Since it debuted in 2012, “Girls” kept viewers engrossed in the characters as they tried "to become who they are.” In its best moments, the creator and star of the HBO series, Lena Dunham, channeled the lead character’s selfishness in a way you could identify with, including a keen understanding of the obstacles on her way to growing up. In its lesser moments, the plot lacked layers; there was just a group of annoying women lacking self-awareness tedious one-dimensional caricatures.
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The series’ final episode, which was broadcast on HBO on Sunday (and in Israel on Monday on the Hot cable network and the Yes satellite broadcaster) is one of the more disappointing episodes of “Girls.” Even though it offered a bit of humor and a refreshing take on motherhood, it was cliché-ridden. Worse, the episode showcased the most tedious sides of Hannah and Marnie, who it seems haven’t matured or developed since the first season.
Dunham showed in the past how experiences that are supposed to be meaningful, including marriage, divorce, a career in a foreign country or an article in The New York Times, didn't make Hannah, Marnie, Jessa or Shoshanna change significantly and didn't provide something we didn’t know before. If Dunham had gone all the way with her statement that motherhood too only seems to be an important experience, the final episode would have been subversive and thought-provoking. But she had no chance of penetrating the narcissism that characterizes the current generation.
Lack of awareness
Dunham suffices with a superficial plot based on how much Hannah and Marnie annoy each other, on a “coincidental” meeting with a girl (who provides some of the series' worst acting) in which lies a message for life. There's also humor based on walking in your underwear in front of a police car, which sounds less like Dunham’s writing and more like Judd Apatow, the producer of the series who helped write the final episode.
In an interview about the finale, Dunham and showrunner Jenni Konner’s lack of awareness mirrored that of the main characters. They insisted the episode reflected a process of growing up, while the significant change Hannah underwent is reflected in the closing of a circle with the beginning of the series.
“In the pilot, [Hannah] is the brattiest girl and explaining to her parents why she deserves money more than other people. In the end, she’s giving a teenage girl advice and telling her to respect her mother. So, she’s really grown up,” Konner told Entertainment Weekly.
“It only took her seven years!” added Dunham.
The episode that should have been the finale was the previous one, which in the finest “Game of Thrones” tradition brought all the plot’s tensions to a peak. Shoshanna declares she can’t take it anymore.
“We cannot hang out together anymore because we cannot be in the same room without one of us making it completely and entirely about ourselves,” Shoshanna says. “I have come to realize how exhausting and narcissistic and ultimately boring this whole dynamic is, and I finally feel brave enough to create some distance for myself.”
Blaming the parents for everything
The episode ends with Hannah realizing that the time has come to leave New York and with a montage of the girls dancing, each by herself. The end of the ninth episode also reflects the way “Girls” shattered the fantasy of female friendship. Instead of the “Sex and the City” ideal of women supporting each other through crises, “Girls” offered more complex friendships with more demanding and selfish aspects that deteriorated each season until the characters shared little time together on-screen.
But “Girls” continued on to a 10th episode, which seemed like a sequel for a decade later. Without Jessa, Shoshanna, Adam, Ray or Elijah, the person who eases the hell that is parenthood for Hannah and Marnie is the wonderful character of Loreen, Hannah’s mother.
Loreen tries to make her daughter finally grow up and stop loading Hannah's daughter with emotional baggage from the men in her past. But hormonal Hannah lacks patience, is focused on herself and, more vicious than ever, continues to blame her parents for everything.
When Loreen asks Hannah whether the last few years of being a mother have been easy, she says: “Maybe they would if you’d chosen a husband who wasn’t gay and who actually loved you. Then I would know what an actual functional family looked like and I wouldn’t be up here with Marnie acting like that was normal.”
This isn’t the first time "Girls" blames the parents for the main characters' inability to grow up. Still, in the past the series did it with much more sophistication and charm. Without the need for vicious crudity, Dunham leveled muted criticism about the way modern parents give their children much greater space to make mistakes and grow up at their own pace.
It’s a shame “Girls” has ended with such a weak episode, but that reflects the series’ lack of consistency. Like its lead characters, “Girls” took a number of steps forward before retreating back into the easy and familiar. Along the way it provided lots of clever and thought-provoking shows, the latest being the episode on sexual harassment at the beginning of this season. Alas, there were also a few episodes that insulted the viewer’s intelligence, such as the show where Desi, Marnie and Hannah rent a place together.
Still, in a way these jumps have been as fascinating as they have been frustrating, faithful to the spirit of the main characters, who over six seasons discover that the work of turning from a girl into a women is confusing and much less natural than we imagined.