lives together — but shows about friends who stop being friends are a much rarer thing. So at the very least, if Girls decides to tell the story of how four women in their early 20s "grow up and grow apart," realizing that the people they're becoming aren't compatible, it could end up telling a much more exceptional story.
Girls season five premieres on HBO on February 21.