3 Reasons Why You Need to Watch ‘Girls’ Season 3

By  · Published on January 12th, 2014

Tomorrow night, while you’re tuned into the 71st Golden Globes, the HBO series Girls (which is again nominated for a couple of those awards) will be kicking off its third season with an excellent therapy-filled episode featuring the guest-starring talents of Richard E. Grant (wise and weaselly), Bob Balaban (hilariously mumbly), Kim Gordon (magnificently meth-y) and Danielle Brooks of Orange Is the New Black (I almost want to believe she’s the same character here). You’ll want to DVR it. And make sure to subscribe to the whole season while you’re scheduling that recording. If you got rid of HBO or don’t have it, borrow someone’s HBO Go password. Stick with it for another round.

Even if you’ve already made up your mind that you’re not going to bother with the show anymore, not after a fairly mediocre and miserable sophomore season, rethink that decision. So far, having gotten the chance to dip halfway in with the first six episodes, I think this is the most entertaining season yet. Maybe not the most consistently interesting, I’ll give its critics that, but still very smart and funny and relevant. And most importantly I think it’s the most likable it’s ever been. Perhaps after the midway point the characters will start being really shitty or pathetic again, which I’m sure is what some of its audience actually wants anyway. For now, I think it’s nice to not hate these people for a while.

Because it’s the third season, I’ve appropriately limited myself to only three reasons for why you need to continue with Girls. And, topicality be damned, none of them has anything to do with nudity.

Lots of Adam (Sackler/Driver)

For many of us, Adam Driver is the primary reason for watching Girls, and it’s clear the people behind the show are aware of his appeal and brilliance as a performer. And as an actor, he’s only increasingly in demand and on the rise (you can see him in two of the past year’s most acclaimed movies, Frances Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis), so it’s fortunate that he hasn’t ditched this breakout role of his, like some other male members of the cast. In Season 3, Adam (Sackler, the character) is living with Hannah (Lena Dunham), the couple having gotten back together at the end of last season, and they’re actually getting along very well as domestic partners. That means he’s in scenes where the girls are all having dinner together and he’s going along for travels outside the city and he’s basically on screen whenever Hannah is. Almost. And often reluctantly. But he’s always an enjoyable presence, gets to have the most fun (a meta bit involving Tom Hanks is the perfect in-joke ever for multiple reasons), typically is the most reasonable person in the ensemble and, while he doesn’t have as surprisingly interesting an arc as he did in Season 1, he does get a whole added subplot, which leads us to the next best part of the new episodes…

Gaby Hoffman

There’s a new girl on the show, as in a fairly regular one, and she’s played by former child actress turned current Independent Spirit Award nominee Gaby Hoffman. She’s Adam’s sister, Caroline, who shows up and crashes with him and Hannah for a while. She’s utterly insane, one of the many supporting characters this season that makes the main ensemble seem rather normalized in comparison. She says inappropriate things and is overly candid, like Hannah. She’s a free-spirited bohemian on a plain high above Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and she’s coming out of a serious relationship and dealing with it in ways that makes whatever Marnie (Allison Williams) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) are going through seem really boring (for the most part, as an aside, both those characters are sort of worthless this season so far anyway). Also she gives Adam someone new to fight with. And Hoffman is so incredible, particularly in those arguments. She gets one of the meanest pieces of dialogue in her last moment of the episodes I’ve seen (hopefully she’s in a whole lot of the second half, too) and one of the funniest random lines of the whole show, which is a brief anecdote involving an obscure part of the movie Independence Day that I’m hoping is a very meta story for the actress’s career, and she knocks them out of the park. If you think her much acclaimed performance in Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus is a fluke, it’s not. She’s an erupting volcano right now, talent-wise, to make a more certain meta reference to one of her older movies. And speaking of the dialogue, that leads us to the last reason to watch…

Tighter Writing

In the first six episodes I have been wowed by the cleverness of much of the dialogue in Season 3. But these lines can tend to sound very *written* more than natural. Not that Girls has ever seemed like a piece of realism, but I can imagine this thing that I’m finding preferable will not be favored by those who like the show to feel more organic. It seems wittier than ever, but it also feels more thematically organized. It’s like the scripts are getting more stable alongside the characters. It will be interesting to see if the episodes intentionally play more disorderly if the characters’ storylines get messier in the second half of the season. But so far for me the best episode is the fourth, “Deep Inside,” which is co-written by Judd Apatow and focuses on how the characters deal differently with death (I’m not saying whose). Aside from it not being as joke-a-minute funny, this and some of the carryover into the fifth episode is the closest Girls has come to being like a modern day Seinfeld (it’s been long enough to call something a modern day Seinfeld, right?). That’s what I mean by tighter. They’re not exactly as episodic as this sounds, but each episode comes off like a well-structured vignette in a way that few of last season’s episodes did, yet also isn’t as isolated as the much-discussed Season 2 episode with Patrick Wilson, which was a little too isolated. I like to think that each episode of Girls is a new short story from Hannah, and so while it’s possible the writing is just maturing, I like to think that this season is written so well because Hannah’s becoming a better writer, too.

Bonus Reason: More Recaps With Kate and Rob!

Be sure to visit Film School Rejects the day after each new episode this season (that’d be Mondays), because Kate and Rob are continuing their dialogue-style recaps of the show. You can also find them specifically via the Girls tag.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.