Girls ends like it begins, with nothing and everything changing

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Previously on Girls, the series. Marnie hooked up, got married, got divorced, lost her band, moved back in with her mom. Shosh lost her virginity, found her purpose, moved to and from Japan, got engaged, and left the other friends. Jess stole, drank, did drugs, got jobs, lost them, hooked up with randos, made a movie with Adam, and got back together with him. Adam had emotional rollercoasters, dated Hannah and “rescued” her, dated Jessa, proposed to Hannah, and went back to his life. Elijah was wry, came out, predicted Hannah’s father being gay in an off remark, got abused, and made it big. Ray hooked up with girls he found intimidatingly attractive, felt lost, felt depressed, dumped Marnie, and made out with someone new. And Hannah dated, tried, failed, wrote, didn’t write, succeeded, failed, got sick, got healthy, got angry, got sad, got morose, got triumphant, and got pregnant.

This last season of Girls has been good, but it’s not as good as either the initial heights or last season’s magic. It’s solid but not amazing. There are usually funny moments and interesting character beats, but often I found myself frustrated by the creative decisions. The “slice of life” concept is the generic genre of the show, meaning it’s ostensibly like real life, with no real ending. But characters still have arcs.

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The particulars of the finale made a lot of sense; Marnie being the last true friend of Hannah, realizing she had nothing else, and her selfish pursuits put aside to help someone who really needed it. She even clearly became a surrogate sort of daughter to Hannah’s mother, who despite her faults, is far better than Marnie’s mother at emotional support or even advice.

The episode was called “Latching”, and the explicit reference is to the breastfeeding, although the metaphor was hyper-extended. Hannah latched on and off from her own life, from her friends, from her mother. She is stressed and emotionally drained, and she lashes out several times. But Marnie and her mother show that although the words hurt, they stay strong for Hannah and Grover’s sakes.

We saw the theme of worry versus motherly love and “doing what’s right.” Although there is a simple arc, we know, along with Hannah, that life isn’t simple is one simple shouted revelation. Sure, that high school girl without pants was immature, reminding Hannah starkly of her own past, and helped her understand motherhood in a clarified way, but that’s just one moment. Raising a child lasts a lifetime.

There was a song we heard a few times, “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, a folk song about a working class and poor woman trying to escape her poverty. This closing line to the song rings especially resonant to me:

I-I had a feeling that I belonged
And I-I had a feeling I could be someone (be someone)
You’ve got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You’ve gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

 
In the song, the character is in a vicious cycle that she cannot escape; the cycle is what worries Hannah subconsciously, even if she can’t focus on it. The final moment of a smile and a worrying frown is basically a summation of the entire show. It’s light at times with moments of joy and laughter, but often cynically dreading about the realities of life.

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I wonder about the future of these characters, which isn’t as dire as the show would sometimes make it seem. Not everyone will find purpose; Marnie will likely never find her true calling. Hannah will probably struggle with mental illness her whole life. But perhaps Grover will have a more stable life; anything’s possible.

The show Girls was unusual because it was unafraid to show nudity in unflattering ways, because it was willing to push the envelope of cringe, because it was willing to transform. Shosh changed tremendously while staying exactly the same. Zosia Mamet did such a convincing job, people forgot she played a much different character on Mad Men. And Adam Driver shot into space.

I recall the old SNL sketch with Tina Fey that I still think is pretty funny, but it focused on a specific slice of the first season, where the characters were still being developed. Marnie didn’t even have a character in that sketch. Girls won’t likely have true staying power in the echelon of epic HBO TV, but it deserves to be among the excellent company of many great shows.

I guess I’ll miss the show, but I doubt I’ll revisit it anytime soon. Maybe in a few years when I want to be reminded of songs I bought in the 2010s.

What did you think of the series and finale? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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