I think what I liked best about this season is that the characters haven’t really changed. They’ve been through life-changing experiences, and they’ve done stuff that seems like they had been changed, but when you get right down to it, the characters in the finale are the characters from the pilot. Yet now we know so much more about them that we have a better read on the situations they get into. We can see how much Hannah defeats herself and keeps herself from accomplishing her goals. We can see how Jessa’s impulsiveness gets her into situations she can’t easily bluff her way out of. We can see how Shoshanna’s relative innocence and naïveté keep buoying her up, rather than dragging her down. Of the four, only Marnie seems willing to embrace anything like change, as she takes an impulsive chance on the overweight officiant at the wedding, and that might have as much to do with her drunken, continued despair over Charlie as anything else.
Some might read this lack of change as a bad thing. Long-form narrative is supposed to be about characters growing toward something else and becoming more self-aware, right? And, yes, there are some series where that’s very much the case. Yet I think many of the best TV shows are about people who fundamentally don’t change, who remain more or less the same, yet continue to reveal new sides of themselves to us. They don’t change so much as our viewpoint on them does. I’d say Girls more than meets this challenge in its first season. We know these people better than we did in episode one, even if they’ve remained basically the same people. If you go back and watch that pilot, knowing what you know about the characters now, it’s obvious that Lena Dunham and her collaborators knew who these people were and were just letting us get to know them slowly. Someone like Adam—who was seen by many of us (including me) as a “bad guy” back in the early days—now plays completely differently, since we better know who he is. It’s a really tricky feat to pull off, but when it’s done, there’s nothing quite like it.