When Girls premiered in April, it was lauded as a "once in a decade" masterpiece. Critics called the HBO comedy, about barely employed twenty-somethings living in New York City, "revolutionary" and "groundbreaking" for its frank depiction of sexuality and coming of age, and dubbed writer-director-creator-star Lena Dunham the "voice of a generation." Throughout its first season, the zeitgeist-capturing series sparked intense debate over race, gender, and Dunham's polarizing lead character, Hannah. The season one finale, which aired Sunday night, found Hannah questioning her relationship while her friend Jessa spontaneously marries. A full season later, does Girls live up to its pre-release praise?

Absolutely: The first season of Girls wasn't just uniformly terrific, it defied many TV conventions, says Maureen Ryan at The Huffington Post. It introduced a lead female character to whom men could relate. It disproved the notion that "women on TV can be quirky or occasionally sad," but not "deeply flawed." Girls unsettles so many people because it "blithely ignores six decades of what television has done with an entire gender."
"Why Girls season 1 was terrific and why it's a hit with guys too"

It's still great, but it has evolved: The finale was a different show than the Girls that premiered to such fanfare, says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. The series' first two episodes played like "an indie film in half-hour chunks," but the show grew into more of a traditional sitcom — though never lost its thoughtfulness. Sunday's finale balanced "the funny, the serious, the absurd, and the poignant in a strikingly surprising, effective conclusion." Lines like "Don't 'just think' — that's an extremely unattractive trait of your generation" demonstrate Lena Dunham's ability to brilliantly capture the perception of "her generation," but still criticize it. 
"Girls season finale: 'I'm very moved'"

The finale certainly wasn't perfect: Girls came out of the gate with a run of three incredibly strong episodes, says James Poniewozik at TIME, a streak it wasn't able to equal later in the season. The dark "examinations of humiliating sex and unemployment" were replaced by broad slapstick comedy and a markedly lighter tone. Although the show became "a little different, a little more unpredictable," it remains the most interesting and certainly the best new series of the season. Like many previous episodes, the finale concluded with an "ambiguous but frankly gorgeous ending." Once again, viewers were left struggling to decide "whether we're meant to root for Hannah or dislike her," but maybe that's the point.
"Girls watch: She takes the cake"