all images credit: hbo
Last week’s episode left me slightly disillusioned with the Girls gang. I was wondering where it was all heading and — more importantly — whether or not I cared anymore. But I gave Dunham the benefit of the doubt, and I’m delighted to report that the finale delivered in spades, offering loads of meaningful development for all involved, posing new questions about the future, and ultimately reminding the fans why we love this series. Let’s get into it…
THE RETURN OF CAROLINE
The episode begins with the unexpected return of Adam’s off-kilter older sister Caroline who surprises Hannah in the hallway entrance to her apartment building. Over the course of a relatively short conversation, Caroline casually delivers several bombshells. 1) She’s now in a relationship with Hannah’s downstairs neighbor Laird. 2) She’s now living with Laird, and has herself become Hannah’s downstairs neighbor. 3) She and Laird are expecting a child. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, Caroline – upon learning of Adam’s Broadway role — casually suggests there’s a strong likelihood Adam with shuck her off “like a piece of summer corn.”
While I’m a fan of Gaby Hoffman, and I enjoyed her character this season, this opening sequence felt somewhat tacked on, as if she was brought back only to add yet another foreboding word to the flaming pile of speculative warnings we’ve already heard about Adam’s future behavior. Completely unnecessary and way too on the nose. That said, if this was indeed a set up for Caroline’s presence next season, I’m all for it.
Sorting through the day’s mail, Hannah finds something of interest. Eager to see its contents, she uses a heretofore untested method of letter opening that involves recklessly tearing off the top edge of the envelope. This, of course, ends up tearing through its contents as well. Then, we watch as she tapes the mysterious letter back together, reads it carefully, and subsequently jumps for joy with a victorious intensity. It’s a great moment of suspense and excitement for the audience.
Desperate to share her (still mysterious) news, Hannah shows up at Marnie’s apartment. Marnie incorrectly assumes Hannah is there to reprimand her for her behavior and apologizes in advance. But Hannah has moved on, and the outrage that possessed her last week has completely faded in light of this new Hannah-centric development: she has been accepted to a very prestigious graduate MFA program in Iowa. She, however, is unsure whether or not she’ll accept the offer. Marnie is brimming with excitement at this news and encourages her to go for it.
Now, I know we’ve seen these two have many ups and downs, and despite their many differences, they are true friends. But I felt Hannah clearly crossed a line last week, barging into Ray’s bedroom. And as I see it, either Hannah was out of control and Marnie should be pissed, or Hannah was on point and Marnie should be truly ashamed of herself. But there is no evidence of shame or anger. Instead, it’s under the rug, and all is well. Ladies, is this representative of female behavior?
MARNIE IS HOPELESS
Marnie shows up to Shosh’s apartment to come clean about her dalliance with Ray. She’s impossibly calm about it and somehow imagines that Shosh isn’t going to care. Really? …REALLY? But this is the character Marnie has become. Once the straitlaced, level-headed counter-balance to Hannah’s hot mess, Marnie has become a bit of a loose canon herself. But whereas Hannah has often shown little regard for others in her selfish pursuits, Marnie is driving blind. And to her surprise, Shosh reacts rather explosively to her casual confession.
But it gets better! That very same evening, they all go to see Adam in Major Barbara, and before the show Marnie goes to Desi’s dressing room to wish him luck, give him a very thoughtful gift, and also show him how gorgeous she is. One thing leads to another, and Desi kisses her passionately. She is on cloud nine. And before the curtain comes up, she boasts about her kiss to Hannah who is rightfully aghast at her blindness. She is unfazed and untouched by the irony as Ray sits in between them, with Shosh only a few seats away. Marnie is clearly and unashamedly down with OPP.
Later on, Marnie suddenly finds herself standing next to Desi’s girlfriend Clementine in the ladies’ room. And Clementine lets her have it! She calls her out for creeping up on her man. She insults her for being a “sad, pathetic mess,” and informs her she’ll be pulling the plug on her planned album with Desi. Ouch. Now, her only hope is that Desi leaves Clem for her. And she’ll likely be clinging to that hope throughout season four. Get a clue, Marn!
THE RECKONING OF SHOSHANNA SHAPIRO
Shoshanna suffers a giant shock earlier in the episode when she learns — to her horror — she will not be graduating this semester as expected. It turns out her year of freedom led to one small but significant casualty: a three-credit glaciology course she failed. Shosh has a breakdown of sorts, and a destructive rampage in her apartment is interrupted by a knock on the door from Marnie. After Marnie drops the bomb on her, Shosh tackles her, screaming “I HATE YOU” in her face.
Seeing her plans for graduation shattered, and then hearing about Ray, leads her to make an understandable but misguided connection. She decides she wants Ray back. And in Zosia Mamet’s most moving performance in the show’s history, she desperately and tearfully confesses her feelings to Ray during intermission. “I want to be your girlfriend again and pretend I was never not your girlfriend before.” It’s a sad moment. She’s raw and unprocessed, and when she tells him she loves him, she sounds surprised at the sound of her own voice. Ray is truly taken aback. But while Shosh was letting her life get out of control, Ray spent a year getting his life together, and getting to know himself better in the process. In retrospect, the timing wasn’t right for them then, and it’s not any better now. His feelings for her, however, are genuine, even if they’re no longer romantic. He credits her for pushing him forward in his life but recognizes they’re in completely different places with different goals.
And this heartbreak might be the first significant event in Shosh’s adult life.
A SUDDEN CHANGE OF HEART
After randomly meeting Bedelia last week, and subsequently being hired has her personal archiver, Jessa has learned of Bedelia’s true intentions: She wants Jessa to help her get drugs to end her life.
Crazy, right? After a minor narrative this season, Jessa is kicking the drama into gear for the finale. And while you could rightfully cry “too little, too late” at this hour, this story is still compelling. Clean and sober again, Jessa refuses to entertain Bedelia’s story of suffering. But little by little, Bedelia wears Jessa down until she gives in. And amidst all the chaos of this episode, we are brought to Bedelia’s bedside to witness Jessa’s solemn and tender administration of pills. And she sits with her and waits.
But then… the unthinkable! Bedelia suddenly decides she doesn’t want to die and frantically demands that Jessa calls 911. Holy shit. What happens now? Will she live or die? And if she does die, will Jessa face attempted murder charges? All for showing sympathy to a sad, old woman?
I guess the moral here is this: Even if you live into old age, you may still never know what you really want.
HANNAH’S AMBIVALENT VICTORY
To conclude this week’s recap, we return to Hannah who — I must admit — remains the most fascinating character of the show. After she calls her parents to tell them about Iowa, she expresses her doubts and fears about it. They effectively convince her otherwise in a touching display of pride for their only child. She is excited, and as the excitement builds, she makes the extremely unwise decision to share this exciting news with Adam only minutes before he gets on stage. I was in shock. How can someone be so full of feeling and emotion, and yet be so numb to her own boyfriend? On the one hand, it’s infuriating, but on the other, it’s Hannah. And what makes it so interesting is just how genuinely ignorant she is of her error. She is overcome with love and fear and excitement and pride, and she honestly thinks this is the right time! It’s really quite amazing.
Adam, however, reacts calmly, with love and support, apparently used to her brand of madness by now. The show goes on, and Hannah watches him on the stage in awe. She is dazzled. But meeting Adam after the show, my fears were realized, as it turns out Hannah’s timing was as terrible as I’d thought, and her big news about Iowa was weighing on this mind throughout the show. Despite what seemed like an inspired performance, Adam felt as if he’d blown it. And he is seething with anger just beneath the surface at the sight of Hannah. Hannah, however, is no wiser now than she was before the show and cannot believe her ears. Adam is at the end of his rope.
Rather than continue down this road, Hannah merely congratulates him on a successful night, and walks away. Upon returning home, to her empty apartment, she does not cry over Adam, but rather, she clutches her acceptance letter from Iowa and breaks into a giant smile as her path suddenly becomes clear in her mind. Adam is on his own journey, and so is she.
This final scene of the season encapsulates what makes this series so unique. Hannah Horvath, like every character on the show, is complex and flawed. And having lived with this character for three seasons, I find I am happy for her, and simultaneously disappointed. To her credit, the acceptance to Iowa is a significant confirmation of her talent and potential, and I sympathize with her joy. But Hannah truly walked away from Adam in that alleyway with a clear conscience. She wouldn’t even entertain the notion that she’d inadvertently ruined Adam’s debut performance. And in that final scene, we’re watching her put his pain and anger completely out of her mind. It’s powerful. But it’s kinda fucked up.
Here’s the problem: Hannah will always see everything through the prism of her own personal narrative, and we’ve yet to see her suffer any serious consequence from her actions (besides a q-tip in her ear last season). As far as she’s concerned, she can do no wrong, and she’s done no wrong. And if Adam leaves her, she will not see it as self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather she’ll see it as confirmation of her instincts, and Adam will simply be a sentimental casualty along the road to her dreams. We all know someone like that in real life, don’t we?
Kudos to Dunham and the entire cast and crew for leaving us with a truly outstanding final episode that left me entertained, satisfied, and wanting to know what happens next.
It’s been real.