Several characters make significant psychological progress in tonight’s season finale of Girls, which begins and ends with Hannah (Lena Dunham) jogging. The first instance is played for laughs, as she plows doggedly up and down her block, in workout clothes that couldn’t be less flattering, while her parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari), camped out on her stoop, try to get her to acknowledge their presence. The second is played straight, with a determined Hannah running toward the camera in the great outfit her mom bought for her reading at the Moth’s creative writing slam. But whether it’s presented as comedy or drama, the jogging is yet another sign that Hannah is learning how to take care of herself.
That reading is another milestone for Hannah, partly because it’s been so long since she’s written anything, but mostly because of what she says. Summing up the feelings she’s been working through about Adam (Adam Driver) and Jessa’s (Jemima Kirke) relationship, Hannah is funny, honest, and emotionally mature in a way that’s new for her. “No matter whether I start a new nuclear missile crisis with my emotions or just sit back and chill and give someone a fruit basket,” she says, “I can only control the mayhem that I create around me.”
It was also nice to see Hannah looking so good—“a Moth 9,” as Elijah (Andrew Rannells) puts it. Girls’s commitment to showing Hannah’s body in all its pear-shaped, non-beauty-standard-conforming glory is one of the show’s most commented-on qualities for a reason: The constant barrage of messages dictating how girls and women “should” and “shouldn’t” look calls for an equally in-your-face response from those of us who refuse to hate our own bodies, and Dunham’s nudity is an important part of a pushback that’s still new enough to feel noteworthy and brave. At the same time, Hannah’s clothes are often so comically unflattering that they feel like a form of self-sabotage. Wearing clothes and makeup that suit her better at the reading feels like an organic part of the more self-aware side she exhibits there, as she learns to think more about how her actions affect other people.
Marnie (Allison Williams) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) are looking good too, feeling their way toward what just might turn into a good relationship. More relaxed and forthright with him than we’ve ever seen her be with a lover, she apologizes for not coming during sex, but then says, half-laughing, that that isn’t all bad, since “I can only come if I kind of hate someone.” And she cajoles him into joining her on tour with a nice, lightly teasing confidence.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Jessa and Adam’s knock-down fight winds up taking their relationship to a more intimate level or driving them apart, but Jessa’s ferociously honest speech about her old friend and her new relationship brings her closer to the audience, elucidating feelings that have seemed muddled up to now. It’s also an excellently written take on the intensity and complications of late-adolescent female friendship.
The last few minutes of the episode, which give us a bead on where all the main characters are as we prepare to leave them for almost a year, are suffused with the potent mixture of love and bemusement that’s the essence of em>Girls. The song that gives the episode its title starts as Hermie (Colin Quinn) dances Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) around the coffee shop he owns with Ray, grateful for the transformation she’s engineered (gotta love that “Earnest Facial Hair Only” sign). It then continues under a nicely edited montage of brief check-ins with the other main characters, each one a salty bouillon cube of concentrated emotion.
First Marnie knocks repeatedly on her dressing-room door, which Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) doesn’t answer because he’s inside getting a blowjob from a groupie. Then Ray comes to her rescue, pounding on the door. Cut to a gentle knock on another door as Hannah’s father goes back—thank goodness—to hook up with that nice man he had sex with in “Good Man,” and we move to Hannah’s mother, who’s sharing a joint and a laugh with Elijah, exchanging confidences that make it look as if those two will be okay as well.
Then, Adam and Jess are revealed lying naked and sweaty on the floor of his trashed apartment in an ambiguous silence. The camera pulls back and circles over to Hannah’s fruit basket, a reminder that, as Jessa told Adam, “We will never be done with her.” And, finally, the montage cuts to Hannah, jogging purposefully toward home. It’s a resonant end to one of the show’s strongest seasons, as the creators behind this excellent exploration of late adolescence in the early 21st century gain confidence and skills alongside their characters.
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