Girls Season 1 finale Episode 10 recap
Girls became a thing. Do you know how hard this was to achieve? We talked about the hype, the backlash, the anointed-ness, and sure, I was part of the chorus. “This is not a thing”, I cried, “And don't say it is before it is”.
And yet, it became something. Something really good, probably on its way to becoming great. Because, like all creative endeavours, it needed time to grow and find the voices of its characters and the rhythms of its storytelling. And yes, I like the show now. I don't think it's infallible, it's still got to continue to grow and get better, I also don't think it's the second coming, necessarily, or the only voice that speaks to what 20 somethings are about, but I would argue that those were expectations put on it by the media (or the damn title).
Once we got out of declaring how DIFFICULT it was to be these girls in the city, we got to see who they were and why they wanted to be there. Each of them believes the city can give them something and make them somehow. Help turn them into the people they want to be, even though the gulf between there and here seems so incredibly far. I can't argue with that. I felt the same way. I still do. We see that this does matter - their community of friends, flawed though they are, coming together in a way that helps them feel like they're not alone in the struggle to get there from here. That's important in and of itself.
This episode on its own was maybe partly too pat (I'm always impressed by how much they can cram into 30 minutes, though) and maybe a little bit underestimated our girls' intelligence - as if they wouldn't recognize a spontaneous wedding when they saw one. The three girls who wound up in the arms of men were satisfying to different degrees. This marriage, like everything Jessa does, seems to be completely without effect, but the show wants me to buy that this is who she is, and maybe that the issues will ricochet back on her in season 2. I'm still irritated that her turning point, if she had one, happened offscreen or in the mouth of her former employer, but we take what we can get, I suppose. Shoshanna's freakout about wearing a white dress was good if predictable, but going home with Ray - even though he did a good job of “meaning it”, telling her she operates on a different frequency - seemed not out of character per se, but underplayed. I buy that she'd have done it. I don't buy that she would have done it without interrogating him on his expectations all the way there on the train, and sometimes Girls skips over these character moments in order to cut to the action, and I felt less of anything than I wanted to by the time she and Ray were together in bed; the talk they did have seemed truncated for time.
Likewise, I bought that Marnie would jump into a flirtation with Bobby Moynihan (who annoys me on SNL, but was flat-out adorable here. “I'd like to do that...sometime”). Even if Charlie wasn't there, playing with her expectations and his own, Marnie doesn't seem the type who can face down this major event in Jessa's life without some development of her own. That would be a failure to her, it seems, especially when everything else is up in the air - her living situation comes to mind. If she left the wedding without some development in her life, she'd feel bad. It just doesn't seem to matter what that development is.
And then there's Hannah and Adam.
This is hard for me. I want to buy it, I do. There are only a couple of things stopping me from doing so. Adam says he loves Hannah; when he commits to something, he commits all the way. I thought this was a ...strange statement. Don't you love someone because you do - because it happens to you and overwhelms you, not because you decide to? Or is this possible? He has absolutely been the model of a “good boyfriend” the past few episodes, including not complaining about the fiasco that is moving furniture before you can afford movers. So is this because he wants to and loves her? Or because he can commit to it as a role? He sure as hell turns it off pretty fast the moment Hannah does something he dislikes. I've known dudes like this. They're difficult. Everything is their way, and when they say “we're in love now”, you're supposed to turn on a dime, because they decided. God forbid you don't like those rules, or have a timetable of your own. It's not fair. Realistic in the extreme, but not fair.
And...what of Hannah, exactly? Adam calls her out pretty completely - as we've seen through the season, the other characters and the show itself are clear on Hannah being imperfect, and I can get down with this: Horvath's world is not seen solely through her eyes. But “I am more scared than anyone else”? This is bullsh-t, of course. She knows it, Adam knows it. Her reasons for not believing he wants to live with her are both legitimate - that's a big move at 24 - and selfish - maybe she doesn't want to do that yet. But she thinks they're because she is who she is, not because of where she is in her life. Does that make sense?
The “fifth character” in this show, for all the press it's gotten, isn't Adam or the city or whatnot - it's Hannah's body. It's always there, daring us to comment on it, subverting our expectations. A while back I read an interview with Lena Dunham where she points out that she's naked even when it's not strictly necessary for the character - this, I think, has to be where Hannah and Lena are closest. It's daring you not to like it. It forces you to accept that even a girl who doesn't look like a model, who has insecurities, has essentially the same experiences in terms of love and relationships and hardships as someone who doesn't.
Forcing us to look at her body, to contemplate it, to allow it to be open for comment from not just her friends or her boyfriend (who, clearly, doesn't give a damn) but from everyone else, is a bolder statement than I think it gets credit for. Ray's comments about “a slim leg” and telling her to go home and change, points out that Hannah's body - Lena's body - doesn't belong just to her. It's something we all “own”, because she's showing it to us when she doesn't have to. She knows it's something everyone wants to comment on. "13 pounds overweight", she screeches, with the accuracy of someone who has googled her BMI a thousand times. But by showing it to Adam over and over again, by showing it to us (and maybe, according to how much you like Hannah's vintage fashion, intentionally not disguising or “making the best of it”), she's making it our problem too. Can we accept that Hannah's body isn't a problem for others (and thus, shouldn't be for us) but is a huge point of contention for her? Or, conversely, if Lena's body - see how confusing this is? - bothers you, but hasn't stopped her from becoming the actress, writer, and director that she is, it's irrelevant? How many women's studies arguments are you tangled up in right now? Does it make a difference that Hannah looked more “traditionally” beautiful this episode than in the nine before? Was it intentional?
These are the places where I'm thrilled that 26-year-old Lena is the architect of 24-year-old Hannah. She's close enough to the character she's creating to make things absolutely real, and far enough away that we don't automatically sympathize with Hannah's brattier tendencies. And this is why I'm happy she has a creative team around her that she loves. Little things, like Hannah's forehead smudge on the subway train where so many other foreheads had already smudged, are the result of a bunch of smart brains making something that is consistently good. Likewise, I somehow didn't worry about how she'd get home from Coney Island (although my city-instincts were like “Stay on the train, dammit, til it moves back to somewhere you can walk from!”). She'll probably write an essay about it.
As always, thank you for the incredibly thoughtful and interesting emails and tweets. Might have loved doing this one most of all. See you on Season 2.
Attached - Allison Williams covers FASHION Magazine.