It turns out Hannah had spent the third season of "Girls" applying to the Iowa Writers' Workshop!
The third season of "Girls" had at times felt meandering, repeating similar themes (Hannah, played by show creator Lena Dunham, had been dissatisfied at a workplace in Season 1, too, though for different reasons, and she and Adam will always be at once good for and poisonous for one another). But that's because we didn't see what was finally revealed in last night's season finale: that Hannah had applied to America's most prestigious graduate writing program, and had not firmly decided if she would go.
To her parents, who strongly want her to go, Hannah was noncommittal; to Adam, who didn't want to hear about it at all as he was about to make his stage debut, Hannah framed it as a close-to-sure thing. Neither party seemed to have known Hannah had applied at all; they were, like us, learning about it for the first time.
As all of her friends behaved recursively in the season finale (Marnie chasing an unavailable man, Shoshanna seeking to get Ray back after her rumspringa landed her in academic hot water, Jessa on the margins of the plot), Hannah, who has spent three seasons going back and forth with Adam and getting whatever career success she's enjoyed yanked away, seemed prepared to make her first big step forward.
This sort of shock is new to "Girls"; we hadn't really known Adam was an actor before he tried out for a Broadway show or that Hannah had OCD until she really had OCD, but both of those elements were introduced slowly, methodically. With its reveal that as Hannah was enduring and then quitting her lucrative-nightmare job at GQ, she was aware that her life might soon change, "Girls" has invited us to reevaluate everything that's come before. It turns out Hannah is more ambitious than we even knew, or that her old first-season hyper-ambition hadn't fallen away with comfort at work or in her relationship. It's hard to imagine a "Girls" with Hannah outside of New York and away from the rest of the cast. But given this show's willingness to upend everything, it's not impossible.