All 6 Seasons of ‘Girls,’ Ranked

Airing six seasons between 2012 and 2017, Girls was a show that generated a huge amount of discussion when it first started airing, though the discourse ultimately settled down as the years went along. It was uncompromising and unusual, and the sort of TV show that was designed to be a shock to the senses, approaching a familiar premise in a confronting and sometimes brutally honest way. Indeed, on the surface, the idea of a show centering on four 20-something women living in New York City might not sound too out of the ordinary for a dramedy series.



It’s all in the execution, when it comes to Girls, as it’s the awkward humor, in-your-face exploration of sexuality, and willingness to explore some heavily flawed characters that give the show its edge. It stuck to its guns and was remarkably consistent throughout its run, meaning those who liked the first season would probably enjoy the others, while early naysayers were unlikely to be swayed by future seasons. All six seasons of this Lena Dunham-created show are ranked below, from good to great.


Girls

Release Date
April 15, 2012

Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
6


6 Season 4 (2015)

Number of Episodes: 10

Girls - season 4 - 2015
Image via HBO

By the fourth season of Girls, there was a slight sense of things repeating themselves to some extent, and maybe people getting used to some of the show’s more controversial elements led to less heightened conversations – be they enthusiastic or negative – about the show. The season kicks off with Lena Dunham’s character, protagonist Hannah, leaving New York City to go live and study at the University of Iowa, finding the quieter lifestyle there to be enjoyable at first, though not without its own eventual problems.


The titular girls do understandably age as the series goes in, and given they’re probably more in their late 20s during the show’s second half, it feels believable that they might start drifting apart more. The slow breakdown in friendship among the four main characters does feel most potent in season 6, and really, it’s mostly just set-up for that realization to make sense by the show’s end. To that end, season 4 is successful as part of the series-long arc, and is generally quite good when it comes to writing and acting… though it suffers a little by not having much by way of stand-out episodes.

5 Season 5 (2016)

Number of Episodes: 10

Girls - Season 5 - 2016
Image via HBO


Season 5 of Girls serves a similar purpose to the fourth season: continuing to highlight ways both minor and major that the titular girls drift apart, all leading to a final season where they’re seldom even seen together. Hannah may be back in New York City, but season 5 sees Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) trying to make a life for herself in Japan, all the while the season is also defined by Jessa (Jemima Kirke) starting up a tumultuous relationship with Hannah’s ex-boyfriend Adam (appropriately enough played by Adam Driver).

And that’s before even getting to the particularly divisive character of Marnie (Allison Williams), who starts the season getting married and then spends the rest of the season feeling conflicted about said marriage. She’s the main focus of the season’s most memorable and acclaimed episode, “The Panic in Central Park,” which sees her run into an old boyfriend played by Christopher Abbott, and finds the strange encounter to be one that changes her perspective on her marriage further. It’s a dark and perhaps more serious season, even by the show’s standards, but it largely works and keeps all the series’ various storylines going steady.


4 Season 3 (2014)

Number of Episodes: 12

Girls - season 3 - 2014
Image via HBO

Season 3 of Girls is the show at its most consistent, having settled into a comfortable groove after the more surprising earlier seasons (for most viewers at least), though not getting quite as bleak or drama-heavy as the show’s later seasons. Those who don’t love the show might want to call this third season one that simply spins its wheels and doesn’t achieve much, but anyone invested in the flawed yet sometimes regrettably relatable characters and their sometimes funny, sometimes sad misadventures throughout life will find this season to be strong. And, that’s particularly good in this instance, considering season 3 is notably longer than any other season of Girls by two episodes.


The lives of the main characters are still largely defined by their rocky relationships, and the trials and tribulations of dating in one’s 20s was something the early seasons of Girls depicted uncomfortably well. Things get a little more tense for them all toward the season’s end, too, especially after the seventh episode of the season, “Beach House,” where a seemingly light-hearted getaway gets heated with some of the more dramatic arguments seen in the show up to this point. It doesn’t end any friendships for good, but it is something of a harbinger of things to come.

3 Season 6 (2017)

Number of Episodes: 10

Girls - season 6 - 2017
Image via HBO


While the earlier seasons of Girls could be described as something close to a sitcom, the later seasons feel less worthy of being given such a label, especially the particularly dark sixth and final season. It’s not necessarily that season 6 is depressing or overly disturbing (at least outside the uncomfortable and memorable episode titled “American Bitch,” which guest-starred Matthew Rhys), but it’s more that much of it is just quietly sad. Those tuning in to see the group dynamic between four young women who are all friends, as seen earlier on in Girls, are less likely to enjoy this season.

It becomes apparent that Girls was all about four young women not only finding themselves, but also finding themselves drifting apart, leading to a season where, on the odd occasion that the main characters do spend time together, it’s quite awkward. Still, at least all the characters get closure and there seems to be some acceptance that people will drift apart, be it because they have different paths in life or because they clash one too many times. Season 6 goes to some bold and perhaps unsatisfying places narratively, but it’s by design, and feels both true to life and true to the spirit of the show’s earlier seasons, which themselves were provocative and unpredictable in other ways.


2 Season 1 (2012)

Number of Episodes: 10

Girls - season 1 - 2012
Image via HBO

Whether you wanted it or not, discourse about Girls was prevalent and incendiary back during the early 2010s, and that’s largely due to season 1 being a shock to the system for many. While shows about flawed yet interesting people had been popular for a while (see The Sopranos, Mad Men, and especially something very introspective like Six Feet Under), it was less common to see a female-centered show be that way. Right from the start, Dunham’s writing and acting were confident and surprising, with Hannah instantly being an iconic – and, again, divisive – protagonist who stood out from the likes of others (Tony Soprano, Walter White, Don Draper, etc.) for being young and female.


Girls was focused on feminist issues right from the start, and felt like it flipped the script a little when it came to focusing on flawed, relatable, and realistic women first and foremost, rather than relegating a handful of female characters to being parts of an ensemble cast. Those who disliked Girls might’ve disliked it because the show dared to do those things, or they might just not have gotten on board with the humor; there are different reasons why someone might reject a show like this. But while there were detractors, there were also plenty of people impressed with this bold first season of the show, and the fact it came sprinting out of the gate and proved to be such a conversation starter ensures it deserves to be considered one of the show’s best seasons.

1 Season 2 (2013)

Number of Episodes: 10

Girls - season 2 - 2013
Image via HBO


After one highly regarded and critically praised season, Girls came back in full force with a second season that was really just everything the first was, but a little better in most ways. The characters had already become fully formed, the dynamic among cast members was well-established, and perhaps some of the alarm the first season might’ve caused had worn off a little. Those who found season 1 confronting in some ways might well have found themselves able to handle some of the show’s more graphic and cringe-inducing moments this time around, though by no means did season 2 lose its edge or capacity to surprise.

Hannah pushes herself further than ever in the pursuit of her writing career, finding the stress to be overwhelming and, in turn, dealing with some fairly serious emotional issues. Elsewhere, the usual relationship drama is affecting everyone in the cast looking for love, and it’s this dual focus on the struggles of establishing oneself professionally and romantically that makes season 2 of Girls feel even more raw and grounded. Of course, it’s also able to keep the level of comedy fairly high, and it’s the balance between humor and sadness – as well as generally more confident writing and acting – that makes this season even better than the first, and arguably Girls’ strongest overall.


Girls can be streamed on Max in the U.S.

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NEXT: Every Season of ‘Veep,’ Ranked


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