‘Girls’ Finale: Director of Iowa Writers’ Workshop Weighs In

What would life look like for Lena Dunham outside New York?

Sunday’s season three finale of “Girls” concluded with one of the most literary cliffhangers in TV history: Hannah Horvath clutching her acceptance letter from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

On Monday, the episode received a stamp of approval from the real-life director of the prestigious program, novelist Samantha Chang, who spoke to Variety by phone from Iowa City, Iowa.

“I think that Hannah is a young woman of great imagination and talent and it’s very possible that she could have gotten in,” says Chang, who screens the 1,000-or-so applicants every year for the coveted 25 spots. “A lot of our students are actually from New York.”

The show’s creative team had recently reached out to the university to tell them about the story arc.

“I had an inkling it might not happen, but I had no idea it would happen so soon,” Chang says. “Some of my students emailed me and told me about it.”

What would Lena Dunham’s main character even do in Iowa City?

“There are huge cultural difference between Iowa City and New York,” Chang notes. “It’s something a large number of students face when they get here. One of my friends used to stand in a certain corner of the department and pretend she was in Bloomingdales,” because the architecture of the building reminded her of the flagship store on 59th Street. And, she says, “there’s a town called Brooklyn, Iowa, just west of here.”

Chang also helped us fact check some of the details of the episode. Applicants are typically notified about the good news in the winter, even though the final episode of “Girls” takes place in the summer. “The other thing is,” Chang says, “we don’t send a letter, we call.” But upon reflection, she decided, “a letter is a better narrative device than a phone call.”

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