THE SHOW "Girls"
WHEN | WHERE Second-season finale: Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO
WHAT IT'S ABOUT HBO didn't supply a review copy, but here are some clues: Hannah (Lena Dunham) begins taking meds for her OCD; Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) are having problems (she and a doorman had a casual fling a couple of episodes ago); Marnie (Allison Williams) and Charlie (Christopher Abbott) are sorta-kinda back together; and Adam (Adam Driver) is getting scarier. And where is Jessa (Jemima Kirke)?
MY SAY Yeah, last week's episode, "On All Fours," was pretty much an envelope pushed too far -- rough sex between Adam and his girlfriend (Shiri Appleby) that was closer to rape than sex and officially transformed him into a shut-in deviant. (That, by the way, is a downgrade from "shut-in weirdo.")
Why such contempt for a core character? Because that's the line "Girls" has toed, and occasionally demolished, all season. Comedy here comes from characters who are clueless about their motivations, but so does the tragedy (Adam: "I don't know what came over me"). That leaves each of them -- up to and especially including Hannah -- actively searching for life's meaning, but not searching too hard because that would get in the way of the self-destruction.
At its best, the second season of "Girls" was very good: "It's Back" (Hannah's OCD returns), "Boys" (Adam and Ray go to Staten Island) and especially "Bad Friend" (Hannah goes clubbing to research an article) were superior to anything from the first.
At its worst (last Sunday as the perfect example) the series' self-loathing erupted into a lacerating wound. This makes for an unsettling fan/show relationship: At times you want to love "Girls," but how can you love something that doesn't much like itself?
Marnie, Hannah, Shoshanna and Jessa keep stumbling but at some point they've got to start walking because -- "Seinfeld" being the lone exception -- great characters in great comedies do actually learn to grow and evolve. Of course, "Girls" hasn't quite decided whether it's a comedy or tragedy.
BOTTOM LINE Will "Girls" find greatness? There's still time (the third season begins production next month) and plenty of audience goodwill, even if some was squandered last Sunday. At least, Dunham's talent remains beyond dispute.
SEASON GRADE B+