In the life of a 20-something, there comes a point when being lost and not yet found is no longer as charming as it once seemed. On the third season of Girls, Lena Dunham’s alternately beloved and bullied HBO series (returning January 12), Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna urgently try to finally grow up: No more accidentally smoking crack, peeing in public while taking a call from mom, or failing to show up for abortions. “Now they’re making adult choices,” says Jenni Konner, the show’s executive producer and de facto den mother. “They all think they’re taking care of business.”
It’s hard to believe, but the girls would prefer to quit sleeping with gay men and settle down—imploded surprise marriages to fedora-wearing older yuppies aside. “Last season was the Be Careful What You Wish For Year. This year is the Season of Love,” Konner explains. “They’re trying to focus on real, grown-up relationships.”
After season two ended with the sight of Adam (Adam Driver) on a shirtless night sprint through Brooklyn—propelled by true love, swelling violins, and our collective muscle memory from a million rom-coms—in order to rescue Hannah (Dunham) during her latest mental breakdown (from “that OCDC shit,” according to Adam), the two wake up, in the beginning of season three, in each other’s arms. It’s sweet, and, despite their history, feels right. He was always here, Kid.
All is not as right with Marnie (Allison Williams) and Charlie (Christopher Abbott), however. Well into the conception of the new season, Abbott abruptly quit the show. “That really threw us off our game,” Konner says. “We had to reinvent Marnie’s story for the season. But I’m actually much happier with what we went with instead. A broken bone comes back stronger.” (Maybe Marnie had a premonition of this during her very public slow jam rendition of Kanye West’s “Stronger” last season, the one that made Charlie and everyone else die a little inside?) In any case, an insecure and spiraling Marnie, as we have learned over the past two seasons of special musical performances and starfish-position sex, is an infinitely more watchable Marnie. “It’s so much more fun this way,” says Konner. “She makes some really surprising choices this season.”
Just because the girls (and boys—it’s also a big season for Adam and Ray) are trying on their adult selves doesn’t mean the show has lowered its quota of awkward nudity and bad sex. “It’s definitely still about sex,” Konner says reassuringly. But on whether there will be Internet-exploding controversies like last season’s sex scene between Adam and Natalia (Shiri Appleby)—which some decried as rape—Konner, who co-wrote that episode with Dunham, protests her ignorance. “We make the show in a vacuum,” she says. “There are some things where I think, ‘Oh man, we’re really going to hear it for this.’ And then nothing! But there are other things, like that scene with Shiri, where I could not have been more surprised by the reaction.” She adds, with a wry laugh, “Of course, our response to the response is certainly not, ‘Oh, we better pull back on this stuff.’”
How else is a still-young show, maturing along with its heroines, to learn how to grow up but by daring to try new things out? Reflection, anyway, is someone else’s job. As Hannah Horvath might put it: “I have work, and then I have a dinner thing. And then I am busy, trying to become who I am.”