The sophomore slump. Sometimes even the greats can’t escape it. Case in point: after a debut season in which I was consistently forced to pick my jaw up off the floor by the mere fact that something like Girls was airing on American television, the second season fumbled a bit. I think there were a few things that made that second season a bit of a head-scratcher: like the show’s inability to maintain itself as an ensemble show, it’s transformation from a relatable dramedy into some sort of urban tragedy, and the fact that it seemed to exist in some weird alternate universe where every man in Brooklyn wanted to fuck Lena Dunham’s Hannah. So it’s been a pleasure watching this third season of Girls, in which the show seems to be on much more level ground, while still delivering the kinds of achingly real moments that first attracted me to this show in the first place.
This season, like any season of Girls, went off on a lot of different tangents, though I’d say the core of the season focused on Adam (Adam Driver) and Hannah’s now-stable relationship. I was never really sure what to think of these two as a couple, since in the first two seasons I got the idea that we were supposed to perceive Adam as a creepy weirdo who only wanted to do creepy weirdo things to Hannah in his bedroom. But I gotta say, I actually found these two to be pretty believable and compelling to watch as a couple. A lot of this has to do with the writers making Adam seem a lot more human (it helps when he’s not naked in every scene), and also I just think Dunham and Driver as actors have a very easy rapport with each other at this point.
As for the other characters, it’s still a lot of fun to watch Alison Williams’ Marnie flail her way through life, though her relationship with newcomer Desi maybe gives us hope that things’ll finally work out for her (but probably not). The motor-mouthed Shoshanna has continued to be a nice embodiment of pre-graduation expectations, though she’s unsurprisingly found herself struggling to recover from breaking up with Ray (still love that guy!). And then there’s the drug-addled Jessa, who I’m not sure the writers have completely figured out how to turn in to a dynamic character, but I say there’s still potential since I’ve always liked Jemima Kirke in the role.
I guess the big theme of season 3 is that Girls appears to be turning in to a show about how friendships splinter apart. The episode “Beach House” was a great microcosm of this, as the girls’ weekend alone turned into a verbal free-for-all that was witnessed by a bunch of hangers-on that these so-called friends seemed to find more interesting than each other. This is a pretty refreshing approach to TV friendship, especially compared to every post-Friends sitcom in which we’re supposed to believe that a group of people are going to be spending every waking minute cracking jokes at each other, even as they get older and their lives change in innumerable ways. Girls understands that these kinds of friendships are rarely built to last, and it’ll be interesting to see if the show continues on without these characters constantly interacting with each other.
I’d say this season also saw Girls regaining the three “r” words that are usually thrown at it by the show’s supporters: that it’s “real”, “raw” and “relatable”. For me, this season was particularly relatable in the way it handled Hannah’s time working at GQ magazine. As someone who still considers himself an aspiring writer, it certainly hit home to see this character dealing with her own writerly aspirations weighed against the fact that we all need to eat. And though this season was a lot better at doing over-arching stories, it still proved it’s ability to do great stand-alone episodes with my favorite episode of this season (and probably TV so far this year) — “Flo”. This episode sees Hannah’s family dealing with the impending death of her grandmother (played by June Squibb), and the way it deals with a family’s internal quibbling combined with it’s matter-of-factness made death just one more universal subject that Girls has portrayed in a bracingly honest manner.
This is kind of a no-brainer, but another thing that’s been nice about this season of Girls is that it’s given people less reasons to bitch about it. There haven’t been nearly as much of the gratuitous sex scenes, lack of minorities, or grating hipster-ism’s that make it easy fodder for internet trolls. Also, you’ve got to assume that those people have moved on to hating other things at this point, since Girls isn’t quite the social lightning rod it was two years ago. But for fans of the show, I think that’s a good thing. Now Girls can freely continue to crank out more consistently mature versions of itself, while the characters continue to make somewhat more stilted steps toward that inevitable thing we call adulthood.