Girls Season Two Finale: A Postmortem

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I want to know who’s still watching Girls that hates Hannah Horvath. I don’t mean, who finds Hannah irritating or self-pitying or selfish or immature, because she absolutely is all of those things. I mean, who has watched twenty episodes of Girls, absolutely loathes her character on a visceral level, and is still planning on watching season three? I know that there are plenty of people who cannot stand Hannah, who find her simultaneous, constant self-examination and lack of self-awareness infuriating, and do not watch the show because of this, and that I can understand.  I’ve dropped otherwise good shows because of unlikeable protagonists before (Big Love, How I Met Your Mother). But surely, no one is still watching who can’t find Hannah to be a somewhat redeemable character, especially considering she is such an integral part of the show.

If you only knew about Girls from Twitter, you would have to conclude that this assumption is wrong. I’ve seen enough complaints about Lena Dunham’s leading lady to last me however many seasons this show is going to have. Hannah possesses all of the negative characteristics I listed above and more, but I still like her. I wouldn’t be able to handle two seasons worth of her dysfunction if I didn’t. She’s witty, creative, charming, and  loyal (to a point). I can relate to her as a writer who wants to say something but isn’t always sure what. I understand her desire to “feel everything” even if it’s just “for the story.” When she’s at her best, I would love to be Hannah’s friend, minus maybe the naked shower cupcake sessions. When she’s at her worst—like when she coaxes her ex-addict neighbor to score her coke and then has sex with him to make her article more interesting only to ignore him later—I want nothing to do with her. And that’s okay. This isn’t the type of show that needs us to like its characters all the time. Disregarding the fact that this is a show about white, upper-class, Brooklynites in their twenties, and just focusing on the “twenties” part, we absolutely shouldn’t like all the characters all the time. Speaking as someone in his twenties, we are awful. We’re self-interested and fickle and lazy. This is the point in our lives when out negative personality traits are most likely to dominate. Lena Dunham knows this better than anyone and has written characters that are good people but are currently the worst they’ll ever be.

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If anyone was on still on the fence when it came to Girls, the season two finale certainly knocked them over to one side or the other. I’m guessing if you were already ambivalent about Hannah’s personality, her sudden resurfacing of OCD didn’t help matters. To be fair, when her OCD was introduced two weeks ago, it seemed to appear out of nowhere. The week before, Hannah was accompanying Jessa who was visiting her father, while peeing in bushes and having sex with a gay teenager on the side of the road. This was a week after receiving the task to write an e-book in a month, which is supposedly the reason her OCD kicked back in. We have never heard mention of this before (except for one line back in season one about having to “masturbate eight times a night to stave off diseases of the mind and body” that was not elaborated on) and when it was introduced, it was on such an extreme level that those fed up with Hannah’s dysfunctional behavior couldn’t be blamed for thinking she was acting out for attention. I fully expected Hannah’s parents to call her on her bullshit and tell her to grow up and deal with her life. To be honest, I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with this storyline. Once I realized we were supposed to take Hannah’s disorder seriously, I accepted the path the show wanted to take us down mostly because of Lena Dunham’s excellent performance. During the finale, Hannah is more unraveled and disturbed than I thought possible, and Dunham completely sells it. Many of her worst attributes are still present (whining to her dad on the phone, hiding from Marnie to avoid communication, Facetiming Adam to show him the severity of her downward spiral and then claiming she doesn’t need help), which is good because it doesn’t completely blame her troubles on the OCD. Hannah is isolated and paranoid because she’s pushed everyone away, so it’s only right that the season ends with her at rock bottom. I just wished the show trusted itself more to put her in need of saving without crippling her with a mental disorder. Ultimately, I went with the OCD, but I hope it doesn’t continue to be a major plot point going forward.

Nobody had a good season, least of all Hannah. The first season did a great job introducing us to the characters, flaws and all, and then ended with everyone’s status quos being thrown out the window. Marnie, finally broken up with Charlie and no longer living with Hannah, began to fall apart when she found herself in a place she hadn’t planned on; Jessa, worried that she was incapable of living a stable life, married the most “normal” guy she could think of; Shoshanna lost her virginity and with it, her defining characteristic; and Adam finally let Hannah in, only to have it backfire in his face. This season was about the consequences of those changes and nobody survived unscathed.

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When the Girls premiered, the show everyone inevitably compared it to was Sex & The City, if only for the “four girls balancing love and work in the big city blah blah blah” tagline. No one would make that comparison after this season. One of the defining characteristics of Sex & The City was how close the four main characters were. They met for drinks/brunch/dinner usually once an episode and discussed what was going on in their lives in that particular episode. The theme of love between female friends was expressed through their constant communication. Girls shares that theme, but expressed it in a different way this season. I can only think of one scene in which all four girls were present this season, and it was a short and inconsequential one. Hannah and Marnie’s friendship, the strongest between any of the girls, never recovered from their fight at the end of last season, and each suffered because of it. Hannah didn’t have Marnie to protect her when she began spiraling out of control and Marnie didn’t have Hannah to tell her not to embarrass herself by singing a Kanye West cover at her ex-boyfriend’s office party and then go crawling back to him once he made it big. Each was previously in charge of calling the other on their bullshit, something both girls could have used a bit more of this season. Their one shared scene in the finale, in which Hannah literally hid from Marnie under the bed, contained one line, on an otherwise blank Word document, that will hopefully signify the re-gathering of the four main girls next season: “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.”

Everyone either rekindled a romance during the finale or ended one, some for the right reasons, some for the wrong. Shoshanna, who’s usually the moral center of the show, allowed herself to live and be selfish for once by breaking up with Ray and hooking up with more men her age. Breaking up with someone who loves you and then immediately hooking up with a hot blonde guy in a bar might seem like the wrong thing to do, but being the youngest girl, Shoshanna has the right to behave recklessly for once. Shosh was pretty much defined by her relationship with Ray this season, so it’ll be nice to see her have something else to do next year, even if she inevitably gets back together with Ray in the end.

Marnie seems like the most likely to have a bad go at it next season, considering how things ended with her. True, she finally got back together with Charlie, but no insisting that it wasn’t at least inspired by his recent windfall is going to convince anyone. Despite seeming like the most well-adjusted character last season, she’s now is unemployed, still without her best friend, and has all her hopes pinned to a partner who’s more successful than her. The bottom might fall out for her like it did for Hannah this season.

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Jessa has been missing for the last three episodes due to Jemima Kirk’s pregnancy, but her absence is completely fitting for her character. When her marriage didn’t turn out the way she expected and then her father disappointed her like she was expecting, she fled. It’s doubtful that Jessa’s undergoing any meaningful growth in whatever foreign country she’s currently residing in, but here’s hoping her return marks at least a desire to change.

The season ends with a big romantic gesture I wasn’t sure this show was capable of doing. When Hannah Facetimed Adam, I equally felt like it was a legitimate cry for help and a selfish maneuver. Adam is the most emotionally damaged of all the characters but he’s also my favorite. It’s clear in this episode that he was trying to make right what he did to Natalia last week, with mixed results (see: Adam literally bashing his head against the wall as they have sex).  I knew that Hannah needed saving but I didn’t want it to come at the expense of Adam losing the only semblance of a normal relationship he might ever have. But when he started running barefoot across Brooklyn, to then kick in her door and sweep her into his arms, it felt right. This is the difference between their reunion and Marnie and Charlie’s. The former feels right while the latter logically seems right. Both might stick, but I’d put my money on Hannah and Adam. A lot of people wouldn’t put up with Hannah and her nonsense, but Adam does because she’s a type of crazy that he needs in his life to counteract his. No, it doesn’t make sense, but it makes complete sense.

But, more importantly than all that, here’s a really poorly thought out and bizarre skin care commercial with Allison Williams. “If you don’t give her the right script, the words aren’t going to come out of her mouth that I want for the picture!”

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One thought on “Girls Season Two Finale: A Postmortem

  1. Pingback: Girls Season 3 Premiere Recap: “Not Okay Behavior For A Friend” | Swanky Trash

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