Last night’s GIRLS finale was a tour de force. In terms of character, dialogue, wit and plot, I’d put it right up there in Annie Hall territory. As soon as the episode ended, I went right back and watched it a second time. It was that good.
I’ve had mixed feelings about Season 2 of GIRLS. While Lena Dunham always delivers great dialogue, I’ve been perplexed and disappointed with some of the choices she’s made for the characters this season, especially her own. The compulsive and gratuitous nudity, the ill advised hookups with a junkie and Jessa’s teenage stepbrother were nauseating, especially since she confessed to not feeling any particular desire for either guy. Her two-day fling with a gorgeous guy whose trash cans she’d been invading just didn’t pass the plausibility test. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I declared that GIRLS had jumped the shark, and hoped that Lena Dunham’s work would become more consistent as she matured.
Then last week she delivered a great episode, leading us into the grand finale. All is forgiven, and I humbly bow before Lena, the voice of her generation. No one else has come close to capturing the gritty, confusing and neurotic lives of New York Millennials. It’s a brilliant portrait of a society where adolescence lasts until your 30th birthday (or in Ray’s case, 34th).
The show was most profound in its exploration of authenticity. You can pretend to be sane for a little while, or adopt the persona of some cool dude you’re not, or promise a publisher that you’ll write a series of brilliant essays on the sex you’re not having. But in the end, it never works. As I said in a recent comment thread, “Wherever you go, there you are.” We can’t escape ourselves, nor can we hide ourselves from others, not really.
Hannah and Adam
The show opens with Hannah in full-blown compulsive mode, googling for information about germs and unable to get out of bed. Her book, which she had been given just a month to write, is overdue by several days and her publisher’s threat to sue her to get their advance back fails to inspire more than a single line of text about college friendships. Instead, she eats a bowl of Cool Whip and cuts her own hair in an attempt to look like Carey Mulligan. When that is a disaster, she gets Laird the junkie to come up and “fix it,” and he succeeds in making her look like Martin Luther. It’s all tragically hilarious, and in the middle of this she says to Laird, “I haven’t been eating that much so I don’t know if I look scary thin or anything.” It’s the perfect finishing touch.
Ironically, Hannah’s breakdown creates the perfect opportunity to reconcile with Adam. Adam, who has been pretending to be a guy who cares about the Mets and enjoys romantic comedies, can’t keep up the charade. His girlfriend Natalia shames him when his dark side bleeds through, and a scene where he wants to talk dirty and she scolds him as a feminist is both poignant and painful. As he is expressing passion, she is instructing him in the ways of Coital Alignment Technique: “Back up, bear down, go slower.” The mismatch of Adam and Natalia was torture to watch. I found myself fondly recalling the sex scene from last season where Hannah went along with Adam’s fantasy of having seduced her as an 11 year-old with a lunchbox.
When we next see Adam, he’s destroying his wooden sculptures and yelling, “Fuck her!” We don’t know whether he means Hannah or Natalia, but when Hannah reaches out to him via Facetime, he drops everything and runs like the wind across Brooklyn to scoop this Martin Lutheresque-Hannah into his arms. I haven’t seen such a physical demonstration of love for a woman since Superman flew against the rotation of the earth to save Lois Lane.
Shoshanna and Ray
I confess I didn’t see the breakup coming. As ill-suited as these two are for one another, and despite Shoshanna’s making out with the doorman, I hadn’t realized how disillusioned Shoshanna had become with Ray, or how completely she controlled the relationship. When he decides to change his life, it’s only to keep her, not from any real motivation within. It’s a patch up that falls flat. Ray’s misanthropy, his “black soul,” which seemed so romantic and mysterious early on, is now a constant burden.
Shoshanna expresses her frustration with Ray with a hilarious description of his negativity, listing all the things he hates, which include the sound of children playing, colors, pillows, ribbons, people wearing sunglasses even in the daytime, and all his living relatives. It’s a pitch perfect summary of who Ray is, and a reminder of why Lena Dunham has been called the new Woody Allen.
He thinks that finishing his doctorate in Latin Studies is the answer, but his boss at Grumpy’s knows that’s not what Shoshanna wants. “She doesn’t want a Latin scholar! She wants somebody who can support her for the rest of her life so she can keep buying purses shaped like different bread products!” Dunham has an unerring sense of female attraction cues, and she knows what makes Shoshanna tick.
In a nice final touch, we see Shoshanna making out with a tall, thin blonde guy at the bar, despite having assured Ray there was no other man, “Especially not an adult male blonde, you know me better than that!” Ray was a darkly charming parasite in Shoshanna’s life, and she was bound to see his true self eventually. Her tender age and naivete allowed Ray to pretend to be an adult for just a while.
Marnie and Charlie
Charlie successfully pretended indifference to Marnie for a couple of weeks, but he never had a chance. He says he knows he’s an idiot and he doesn’t care. Not even her painful and humiliating solo at his workplace, with her strangely sexless sexually tinged performance, can dampen his ardor.
In Season 1, when Charlie and Marnie were breaking up, she asked him why he never had doubts are their relationship. He replied, “Because I decided on you! I fucking decided on you!”
Charlie is true. Marnie says she loves him and “it has nothing to do with the money.” His status has skyrocketed, he took her on his desk in the most manly way, and I’m sure Marnie believes what she is saying. But I don’t have a good feeling about this. In the end, she’ll disrespect him again, just for loving her so much.
Wherever you go, there you are.