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Now and Then: 'Girls' Was the Season's Best New Series. When Did That Happen?

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! June 18, 2012 at 4:21PM

The pilot of "Girls" was an ugly, awkward little thing, delivering its one-liners with a nervous titter. Despite its refreshingly frank appraisal of modern sexual mores, its quartet of young women came off largely as archetypes, not characters. But I stuck with the series, and it paid off.

In the episodes since, "Girls" has embraced this complexity, dispensing with archetype in favor of unexpected developments. Hannah, once almost pathetic, found the relationship she'd been looking for, then managed to muck it up. Marnie (Alison Williams) and Charlie (Christopher Abbott), the perfect couple, wrecked and regretted and tried to move on. Laissez-faire Jessa (comedienne extraordinaire Jemima Kirke) proved soulful, and strait-laced Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), the series' weakest link, at least got to smoke some crack. Adam (Adam Driver), Hannah's boyfriend with the off-putting sexual predilections, made perhaps the most surprising transformation — from diffident creep to font of sweetness and encouragement.  

These were earned developments, cultivated over time rather than revealed out of nowhere, and if the wedding of Sunday's finale felt, to its discredit, more like a plot device than an organic outgrowth of the previous nine episodes, then it at least became a perfect set-piece for the mistakes and regrets that will surely imbue the second season. The episode was funny and ultimately quite sad, ending on a beach out by Coney Island with only the braying of gulls audible in the background. It was a note of introspection fitting for a series that's grown up so quickly, ugly duckling no more.

The complete first season of "Girls" is now available on iTunes and HBO GO.

This article is related to: Now and Then, Reviews, HBO, TV, Directors, Genres, comedy

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.