How Jessa won the fourth season of “Girls”

During the first three seasons, Jemima Kirke’s character, “Jessa,” was an extreme example of a girl in her 20s trying to find her way in the world. Compared to her friends on Girls, she’s an action taker and love maker. Or, as Adam astutely observed this season, she romps around the city like societal rules don’t apply to her, point a finger at pencil pushers who haven’t build more public ladies rooms. She’s the type of person you’d find leading a rebellion for babysitter wages.

As a close study of the series, it felt like there was a cloud hanging over her head. Shosh has her innocence, Marnie her tears and Hannah her often-discussed tool shed of life crutches, but the one thing those three always leaned back on was an unspoken truth: At least they weren’t gallivanting about their lives like Jessa, although sometimes Hannah follows along to escape her problems; though, Elijah has emerged as an even poorer influence the last two years.

Her actions have always made her a difficult character for me to break down, but what everyone needed to understand about her was that her hardened outer shell was protecting a vulnerable, lost person. She needed a good kick in the ass.

At the end of season three, I thought she might have an awakening. She tried to help someone commit suicide and had to save that person at the last second. But the way she acted with Beadie in “Iowa” this season, joking and messing around, made her look naive to the whole thing. Whether it was because of the lecture from Beadie’s daughter Rickey (the great Natasha Lyonne) or the aforementioned one she gets from Adam in “Female Author,” Jessa grew up in Year 4.

Kirke’s character took a backseat to the work Lena Dunham and Allison Williams were doing with Hannah and Marnie, respectively, this season. By accident or by some well thought out stroke of genius, Girls tapped into where Jessa rides most comfortably — not shouting loudly in the front seat, but calmly in the back.

Match-making with Adam and Mimi-Rose for her own secret intentions was cruel and her emotionless attitude toward Hannah moving was painful, but I can’t sit here and say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. She blatantly overlooked mentioning her and Adam’s meetings to Hannah, but what she was doing with him was noble at heart.

This was the first season in quite a while that I can remember really having fun with Jessa. I couldn’t stand her last season, but wanted more and more this year.

Her pursuit of Ace was fun, slapping Hannah was memorable, the interactions with Shosh were fresher than ever, her grittiness and spitefulness was better, and pulling Adam from Mimi-Rose’s kung-fu grip was passionate and heroic.

By the end of this fourth season, the trajectories of the girls were skyrocketing. They’re growing up and ascending into better lives. Everyone got there by the season finale, but it feels like Jessa’s been there for a while. She’s clean. This recovering addict made it. She’s better and more colorful on the other side.

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