Last night brought us the finale of Girls, an episode with the unusually rom-com-y title, "Together." (That's a far pace from the name of last week's controversial episode, "On All Fours.") It's been an interesting ride this season, full of discomfort and displeasure, cringing and awkwardness for characters and viewers alike, and this 30-minute season ender was no exception, despite the one-half of a Rick Astley song title. This season pushed us into the dark side of "hard to watch"—Hannah's OCD, the eardrum-puncturing, the true unpleasantness of seeing characters interact in occasionally very unpleasant ways, and so on. The laughs, I think, were fewer and further between this season. Yet, comparing the season one finale (in which Adam gets hit by a car and Hannah ends up alone eating cake in Coney Island) with this one, well, you might think things concluded with an upward turn. Maybe.
We start out with Hannah in bed, facing off with her computer, still dealing with her OCD and related eardrum/Q-tip rupture. She's googling as many scary things as she can think of and seems to be falling apart entirely as she tries to write the book she simply can't write, wearing the same T-shirt and hospital bracelet from the last episode. Her editor, who's not at all sympathetic to her plight, calls and asks for the pages she owes him. But the pages are nowhere, because (yes, it's a metaphor) Hannah is nowhere. She's lost, and she feels like she's lost everyone else—except maybe her dad, whom she calls when her editor threatens to sue for the advance if she doesn't deliver the book. Her dad lets her down, too, telling her he can't give her the advance money to pay back her editor, which she claims would free her up and get her unstuck. No one will save her, so Hannah tells herself she can write a book in a day. She manages one sentence.
Elsewhere, people are "together," physically, at least. For Marnie and Charlie the dynamic has shifted again. Instead of pitying him, she wants him back (at least for the time being, now that he has a great job and a lot of money, and she has ... not that?). But Ray and Shoshanna, while physically together, are only falling further apart emotionally. And then there's Natalia and Adam. After last episode's awkward/questionable/more-than-questionable sex scene, the two are still together, but it seems pretty clear this coupling is not going to work.
Marnie, in fact, is so eager to jump ahead and get something right in her life, she's acting like she and Charlie are back together again, a couple of "old fogeys," ready to retire and buy a house in Florida. She explains, "We have all these experiences so we can settle down." But Charlie doesn't get it, and suddenly she confronts the idea that he doesn't want to be with her at all. She storms out of the restaurant where they're eating, he chases after her, and there's a tearful not-exactly-but-sort-of-rom-com-y scene in which she tells him, "I want you. I want to see you every morning, I want to make you a snack at night, I want to have your little brown babies, and I want to watch you die." (What?) He says, "That's all I ever wanted to hear. I love you." (What?) So they're back together, happy happy, even though, of course, absolutely nothing has been resolved—not even, most important of all, Marnie's honest-to-herself admission of what she wants.
Ray, concerned about what's going on with Shosh, tells his boss he needs to make changes in his life. He's thinking of finishing his Ph.D. in Latin studies, but when the boss offers him the "manager" or "district chief logistics and operations supervisor" position at the new Brooklyn Heights Grumpy's, Ray takes the gig. As the boss says, it's a way to "make a nice living and do everything else you want on the weekends. That's what weekends are for." No wonder Ray hasn't wanted to grow up.
Marnie heads to Hannah's apartment to check on her old best friend, and Hannah, Hannah hides. This is how far they have fallen from together. On her laptop, opened on the bed, is one line: "A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance...” Marnie reads it and departs, taking a left-behind item with her as she goes, and Hannah, alone again, avoids writing by eating Cool Whip, reading a magazine, cutting her hair as shown in the magazine, calling Laird to help her fix it after she screws it up, and complaining to Laird about her problems. She reminisces about childhood, when if she broke a glass, someone else would not only clean it up for her, but also, they would warn her to get out of the way so she didn't get hurt. Now, "If I break something, no one says, let me take care of that," she says. Laird tells her he gets hurt on glass a lot. She doesn't really care, this is about her. When she falls to the floor saying she's dizzy and nauseous and tells him she can't fight him off (referring to their one-night stand, in which she was a full participant), he calls her on her bullshit. She's the most self-involved person he knows, with "rotten insides." She apologizes and tells him she didn't think about him as a person which, no matter how you look at it, is a pretty terrible apology (but, perhaps, a message from Dunham herself to critics? We're all people here!). Hannah is a mess, but that doesn't mean she has to be likable. She's sad, she's lonely, she's a mess, and she's still Hannah.
Next we get the Ray and Shosh breakup. Shosh is surprisingly eloquent about how much her love for Ray resembles pity, and about how much that disgusts her: "I love you the way I feel sorry for a monkey, they need so much help and they're in such an ugly cage," she says, which is both hysterical and sort of spot-on, somehow. She tells him she can't be surrounded by his negativity when she's trying to become a fully formed human. He hates everything, she says, the sound of children laughing, colors, pillows, ribbons... "I can't be the only thing you like." It's a brutal declaration, and he gets defensive, telling her maybe she needs to change so she can appreciate the difference between "negativity and critical thinking." He leaves, she bursts into tears.
Hannah, searching for someone, calls Jessa, leaving an angry voicemail. "You're forgetting about everyone who's fucking it up here!" she screams in a message Jessa will probably never listen to. And then, Hannah reaches out to Adam. He's busy destroying stuff in his apartment, and he stops and answers. She's using Facetime. She looks and acts strange. He knows something is up. “What the fuck is wrong with you?" he asks. She says, "I feel like I'm unraveling, I'm really scared," and in an instant he's running, shirtless, to her, holding the phone aloft like a lifeline (until he has to get on the subway).
There's a quick cut to Shosh making out in a bar with a blonde guy, and Marnie and Charlie together, smiling. Hannah's "prince" takes the subway, then runs through the streets until he gets to her door, which he has to break down because she's hiding under the covers. "You're here," she whispers. "I was always here," he says, picks her up off the bed, and they kiss.
OK, what? Everything was terrible, and now everything's fine again? Or, we've got three ladies with boy trouble and that boy trouble got fixed, wrapped up semi-neatly by the end of the season, and so that's that, happy endings for all? Well, not exactly. The resolutions, if there are any, don't seem anything more than temporary, and they're not really resolutions at all: Hannah's still on the hook for a book, and there's that whole problem with the paralyzing OCD. Marnie and Charlie might be back together, but for how long? Is there really anything different now? Shosh can go on and make out with her blonde guy until she's ready for Ray's dark and disaffected soul, or she can just make out with a blonde guy, and then another blonde guy, and maybe a brunette, for the foreseeable future (and maybe that's what she needs). Jessa, where is Jessa?
It's a fake resolution, the fantasy. Of course it's not all roses and Champagne, plots wrapped up in 30 minutes when a guy busts down your door and saves you from yourself. Even in the small way that we might want to believe in a life-salvaging romance between two terribly messed-up misfits (Adam and Hannah) I don't really think that "love story" is what Lena Dunham is giving us here. Or that's not all she's giving us. Remember Shosh's line about loving someone the way she feels sorry for a caged monkey? Pity isn't love, though you can love someone you pity, and, yes, pretty much all of our characters are pitiful in some way or another. Whether they're in romantic relationships or friendships, estranged or close, they're all together, though, stewing in that rootlessness and restlessness of people struggling to find themselves. They've all learned in some way or another how it feels when there's no one to pick up the pieces, no one, even, to issue a warning about avoiding the glass shards. They've cut themselves, but they're still trying, which, I suppose, is what life is about. (We were so much older then; we're younger than that now.) The question is, will we keep watching them try to find themselves?
Winner: I'll say yes to the question above. After all, we're getting a season three, and I do sort of want to see what happens when everyone wakes up the next morning. Despite all the hard-to-watch this-isn't-so-much-fun-anymore moments (and maybe because of them) this remains one of the more compelling shows on TV, and it can't be denied that there's a narrative arc, even if it's come in a slightly unusual shape. Is this show even a comedy, really, or is it an irony? Is it a farce? Is Dunham's voice the voice of a generation that we want to see and hear? It's complicated, and it can be.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.