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Girls Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "I Love You Baby"

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Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “I Love You Baby”

Craig Blankenhorn

Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “I Love You Baby”

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.

Girls Recap Season 5, Episode 9, "Love Stories"

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Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Love Stories”

Craig Blankenhorn

Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Love Stories”

The first half of Girls’s two-part season finale deals with several kinds of love: romantic, platonic, and that sparkly feeling somewhere in the middle that can spring up in the glow of a new friendship, like the one between Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her old classmate and nemesis, Tally (Jenny Slate). It’s surprising to see Hannah connect so deeply with a new potential friend, especially someone whose success used to trigger such jealousy in her. Maybe it helps that Hannah hasn’t been writing—or doing much else—for so long that she no longer feels as if she’s in competition with Tally. As she says, when she accepts her offer to hang out: “I’m not really headed anywhere particular at the moment.”

Girls Recap Season 5, Episode 4, "Old Loves"

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Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Old Loves”

Mark Schafer

Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Old Loves”

Like a Jane Austen novel, Girls seems obsessed lately with pairing its main characters up with long-term mates, but the romance is mostly a smokescreen for the show’s—especially this season’s—main focus: the slow, often painful crawl toward emotional maturity. As in Austen’s work, making a good romantic match on Girls is just one of the more easily dramatized rewards of gaining enough self-knowledge to know what you want and enough self-discipline to make the sacrifices to get it. Several key characters make progress toward earning their relationship stripes in “Old Loves,” with Elijah (Andrew Rannells) leading the way with all the sparkly delight of a drum major.

Girls Recap Season 5, Episode 3, "Japan"

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Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Japan”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “Japan”

This season of Girls has been partly about constructing a situation for each of the main characters that could presumably hold steady after the series ends next year, and “Japan” tucks Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) cosily into her totally Shosh-friendly Tokyo apartment, whose brightly colored façade makes it look like one big piece of playground equipment. From the moment she wakes up, to an alarmingly cute alarm clock, it’s clear how well suited she is to her new city, from its love of all things young and perky to her doting boss, Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima), a curly haired cutie who sees her as “a shiny star.” When the two of them eye each other shyly in the company cafeteria, Shosh and her Japanese female co-workers holding cones of cotton candy while Yoshi and his boys lick ice cream cones, the stylized middle-school vibe is both touching (because it feels so right for Shoshanna) and sweetly absurd.

Girls Recap Season 5, Episode 2, "Good Man"

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Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “Good Man”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “Good Man”

The “white man!” cry of alarm directed at Ray (Alex Karpovsky) by a non-cisgender barista after he insults her, first by assuming she’s male and then by asking if she’s female, echoes throughout the entirety of “Good Man.” Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her friends all have their awkward moments as they alternately embody or encounter the blurring of gender and sexual boundaries that have continued to accelerate since their college days, but it’s the straight—or until recently passing as straight—white men among them who struggle hardest to adapt.

Girls Recap Season 4, Episode 6, "Close-Up"

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Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “Close-Up”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “Close-Up”

“Close-Up” begins with a tender portrait of romantic devotion that the episode slowly, cunningly upends. Waking up next to Mimi-Rose (Gillian Jacobs) in her exquisitely adorned loft apartment, Adam (Adam Driver) tucks in his still-slumbering lover and prepares for her a breakfast of Goop-level refinement: a rustic loaf of bread, an assortment of cheeses, matching mugs of coffee. As he arranges the plates for an al fresco meal on the terrace, the Zombies sing about romantic exceptionalism: “Can’t nobody love you like I’m loving you, baby/’Cause they don’t know how to love you like I do.” In addition to presenting Adam’s new relationship as more idyllic than anything he ever experienced with Hannah (Lena Dunham), the scene reasserts his role as caretaker; as in his previous relationship, he’s the patient nurturer, and his beloved is the beneficiary who receives his singular dedication with gratitude.

Girls Recap Season 4, Episode 3, "Female Author"

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Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Female Author”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Female Author”

“Female Author,” the charged title of tonight’s episode of Girls, refers on one level to an identity Hannah (Lena Dunham) has both adopted and allowed to delimit her existence; her self-conception as a female writer has guided her actions throughout the series, but as she comes to question her decision to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she’s also beginning to interrogate the very identity she’s cultivated for herself. Read in that light, the title is a reminder of the labels we affix to ourselves and which constrict our own sense of possibility. On another level, though, the title is an acknowledgement of the agency wielded by the show’s core group of women, as the episode traces three characters’ attempts to wrest control of an identity that’s been imposed on them, either externally or from within. In each case, that attempt at control is motivated by a dissatisfaction whose root cause Hannah understatedly expresses when she declares, “Being pigeonholed isn’t fun.”

Girls Recap Season 4, Episode 2, "Triggering"

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Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Triggering”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Triggering”

Girls’s attempts at eliciting our empathy for a privileged coterie of navel-gazers can sometimes verge on the indulgent. That abrasive appeal to our compassion anchors—and ultimately sinks—the pièce de résistance of this week’s episode, a cringe-inducing critique of one of Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) short stories conducted by her peers at the University of Iowa. After reading aloud her piece (a typically confessional narrative whose barely fictionalized protagonist describes a moment of willed submission in a violent sexual relationship), Hannah briefly entertains her classmates’ catalogue of criticisms: the story trivializes abuse; it’s blind to its privileged vantage point; it rips off 50 Shades of Grey. Wringing pathos from the vulnerability of someone in Hannah’s position ought to be a cinch, but to both its credit and its detriment, Girls rarely makes identification with its characters easy. Despite her professor’s mandate that she sit silent until the others have voiced their opinions, Hannah insists on defending herself, interrupting others before they can complete their thoughts and butting in with justifications.

Girls Recap Season 3, Episode 8, "Incidentals"

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Girls Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Incidentals”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Incidentals”

The title of the latest episode of Girls, “Incidentals,” refers to the fringe benefits that Hannah (Lena Dunham) enjoys in her advertising position with GQ Magazine, which pays her a surprisingly comfortable wage to write pieces that occasionally require her to enjoy the luxuries of hotels (and presumably other services) otherwise out of her financial league. Girls has already observed that there’s an element of pretense to this job, which allows Hannah to write pieces that somewhat align with her pop-cultural interests, but in the context of indirectly selling products. As an amusing cameo by Patti LuPone illustrates, Hannah often resembles a jingle salesman. The perks of her job encourage another pretense: Hannah can live her fantasy of the life of the celebrity-venerated writer, if for just a sporadic night or two. This discovery coincides with Adam’s (Adam Driver) own victory, which could lead to a professional flowering theoretically less cloaked in compromise: He’s landed a role in a Broadway production of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara.

Girls Recap Season 3, Episode 7, "Beach House"

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Girls Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Beach House”

HBO

Girls Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Beach House”

“Beach House” confirms that Marnie (Allison Williams) is no longer a sporadically irritating supporting player, but the center of Girls’s empathetic imagination. This week’s episode concerns another of her perfectionist schemes, which is intended, as always, to stuff her friendships into the more easily identifiable boxes of pop-cultural stereotypes. Marnie wants to reestablish bonds with Hannah (Lena Dunham) and, to a much lesser extent, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), in a manner that resembles a comfortable coming-of-age girl-power narrative complete with the closing arc that finds everyone understanding each other. Marnie sort of achieves her aim, but in the decidedly less comfortable key of real friendships, which often find personal revelation arriving at the cost of someone else’s delicate, probably even necessary, egocentric illusions.