When twenty-something aspiring writer Hannah Horvath first appeared our TV screens in October 2012 professing to be the voice of her generation – or at least a voice of a generation – Lena Dunham seemed to have tapped into something completely new. Unapologetically raw, honest, touching and hilarious, Girls premiered and set itself apart as a down-to-earth, tell it as it is counter to shows like Sex and the City. It follows a group of women trying to make it in New York without any pretense of glamour or sheen. What followed were two seasons of arguments with parents about them still paying for your phone contract; navigating the “battleground” of sex; finding out your ex boyfriend is gay; accidentally smoking crack; and just generally worrying you’re getting life and growing up wrong.
Season 3, however, was different. At the beginning of Season 2, Dunham herself expressed anxiety with regards to the perceived second season curse, or challenge. She had created some people in the first season and now she had to figure out what to do with them – a challenge which she met and superseded. Unfortunately this past season feels like it has dragged a little, a lack of knowledge, perhaps, as to where these women should go leaves the series much less funny, fresh and exciting than it once was.
It was not without brilliant moments, however. Episode 9, ‘Flo’, was a particular highlight, with one hilarious scene showing Hannah and her impossibly uptight, socially inept cousin crash into a parked car. Of course, masterfully scripted family drama and infighting ensues, all against the backdrop of a potentially dying Grandma Flo. Girls has definitely grown up a bit this season; tackling heavier issues pertaining to death and full-blown miserable drug addiction than were its original go-to sources of social commentary and comedy.
It is significant that for a TV show called Girls, one of arguably the most memorable and successful episodes is one in which most of the main girls do not feature. The New York twentysomething girls’ world has become tiresome and they’re definitely creating an audience more endeared towards the guys. Each of the girls was always very real and very flawed, but, with the exception of Shoshanna, most of the time I just really don’t like them any more. Marnie in particular has reached impossible lows of self-absorption and is pretty much intolerable. Dunham admits in an interview for HBO’s YouTube channel: “She’s really…mortifying. But she’s so pretty so it’s confusing.” I’m not confused anymore, it is not fun or funny anymore, I just hate her.
What is really frustrating about her character, and of Jessa to a similar extent, is that there seems to be no growth or development. Their character arcs have pretty much flatlined, and both end this season in very similar places to where they started. Luckily, despite a somewhat lackluster season, the finale itself did exactly as it was supposed to and seems to have tied things up whilst creating enough to leave us wondering to justify the fourth season coming in 2015.
This episode brings us the welcome return of Adam’s crazy sister Caroline, in the most bizarre yet somehow perfectly fitting of circumstances. Having quit GQ advertorial work, or the “sweatshop factory for puns”, Hannah gets some life changing news. Marnie starts the episode ranting about how she has learnt she needs to: “have more respect for the emotional property of other women” following Hannah catching her with Ray; and ends the episode stalking Desi and his girlfriend, having kissed him. So…still no growth or development for Marnie then. Jessa barely features, except in a strange, jarringly heavy subplot which could spell trouble for her next season. Shosh is incredible in this episode; Zosia Mamet portrays her handling one piece of bad news after another with such comedy, balanced in a particularly touching scene in the interval of Adam’s stage debut (which is really heart-stopping in itself).
The Girls finale, for our main girl Hannah, ends very much in dialogue with where the season started. It did receive some criticism, but the offbeat, kooky nod to romantic comedy of the Season 2 finale of Adam running to Hannah’s rescue completely won me over. This season sees Hannah grow from her reliance on Adam to a big revelation in this episode leaving her happy within herself, for herself – and that is a very different and triumphant kind of exciting. Off the back of the whirlwind success of Seasons 1 and 2, Season 3 seemed to slow and drag and struggle to keep up. Fortunately, the finale did not disappoint and seems to suggest things are set to speed up. Though we may have become somewhat disillusioned with the narcissism and selfishness of these ladies, just as they both love and hate each other – they drive us crazy, but we’re with them. Dunham has successfully brought us into the world of Girls, and particularly after the drama and promise of this finale, I’m sticking around.