The new season of Lena Dunham's acclaimed comedy-drama Girls premiered with back-to-back episodes on HBO last night, and Season Three finds the series in just as strong of shape as it left off last year. Girls is doing 12 episodes this year, two more than in seasons past, but Dunham and co-showrunner Jenni Konner and their team have clearly shown that they're up to the challenge.
The premiere episodes pick up by jumping a little bit ahead in time and tracking what the show's four main characters are up to now in the wake of Season 2's climax. Hannah and Adam are back together, and she's recovered from her OCD relapse with help from Adam. She's also made good with her publisher David (John Cameron Mitchell), who's very understanding about her mental health issues and is no longer threatening her with a lawsuit. Marnie has parted ways with Charlie and is living with her mother (Rita Wilson), Shoshanna and Ray are also moving on from one another, and it's finally explained where Jessa's been. Jessa was gone for the last handful of Season 2 episodes, and she's been in rehab, where she's not getting along with anyone there except for an older guy (Richard E. Grant).
One significant change Girls faces this season is the departure of actor Christopher Abbott, who played Charlie in the first two seasons. Abbott left the show at the start of the season in last spring after creative differences with Lena Dunham over his character. The first handful of Season 3 episodes proves that Girls doesn't really need him. He's the biggest character the show has lost so far, but he was never as instrumental a part of the series as other supporting male characters like Adam or Ray.
While Girls has always contained an equalish amount of drama and comedy, last season pushed the show into darker territory, and Season 3 so far is continuing down that path. Jessa's conflict-filled stint in rehab and Adam's coffee shop confrontation with his mistreated ex Natalia and her angry friend (played by Comedy Central star/Apatow protégé Amy Schumer) see the show continuing to include heavy subject matter in cringe-inducing ways, while there's still plenty of humor in these first two episodes as well.
HBO put the first two episodes of Girls' new season online this morning, an unusual choice for the pay cable network, which doesn't usually do stuff like that. It's a smart move, though, and sees HBO advancing into the 21st century and catering to Girls' young audience and the way they consume media. The network clearly loves Girls, as evidenced by them renewing the show for a fourth season last week before the third even premiered. Thanks to HBO's hands-off nature, Girls is one of the few comedies on TV that gets to be completely creator-driven without much network interference, and it's great to see the show continue to grow, follow its characters, and express Dunham's voice in Season 3.