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Complex male character part of intrigue of ‘Girls’

By From page B1 | January 17, 2014

HBO’s “Girls,” the much-talked-about dramedy from Lena Dunham, returned Sunday night to start its 12-episode third season.

The show focuses on the lives of four 20-something women in Brooklyn and their struggles to find themselves, their careers and their futures.

Since its quartet of leading ladies is the chief focus, it’s easy to overlook one of its most interesting characters, Adam Sackler.

Adam Driver plays, well, Adam, a complex character whose relationship with the audience as well as primary protagonist Hannah (Dunham) has swung like a pendulum.

Yet if any story can speak to the strength and depth of “Girls,” it’s Driver’s Emmy-nominated work as Adam.

For as rich and well-defined as Dunham has made her four stars, the show doesn’t treat its men as disposable. Adam and Driver’s work playing him are examples of how Dunham has a firm grasp on the perspective and voices of her characters.

Adam has been one of the show’s most elusive and interesting creations. Spoilers abound from here forward, so proceed with caution.

During the course of the first season, he could’ve been the show’s villain, but the audience gained a deeper understanding of him as the year progressed. He rebuffed the continuing advances of Dunham’s Hannah, escalating to the season finale, when she broke up with him.

When Adam returned in the second season, it came with an exasperated sigh. Hannah had him arrested early in the season for showing up at her apartment in the middle of the night, a move that rang true as righteous vindication and a fitting end for a character who had gone too far, been too intrusive and had gone full creeper.

But Adam wasn’t gone. He resurfaced and, in one episode, compared dating Hannah to playing a rigged carnival game. In another, he expressed frustration at trying to win her approval while they dated.

His alcoholism hinted at during the first season was fleshed out, with his confession during a meeting recasting the perception of their relationship. Instead of persistent refusal, he struggled to understand a woman he wasn’t sure about, then had the door slammed shut.

That set the stage for the final two episodes, when Adam’s decision to demean and ignore the wishes of his girlfriend, Natalia (left), during sex sparked discussion about boundaries and rape. The second season finale was the inverse of the first, with a shirtless Adam running through New York streets back to Hannah.

It was an effervescent moment to cap a season that was a downer, but demonstrated yet another shift in the audience’s perspective of Adam.

Much of the audience’s ever-changing perspective can be attributed to Driver, who plays Adam with the disaffected cool and confidence that belies the character’s often quirky behavior. A former-Marine-turned-Julliard-student, Driver has infused Adam with enough danger to make him scary, but enough pathos to make him sympathetic.

The future for his character and Dunham’s Hannah is sure to be a focal point of the ongoing third season. If the first two seasons taught us anything, it’s that reality never fails to bring its leading ladies crashing back to earth.

Yet getting crushed is how we learn and, so far, the characters of “Girls,” both male and female, do seem to learn.

What they will learn next is yet to be seen, but with Driver’s Adam along for the ride, it’s interesting to see which way the character – and the audience’s relationship with him – will turn next.

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.

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