Sunday night’s finale of “Girls” delivered exactly what viewers have come to expect from the third season of HBO’s siren song of 20-somethings awash in self-doubt and well-furnished Brooklyn apartments: inconsistent plot development, nonsensical revelations, self-absorption and a hairless cat.
In just less than 30 minutes, Lena Dunham, who wrote and directed the finale, crams more plot twists and emotionally charged confrontations than were in the previous 11 episodes combined.
Jessa, in an unconnected subplot, is tasked with helping a photographer with a hairless cat commit suicide by acquiring the drugs Jessa has sworn off. She caves, only for the photographer to have second thoughts after swallowing the pills. This is an off-step for an otherwise well-managed trajectory of drug addiction. It’s a cheap shot to imagine Jessa hit rock bottom earlier in the season, only to provide her with this final test of sorts. It lacks conviction and the sting it clearly aims to inflict.
Shoshanna, the show’s favorite afterthought, faces the reality that she will not graduate from NYU on time and promptly trashes her entire apartment to hardcore punk music. This is not the first classic television trope of the episode. The first scene finds Hannah checking the mail, where she learns Adam’s crazed-Kombucha-loving sister, Caroline (one of many characters forgotten midway through the season), has shacked up with downstairs neighbor Laird and is pregnant. This is irrelevant; it’s the mail that is important. It will announce that she’s been accepted to a prestigious graduate school in Iowa for which we had no idea she applied.
The episode, subsequently, becomes that of the classic “should I stay or should I go?” debate, forcing Hannah to re-evaluate her ailing relationships with Adam, her friends, and to confront major life questions like: Can writing even be taught? Where would she buy yogurt in Iowa?
Hannah, unsurprisingly, takes on such a decision in the most self-involved way —telling Adam she’s moving to Iowa minutes before his opening night in a Broadway show. Unlike in the past, however, Hannah really thinks she is sharing happy news that would put the creative couple on similar footing after having spent oh-so-many episodes watching Adam skyrocket to success while she labored away in GQ’s “sweat-shop for puns.”
As an aside, it was the sudden decision to have Hannah storm out of a GQ conference room staffed with excellent characters ripe for exploration that made the season’s inconsistency obvious. By waving goodbye to the world of magazine publishing after just a few episodes, Dunham missed one of the best opportunities to expand in season three. Her co-workers provided great texture to the show, and having the naïve, idealistic Hannah among older, jaded literary types was a sorely underplayed opportunity for her to grow.
While Hannah invades Adam’s dressing room to inform him of her departure plans, Marnie enacts the final stage of a desperate plan to win the affection of the hot musician, Desi (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach), she’s been fawning over. She gives him a guitar pick owned by a famous musician he admires. The plan works like a charm. The main roadblock to their union, however, is Desi’s girlfriend, who coincidentally runs into Marnie in the bathroom and quickly diagnoses her as a “sad, pathetic mess.” This is precisely correct.
What’s fascinating about Marnie’s trajectory this season is that she seems to possess a degree of self-awareness. She accurately describes herself to Hannah as someone who uses sex for validation and who doesn’t respect the emotional property of other women. She’s been reduced to a teary-eyed portrait of a hot mess several times by wiser characters and yet, she charges on, refusing to change.
These gaps between self-awareness and change are the most realistic aspects of all the characters on “Girls,” and throughout the episode we often find them prepared to have more “adult” conversations — just at the worst possible moments.
By the episode’s end, Shoshanna is still throwing books across her apartment, Adam poses lifelessly for the photographers that may very well propel him to even grander success and the fate of a couple that found themselves united under almost absurd, rom-com circumstances in the second season’s finale is left uncertain. Hannah trudges back to her apartment for a moment of solitude in her apartment, hugging her letter of acceptance to her chest in a scene I wish had been the series’ last.
Such a scene would have been more poignant after a season that was clearly struggling to hunker down from an unhinged confessional to a witty sitcom. There were just too many moving parts.
Dunham struggled to navigate the transition from the amazing black comedy of season two to the often self-contained vignettes of sketches that comprised season three, ending it with a bang of sudden plot development. “Girls” has lost something, and while it may move successfully into multiple subsequent seasons of hilarity and occasional insight, audiences will miss when the show aimed to tackle a more nuanced portrait of growing up.
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