While I've kept plot details for the third season to a minimum, please be aware that there are some spoilers for the show's second season.
Be sure to check out our reviews for season one and season two.
"You know, I actually feel nothing. Like, I literally feel nothing. Like, maybe I'm numb, but I don't even feel numb. I feel nothing."
Human beings are flawed. We start out flawed and we end up flawed. The characters on Lena Dunham's 'Girls' are especially flawed. After all, not only are they human… they're young. And that's a particularly troublesome combination. While previous seasons have focused heavily on Hannah and her friend's personal weaknesses, the show's third season fully brings these flaws to the forefront, forcing everyone involved to ask some pretty big questions about themselves and each other. Very important questions like, "Am I a good person?" and "Why are we friends?" and "Am I capable of love?" and "How many tacos do I need to feed four people?" That last one turns out to be fairly easy to answer, but the others are a lot harder to pin down. As the characters' behavior takes on new levels of self-absorption, the series seems to take on a more critical air, adding a bit more bite to its examination of Generation Y struggles. Both funny and occasionally hard to watch (one can only cringe so much), 'Girls: The Complete Third Season' offers some of the show's most caustic, insightful, and amusingly irritating episodes yet.
Following season two's gleefully subversive twist on a classic romantic comedy finale, season three picks up with Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver) living together while in a seemingly loving relationship. Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams) struggles to rebound from an abrupt breakup with her boyfriend, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) prepares to graduate from college, and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) finds herself in rehab. As the group continues to clash against society and each other, they're forced to reevaluate their friendships, romances, and personal goals.
Though previous seasons have featured lots of delusional decision making and unsettling narcissism, there has always been some debate about how self-aware the writers actually are about the ensemble's flaws. But here, Dunham and company tackle the group's imperfections so vociferously that it becomes abundantly clear that these criticisms are intentional. Fully embracing the ensemble's worst qualities, season three turns into a rather striking and darkly comical portrait of a generation distracted by self-interest. This becomes especially true for Hannah's character, and some of her actions (particularly in the season's first half) can be a little difficult to stomach. Thankfully, the series always manages to find humor and even a few legitimately insightful observations within these painful quirks, drawing some level of relatability out of the characters' choices -- even if many viewers would rather not admit it.
The show's boiling interpersonal tensions come to a head in the seventh episode, titled "Beach House." It's here where the girls finally call each other out on all of their bullshit, and thanks to some sharp writing, strong direction, and great performances, the installment stands out as one of the series' very best. And beyond the copious screaming matches, building resentments, awkward sex scenes, and teary-eyed confessions, the season is also home to several subplots that continue to slowly but surely place Hannah and her friends on a path toward growth. That is, before they inevitably screw it all up. Hannah's experiences with her first "real job" and Adam's potential success in his acting pursuits both lead to particularly interesting arcs, helping to drive the last few episodes.
The rest of the core cast also get solid material to work with, and the performers continue to maintain a certain level of sympathy (sometimes) for their perpetually clueless characters. There's also a strong collection of guest stars this year, including the likes of Rita Wilson, Richard E. Grant, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Glaser, Colin Quinn, Felicity Jones, June Squibb, Louise Lasser, Patti LuPone, and Gaby Hoffmann. That latter actress plays Adam's sister and, yes, she's just as crazy as you might expect.
'Girls' features a group of characters so unlikeable that people actually fake their own deaths just to get away from them… and yet, the core of their faults remains distressingly realistic. Though the group's often obliviously selfish behavior is sometimes heightened to the point of caricature, there is something undeniably human and painfully humorous about each mistake they make. Unlike previous seasons, the writers seem to fully embrace the ensemble's most troubling inclinations here, leading to the series' most enlightening, challenging, and hilariously infuriating characterizations.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
HBO presents 'Girls: The Complete Third Season' in a Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo Pack. All twelve episodes and special features are spread over two BD-50 discs that come housed in a keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. An insert with instructions for a downloadable UltraViolet/iTunes digital copy is also included. After a streaming promo for HBO, the discs transition to standard menus.
The show is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Slightly surpassing the quality found on previous seasons, the video here features strong detail and a pleasing, naturalistic style.
Shot in high definition, the digital source is essentially pristine with only very minor grain-like noise visible in dark scenes. Overall clarity is impressive with a clean image that offers a good sense of depth. Though not as razor sharp as some other contemporary efforts, fine textures in clothing and faces are readily apparent. Colors can be a little subdued with a slightly pastel palette, but primaries remain rich and specific sequences use bolder hues with more pop. Like previous seasons, contrast is a tad dim, but thankfully blacks have a much deeper and consistent appearance this year, losing the slightly milky look found in season two's nighttime scenes.
With a few key improvements over previous releases, 'Girls: The Complete Third Season' offers the show's most impressive Blu-ray transfer to date, giving the series a great video presentation.
The episodes are presented with English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes, French DTS 5.1 mixes, and Spanish DTS 2.0 mixes with optional English SHD, French, and Spanish subtitles. Dialogue remains the series' focus, but the track perks up every now and then with some solid design work.
Speech is clear and full throughout with no balance issues. The soundscape is predominantly front-loaded, but effective ambiance makes its way to the rears, adding some subtle atmosphere (traffic, birds, waves, customers, etc.) to different locations like coffee shops, bars, sidewalks, and beaches. Directionality is also present, with appropriately panning sounds and dialogue when called for. The show's music also comes through well, offering strong dynamic range and stereo separation. Bass activity also kicks in during certain tracks but is otherwise subdued. Thankfully, I detected no notable technical issues.
While not as enveloping as other TV shows, the sound design carries a pleasing sense of authenticity, helping to enhance the series' modest scope.
As 'Girls' fans have come to expect, HBO and the producers have put together an extensive collection of special features, including commentaries, interviews, and lots of deleted scenes. All of the supplements are presented in 1080p with DTS 2.0 sound.
With 'Girls: The Complete Third Season,' the writers finally embrace the characters' flaws and start to examine their issues head on, leading to the show's most overtly critical and interesting episodes. The video transfer actually offers a slight improvement over previous releases, and the audio remains very solid. One again, 'Girls' fans are treated to a comprehensive collection of special features, providing some amusing insights into the production. While the series continues to be very divisive, this just might be the show's most thought provoking and fully realized season yet. Recommended.