Laura Donovan
May 14, 2014 11:00 am

Lena Dunham’s Girls has come such a long way since its debut, when Hannah is jobless and seemingly unmotivated, Marnie is together on the surface but unhappy inside, Shoshanna is the friend no one likes and Jessa loses her babysitting gig for almost having an affair with the dad. Perhaps one of the most talked-about shows online, Girls faced a ton of nepotism backlash when it first aired, and Dunham was understandably not receptive to all of the criticism but clearly incorporated feedback into later seasons. She’s a showrunner who values the opinions of viewers and non-viewers alike, and that’s one of many reasons she scored a fourth season before the third even aired.

When Girls was new to HBO, people called it racist for only including white people in a series about New York, a diverse metropolis. Trying to appease naysayers, Dunham put Community veteran Donald Glover in a few installments for season two. Of course, some remained displeased with the show’s approach to race, but it became apparent that Dunham worked really hard to grow her characters and listen to the concerns of those chattering about her passion project. I’m impressed with the changes she’s made, and it’s my hope that Girls can end on a good note next season.

Just look at how far everyone has come since season one. Hannah stops loafing around her apartment without a job. She takes baby steps and grabs some shifts at Ray’s coffee shop, and by the end of season two, she finds herself with an e-book deal. She’s gainfully employed by season three, and even though she walks out of that job for being too corporate and soul-sucking, her transformation is truly incredible, not to mention indicative that Dunham listens to critics and fans and tries to give everyone a solid product.

Hannah and Adam are now a real couple living together, not just late night friends with benefits. The relationship could very well change if she heads to Iowa’s legendary writer’s workshop, but even if they part ways, Hannah can say she dated someone who really loved and respected her. Adam may or may not be the last guy to ever fulfill that for her, but it looks like her days of hanging out with jerks (including the old Adam) are over.

Marnie is uptight and perfect in the beginning, but by season two, she has no job or boyfriend and it feels like everything she’s ever known has been taken away from her. She’s back to square one by the end of season three, but she’s done with Charlie and performing again, and flirting with different guys is probably the right thing for her at this time.

At first, I was frustrated with Marnie’s development because she doesn’t appear to grow or change much in seasons two and three, but as my boyfriend pointed out, a lot of young people can endure extended periods of failure, which Marnie experiences professionally and personally. I definitely know how it feels to be underemployed for far too long, so Marnie’s bizarre limbo period speaks true to the growing pains of young adulthood.

Shoshanna isn’t the hyper virgin we know in season one, and now that she’s finishing school and has no career prospects, she’s starting to become the person she once shamed: Ray, who admits he’s doing well thanks to her blunt remarks about his lack of ambition. Now Shoshanna gets to be the flailing unemployed post-grad, and from the looks of a New York Daily News report, Jessa has been arrested. I’m more than willing to bet it’s for agreeing to an assisted suicide in the season three finale, which includes the woman going back on her death wish and begging a panicked Jessa to call the police for help.

Jessa turns down her creepy employer’s advances, loses her nannying job as a result and marries a stranger in season one, seemingly blossoming before our eyes. In season two, she realizes tying the knot with a raging finance guy wasn’t going to make her happier or more mature after all, and once that ends, she goes to rehab, where yet another older man puts the moves on her. They have a weird friendship until his daughter comes into the mix and “steals” him away from Jessa, who is bored and all alone again. Apparently, she might also be going to jail.

Girls has been picked up for another season, and while I’m so excited to see what Dunham has in store for us next year, I also hope this is the HBO program’s final season. The characters have all changed considerably over time, and I don’t see it getting much cooler for Hannah than attending Iowa’s writing workshop. That’s a win for a woman we’ve seen come so far, and I know Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna will progress in season four as well.

Marnie already knows there’s more to life than appearances, and after spending some time with her mom, she’s not worried about looking perfect any longer. She just wants to go with the flow. Shoshanna will be humbled once she sees just how hard it is to secure employment after graduation, and maybe Ray will be there to support her. If Jessa indeed goes behind bars, perhaps she’ll make the choice to live a healthy life, once and for all, and not pretend a ring will solve that. Hannah’s e-book might be published too, and with possible enrollment at Iowa, she’ll be set and living out her dream as a writer. Some thought it was silly of her to quit her job, but I felt proud of Hannah in that moment, and I didn’t see it as her going back to square one again. I saw it as a brave move by a woman completely aware of her worth and talents, which she doesn’t seem to recognize in earlier seasons.

I have more admiration for Dunham than I can say, and with her upcoming book and comic book series, she’s going to have her hands full. Girls is one of her most successful ventures to date (followed by the great Tiny Furniture), and I want to see it conclude on a strong note, in part so Dunham can wow us with different creative projects she has in the pipe. I know Girls isn’t the only cool thing she’s got up her sleeve.

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