You know what’s amazing about Girls, on top of everything else? They stuck unwaveringly to their format for six seasons. There was, I think a ‘To Be Continued’, but mostly, even with ‘One Man’s Trash’ or ‘American Bitch’ they told the stories they had to tell in their HBO-allotted half-hour, and they never felt rushed—usually because Girls was always freed from the convention of having to have a resolution to the problems of the episode.
The last two episodes, as a result, feel almost like a duet; two statements about being Hannah Horvath, or being, in the end, not Girls, but Girl. Or—as I’m sure she would correct me—Woman.
Hannah romanticizes friend groups throughout New York, mourning the passing of her own. Their last meeting, in a bathroom that smells like ‘pussy cream’ (…depilatory? Shosh is charmingly retro, so maybe), is ridiculous, underlining the idea that the group of them aren’t, anymore.
Much has been made of the idea that Hannah’s pregnancy is a bit of a ‘grow-up-quick’ device, and I understand why people feel that way. But to me, it’s much more clearly an endeavor in which nobody can follow. That is, you could conceivably be a first-year college instructor who met other first-years and make a bond and struggle through together. Being in the original cast of White Men Can’t Jump: The Musical is going to give you some all-in-the-boat together connections, too. But motherhood, no matter whether you have a partner or how many baby groups you go to or online forums you frequent, is lonely. Maybe even lonely necessarily.
I don’t think everyone needs to be lonely to grow up. I definitely don’t think only parenthood makes you a grown-up. But Girls has shown us, over and over again, that Hannah will make inappropriate attachments to justify her situation and lessen the fear – to avoid being alone. She entertains raising the baby with Adam, cajoles Elijah to sleep with her, agrees to let Marnie be her co-parent, even as she begins to recognize that the spooning and belly-cupping they engage in is more than a little inappropriate. For Hannah, the key to adulthood is doing something completely alone, without the cushion of friends to fall back on. Only by learning to communicate with a small, nonverbal vampire lizard does she realize she can do this on her own.
I liked having her mother and Marnie in the last episode, even though they’re talking about nothing… as everyone who has entertained even casual forays into the debate knows, breastfeeding and formula and pumping and the language surrounding all of them are completely fraught, and yet somehow totally beside the point in a blisteringly short period of time. But I liked having them around, and, even though I like to think I know this show a little, and though I tend to feel empathy for Marnie, I never saw that she was a reflection of Loreen until the show held the mirror up. I love that they can do that, even this close to the end.
More importantly, though, Hannah is surrounded by the two people who, for better or worse, will love her no matter how terribly she behaves. Everyone, she realizes (at least in the moment), is entitled to their own lives, and ‘f-cking everyone’ is in emotional pain. In fact, maybe that’s the human condition? It’s this realization, ultimately, that gets her to realize she has to go it alone with baby Grover. Which…
Yes, of course I loved the name. Yes, absolutely it is a ‘real’, wearable baby name, and no, most people aren’t going to immediately associate it with Girls. If they do, well, you know they watched all the way through to the end. If they didn’t, or if they have something derisive to say…
It should be obvious by now that being popular was never the point. GIRLS started off being a lightning rod for critics, but when it became obvious that the show, itself, wasn’t going to change the way they showed characters being unlikable and selfish, wasn’t influenced by the sneering attitudes toward daring to reveal unretouched nude bodies, and didn’t have a vested interest in ‘fixing’ the problems that mainstream critics seemed to have… funny thing - people stopped talking about it.
This is, of course, because it was never for them. I questioned, early on, the line between what Lena and her writers were saying and what Hannah was spouting, but as the show and the characters and their voices got stronger, the intent of the show and the outlook of Hannah’s worldview, and how it bumped up against Marnie’s or Adam’s or Jessa’s, got more and more clear, articulating the questions so many young women didn’t know they needed asked. As my friend Lauren said in a post about the show: ‘Thank you for getting me through my 20s’.
In fact, it may have been one of the first mainstream, critically-acclaimed shows that didn’t need to be for everyone (though I read a stat that a huge portion of the audience is men over 35). Relieved of the pressure of being popular, it didn’t try to speak to anyone except those who wanted to be there… and who found something familiar in Hannah and Jessa and Ray and Adam and the godless, tooth-gnashing conundrum that is Marnie Michaels. (I didn’t forget to include Shoshanna above, I just choose to believe she’s on a completely different plane and is generally flawless. Her Japan-centric story was one of my favourites, and though I think we left these characters where they were meant to be left, I would read a season 7 in-canon comic book starring ‘bros’ Shosh and Elijah, just to put it out into the universe.)
Long-running shows have devoted fandoms in part because we come to know and love the characters—but Girls always kept us on the outside of them, making Hannah and her friends never predictable, never completely knowable. That makes for more discomfort, more disquiet (as in the scene with Caroline in the penultimate episode that should absolutely make you as queasy for that knit-bereted baby as it did), and ultimately, much more surprise when the beauty and clarity of it knocks your breath out of you, as it so often did. Lots of shows never get there even once—Lena Dunham and her team never let us get too comfortable, so they could hit us right where we didn’t know we lived, again and again.