The season finale of Girls, “Two Plane Rides,” more or less resolves the season’s narrative concerns while simultaneously reminding us that such convenient closure is ultimately an illusion. Hannah (Lena Dunham) learns that she’s been accepted into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which Marnie (Allison Williams) describes as “the best MFA program in the world.” Hannah understandably feels this news is essentially a gift from the gods, particularly considering her dismissal from GQ magazine as well as her recent feelings of displacement and inferiority following Adam’s (Adam Driver) landing of a promising role in the Broadway show Major Barbara. It might be a second chance for Hannah to start afresh and theoretically pretend that her immediate post-undergraduate floundering, which has been her entire life as we’ve known it, hadn’t really happened. (The possibility that this further education might render Hannah a better-read yet still essentially unemployable artist, with a newfound mountain of debt for good measure, has yet to be raised.)
Hannah’s news directly leads to the first of the episode’s five great duets, as she inexplicably tells Adam her good news in his dressing room mere minutes before he’s to begin the first performance of the play. This thoughtlessness isn’t drummed up for sitcom hijinks in the key of Hannah’s past lapses of taste though. This time we’re not primed to judge Hannah, exactly, as we understand the need that’s fueling this act, though we still recoil out of sympathy for Adam, who, in a haunting touch, is speaking to her through the British accent he’s adopted for his role. It’s a succinct, brutal encapsulation of the conflict that’s been brewing all season between the two: They’re fighting for their own stake in their respective personal identities as they begin to enjoy separate professional successes. Hannah is subconsciously trying to assert herself as the artist of the couple again, and, of course, she’s just plain excited in a fashion that can lead to rash self-absorption, and Adam is pushing the validity of his own work right back at her.
The second and third duets also concern uncertain attempts at bridging romantic and professional fulfillments. Marnie and Desi (Ebon Moss Bachrach) share an intense first kiss in the latter’s dressing room when Marnie comes to bring him a good luck gift. The gift, James Taylor’s guitar pick, represents an act of gratitude, as Desi has acted as a mentor to Marnie, treating her with respect without blatantly trying to get in her pants, as well as an ultimately successful attempt to release the considerable erotic tension that’s been accumulating between the two. Less hopeful was Shoshanna’s (Zosia Mamet) similarly bold and considerably more desperate appeal for Ray (Alex Karpovsky) to take her back, which appeared to mostly be a reaction to her discovery that she’s three credits shy of being able to graduate from NYU. That revelation, which is a little ironic in the light of the smug, clueless fashion that Shoshana has often held herself scholastically above her peers, helps to season a character that has too often drifted into unamusing caricature.
The fourth duet is between Hannah and Adam immediately after the Major Barbara premiere, and it allows Adam to partially articulate the resentment and rage that he feels at Hannah’s timing of her dropping of the grad school bombshell. He accuses her of ruining a performance that appears to have gone over well, and we see in his face, and particularly hear in his words, a deep reservoir of hurt that’s startling even for the characteristically inventive and surprising Driver. When Adam tells Hannah that nothing’s ever been easy with her, we realize two things: That last season’s “love conquers all” ending between the two characters was a trap that was set so that Dunham could subsequently expose the easiness of that platitude for the nonsense that it is, and that Adam is really professing his love for Hannah with a ferocity that’s newfound even for him. This season has seen quite a few high points for Dunham and Driver’s rapport, and this heartbreaking moment is a new one.
The fifth duet, which is dispersed in short bits and pieces throughout the episode, is perhaps the oddest and most ambitious. We learn that Jessa (Jemima Kirke) followed up on Beadie’s (Louise Lasser) request to work for her, and that the offer was intended as a scam. What Beadie really wants is for Jessa to help her kill herself with a drug overdose. The full resonance of this motivation hits you on the rebound, as you realize that Jessa, once again, has been betrayed by an older quasi-parental authority figure, and for reasons pertaining to drugs, as usual. But Jessa appears to reach a catharsis, maybe, as the intensity of Beadie’s emotional desolation seems to reveal to her that the various betrayals that have marked her life (her father’s, Jasper’s, any number of other lovers’, and who knows who else) have not been reactions to her insufficiencies, but to their own. Beadie, who reverses her assisted suicide attempt at literally the last minute, just might be able to inadvertently embolden Jessa with the one quality that she will certainly require if she’s to ever truly attempt to corral her demons: hope, however tarnished and qualified.
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