There are only 32 episodes of Girls ever aired thus far, but that’s still 16 hours of binge-watching in order to be completely brought up to speed. If you’re a first-time viewer, you might want to go ahead and binge-watch before catching up, though watching the following six episodes could help if you just do not have the time. But if you just need a crash refresher course on the entire series, then in my opinion the following six episodes will serve you well.
It’s important to note that Girls is a deft series, by which I mean that watching on or two episodes per season can in no way give you a complete understanding of that season, even if it only contains 10 episodes. But what this will do is help you refresh your memory on some of the most important threads leading into season four: the state of Hannah and Adam’s relationship, for one, but also the education of Hannah Horvath, Jessa’s spiral, Marnie’s spiral, and Shoshanna’s forced entrance into the real world. But to reiterate, the nuance of the series can get lost. Here’s what to watch to refresh yourself:
1. Season 1, Episode 1 “Pilot”
You’re obviously going to want to start off with the first episode of the series. As I rewatched the pilot for the first time since 2012, I realized that it’s one of the best television pilots I’ve ever watched. It’s a showcase of the entire series and the characters’ internal struggles. As much as the cast likes to say that they’ve grown and changed so much since then, that’s not often the case. Sure they’ve grown, but as it so happens in real life, they haven’t grown much.
What you’ll need to know after this episode: Jessa is not pregnant. She says so in the episode, but she, in fact, is not pregnant. She wasn’t lying, however. She genuinely believed she was.
2. Season 1, Episode 7 “Welcome to Bushwick (A.K.A. the Crackcident)”
“Welcome to Bushwick” is sort of a turning point for the entire arc of the season. In it, Shoshanna and Ray meet which eventually leads to their relationship which is pivotal for both of their arcs going forward the entire series. By this point, Marnie and Charlie have broken up, and Marnie has to deal with the realization that she’s not as put together as she would like to pretend. Jessa gets a wakeup call that she needs to change fundamental parts of her very being. And Hannah begins to realize that she uses people, or rather exploits her relationship with them through her lens, for her own benefit. But as will be apparent in the next episode on the list, she gets what she wants (Adam) which doesn’t fully allow her to learn that lesson. It’s ultimately the basis for why she and Adam break up.
What you’ll need to know after this episode: Marnie and Hannah come head to head in the next episode. Their relationship is forever changed. Also, Elijah is Hannah’s gay boyfriend from college; he and Marnie sleep together (and fail at it badly) prior to the next episode on the list.
3. Season 2, Episode 3 “Bad Friend”
From one party episode to the next—both of which include huge “crackcidents.” But “Bad Friend” is important for all the reasons I mentioned about “Welcome to Bushwick.” It’s almost a natural sequel to that episode in that Marnie is still completely lost, and we see the developments of that. But what makes this episode special, to me, is how it relates to Hannah’s disregard for those in her life, so long as it makes a good story.
What you’ll need to know after this episode: Shoshanna grows tired of Ray and cheats on him (not just handholding either, as she later tells Ray it was).
4. Season 2, Episode 9 “On All Fours”
Perhaps the most memorable episode of the series, “On All Fours” is a showcase of the dark and the cringeworthy. By this point in the season, Hannah has isolated most of everyone she knows, delaying her e-book work in the process, growing her anxiety, and eventually re-triggering her OCD. In this episode, Adam begins to realize that normalcy isn’t exactly what he was looking for, and that he could be completely himself with Hannah, which causes him to lose his sobriety.
What you’ll need to know after this episode: Marnie and Charlie get back together, but then promptly break up. Hannah begins to find some professional success after being hired at GQ but sabotages herself in the name of her supposed integrity as a writer.
5. Season 3, Episode 10 “Role Play”
This is one of the more traditionally humorous episodes of Girls. We have Hannah trying to salvage what little she has left after quasi-quitting, actually getting fired from her job. She goes to the extremes to try to bring out the darkness in Adam that we witnessed in “On All Fours,” which he has grown past in light of his new creative outlets and getting into a comfortable groove with Hannah. But this is also a good showcase for Jessa, as we see that without proper help, she has hit a certain rockbottom.
6. Season 3, Episode 12 “Two Plane Rides”
You can’t be ready for the season four premiere without watching the season three finale. When one door closes, a window opens, and that’s exactly what happens to Hannah.
As I mentioned, you won’t get to all the nuance in each individual season. Season three deals with death and self-sabotage in the wake of professional success, as an example. But this should get you started on the important zigs and zags of everyone’s arc and allow you refresh your memory on where each character is mentally for the start of season four—in three hours instead of 16!