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GIRLS RECAP 10: SHE DID

Television
by Sarah D. Bunting
June 18, 2012 1:30 AM
4 Comments
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Did she ever—no matter which of the main she's on Girls you might mean. Marnie makes good on her end of her and Hannah's big fight in the last episode; uber-responsible (read: uber-controlling) to the last, she pays the rent up to the end of the month, and then she moves out, leaving Hannah to find a new roommate.

Jessa also has a new roommate—her husband, Thomas John, a.k.a. the sad guy from the failed three-way. Apparently they went on a couple of dates; confused "new sexual partner, delirium caused by" with "lasting commitment, fitness for"; and invited all their friends to a party that's actually a surprise wedding. Everything about the event is quintessentially Jessa, from the idea that she'll mess with everyone's preconceived notions about free spirits to the "veil" that looks like she picked it out of the trash behind Beacon's Closet. Not only will the ensuing plots for Season Two write themselves (see: the months of material "Felicity" got out of this when Noel Crane married the Doritos girl), but a season-finale wedding is the perfect deus ex cake-ina for throwing characters together and stirring vigorously.

For example: Ray and Shoshanna. As predicted, Ray is really into Shoshanna; Shoshanna is really horrified that, not knowing that the party was a wedding, she dressed in white, and she's almost too preoccupied with that to overthink what she's agreeing to when Ray proposes taking her home that night. Later, in bed, Shoshanna's suffering from her usual logorrhea (observing that her aunt told her that losing her virginity felt like "scratching a sunburn" . . . wow, what?), but Ray is seemingly undeterred, and we're probably to assume that Shoshanna is relieved of her V card shortly thereafter.

Marnie, meanwhile, runs into Charlie at the wedding; he's sans new girlfriend—she's evidently live-blogging a tortilla-soup contest, or something?—and it seems like he and Marnie might go on a reunion tour together, but she isn't quite banged up enough on bubbly to go there . . . yet. The end of the night finds her draining yet another glass of champagne, eating cake with her hands, and making out with the Seth-Rogen-esque wedding emcee.

Even Elijah has moved on—to a new, older boyfriend named George, who's apparently hiding his relationship with Elijah from his homophobic teenage son. Elijah's having to live in an SRO until the kid graduates, which is the plot machination that allows Elijah to stay on the show: Hannah invites him to bunk with her, solving both their problems. (It doesn't hurt that he admits that he probably did give Hannah the HPV after all.)

But while it's a solution, it's also Hannah not moving forward, not growing up—staying stuck, facing backward. Marnie's moving out, without a plan, trying new things (or boys); Jessa's married, which is forward motion even if it's ill-considered; Shoshanna is dumping the virginity that keeps her a girl. Hannah is moving in with her gay ex-boyfriend from college, a known and safe quantity who won't challenge her. Adam has already suggested himself as the new roommate, pairing the proposition with a speech about moving on from toxic relationships without guilt, but Hannah just assumes he doesn't mean it, or that he just wanted to help. "Nobody does anything because they want to help; I did it because I love you!" he snaps.

Hannah doesn't know what to do with that information, and Adam doesn't sympathize at all, going off on her for following him "like [he's] the Beatles" for months and then giving him a "shrug" when he commits to her. The actor does a great job with a scene that, for Adam, is basically delivering an audience-proxy checklist of all the ways in which Hannah is an obnoxious, self-absorbed hypocrite: he yells that this is what Hannah wanted, and now she's not giving back. He bellows that she's pretty and a good writer and a good friend, but she doesn't believe those things about herself. Hannah tries to defend herself, to explain that she's scared, the most scared that anyone is, all the time, which I empathize with, and then Adam basically orders her to get over it, which I also empathize with. And then Adam gets clipped by a passing car, and he refuses to let her ride with him in the ambulance: "Don't let her in here. She's a monster."

The monster gets on the F train by herself.

Sarah: "Girlfriend is totally falling asleep and waking up in Coney Island with no purse, bet you a dollar."

Dirk: "No bet."

Sure enough, that's what happens—been there; walked home from that—and Hannah, who's lost her purse but managed to hold on to the slice of wedding cake, wanders out of the station and down onto the boardwalk as the light is coming up. Sunrise finds her on the beach, the Wonder Wheel behind her, sitting at the edge of the world eating cake. In a way, it's a reflection of her sitting in the bathtub eating a cupcake from the premiere—but everything's changed. But nothing has.

The finale showcases everything the show does well—which, I think, closely follows the list of reasons the show grates on people. Not everyone likes the girls of Girls, their self-absorption, their top-heavy ratio of theoretical to practical experience, their workshoppy ways of living, but Dunham and her co-writers have a perfect-pitch ear for how those people speak to and about each other. Not everyone wants to revisit the "thought we knew everything; actually knew fuck-all"-ness of their twenties, but Girls is a painstakingly researched document of that painful cluelessness.

The finale is also a great stage for the Adam character, who started out as a wince-inducingly accurate and familiar, but two-dimensional type of That Guy—dating around, waxing smug about wood craftsmanship while taking money from Grandma, not remembering where Hannah's from—and evolved into a nicely realized human being. He's also the embodiment of everything Hannah is afraid she'll never have, and at the same time that she will have—and then lose. She's still thinking like her high-school self. (And dressing like she doesn't own a mirror. I would love to know if this is intentional, because the problem is not Dunham's figure. It's that there is always always bunching. I'm just going to assume it's a character beat, because as such, it's quite effective.)

It's a strong end to the season; the writing feels confident, without the overworked or canned bits we got partway through. The show isn't for everyone, and it's about hardly anyone—and the niche appeal of/audience for what Dunham does is a legitimate reason not to watch the show or care about the characters. At the same time, though, you have to take the work for what it is. What's the expression—writing that tries to be for everyone ends up being for no one? Dunham's doing Dunham; she's doing it really well, and it's possible to hear some universals in it.

Sarah D. Bunting co-founded TelevisionWithoutPity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com.

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4 Comments

  • Bunting | June 20, 2012 10:43 AMReply

    "I wonder if there's also a part of Hannah that wants Adam to be a 'story', and when he does things like propose moving in, it doesn't fit the script she's got in her head for how this is supposed to go in the tragic novel of her life." I think that's definitely at least a part of it -- and also she's gotten used to thinking she'll never get what she wants, so she doesn't know how to want what she has.

  • Karen | June 19, 2012 9:59 AMReply

    Thanks for your insightful recaps/reviews this season. I really liked this show and liked having a place to read about it that didn't just whine or complain about how terrible the characters were. They are terrible, but that doesn't mean the show isn't great.

  • MsC | June 18, 2012 1:04 PMReply

    'And dressing like she doesn't own a mirror.' Or a bra. That outfit did not have to be nearly so unflattering. I do think that Adam's yelling felt good as a viewer, since many of us have thought similar things about Hannah. I wonder if there's also a part of Hannah that wants Adam to be a 'story', and when he does things like propose moving in, it doesn't fit the script she's got in her head for how this is supposed to go in the tragic novel of her life.

  • jay | June 18, 2012 8:20 AMReply

    Its almost a scary series to watch with the way it can force long buried memories of being a total arse to resurface.
    Very much enjoyed it, whilst hating almost everyone on screen has been a really welcome change.

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