Ken Tucker
June 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

The arc of the first season of Girls was an undulating one. The Lena Dunham comedy-drama-mixology-experiment commenced, in its first two episodes, as an indie film in half-hour chunks, then ventured further into sitcom territory without dropping its thoughtfulness, and in its finale managed to balance the funny, the serious, the absurd, and the poignant in a strikingly surprising, effective conclusion.

The episode, titled “She Did,” continued to increase the importance of one character — the delightfully grumpy Ray — who managed to make a love connection with Shohanna and also deliver the night’s wisest punchline. The latter was delivered to his employee, Hannah, who decided to spend a bit of down-time at her job at Ray’s coffee shop by reading a book. Chastised about this by the boss, Hannah began her excuse by saying “I just thought — ” only to be cut off by Ray: “Don’t ‘just think’ — that’s an extremely unattractive trait of your generation.” Once again, Dunham demonstrated the way she can dramatize the way some people look at “her generation,” criticize it, and still end up embodying its best aspects. As Hannah, Dunham is frequently adorable; for proof, I offer the moment when she approached her girlfriends, all dolled up and sing-songing, “Mah shoes match mah dress — kind of!”

The surprise wedding of Jessa to that jerk Thomas was, to me at least, truly startling. But everyone on-screen rolled with it, especially Shoshanna, who lost her virginity to Ray over the course of events. Indeed, Dunham structured the “mystery party” like a Robert Altman film, with lots of overlapping dialogue and simultaneous subplots including Elijah confessing to Hannah that “I did give you HPV” primarily so that the scene could peak with Hannah delivering the line, “Let’s consider it water under my vagina.” (Or maybe the true shocker was Marnie smooching with Bobby Moynihan??)

Hannah and Adam seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in their relationship (“I’m very moved,” he said, witnessing Jessa’s marriage, and he wasn’t kidding; neither was he when he told Hannah she was pretty, a good writer, and a good friend), but once again, were on different wavelengths, or not quite in emotional synch. Just as Adam was willing to commit, Hannah was feeling most frightened of him — the ferocity of his general life-force, which is a polite way of saying his raging mood-swings combined with his flatteringly intense interest in her. Adam Driver really sold the speeches Dunham wrote for him here, the way he had become so livid that Hannah didn’t appreciate herself, and didn’t comprehend his feelings toward her — couldn’t believe that someone could like her as much as he does. Who’d have thought, at the beginning of the season, that Girls would become a kinda-great love story about two people who aren’t sure when the other one is feeling the love?

“Anything could happen,” said Adam at the start of the episode. No kidding: BAM! I almost saw that truck coming, didn’t you? Adam’s injury, and his ability to remain furious with Hannah even while writhing in pain, capped off the season in just the sort of open-ended manner Girls excels at maintaining. Eating wedding cake on the beach in the final seconds, I wanted Jon Hamm’s Don Draper to teleport next to her and give her some buck-up-kiddo advice.

Instead we’ll just have to wait until next season to see how it all plays out. What did you think of the Girls finale?

Twitter: @kentucker

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