This week on Girls … Hannah receives good news which could change her life. Shoshanna receives bad news which forces her to re-evaluate her goals. Marnie moves on from one man to another. And Jessa learns why Beadie really gave her a job.
As in the first two seasons, the finale revolves primarily around Hannah and Adam, as their relationship fizzles out and they go their separate ways.
After three seasons, Hannah hasn’t really changed at all. She’s still selfish and self-involved, and her default behaviour remains to try to make every situation about her. While her acceptance into Iowa’s writers’ workshop is a major achievement worth celebrating – it’s a validation of her dream and a recognition of her ability, after all – the way she chooses to break the news is illuminating. The first person she tells is Marnie, which is indicative of the growing distance between herself and Adam. And then she elects to tell her boyfriend on the biggest night of his professional life, as he prepares for his Broadway debut.
There are two facets of Hannah at play here. On the one hand, this is the self-centred and unlikable Hannah we’re familiar with. On the other, there the girl who genuinely cares for Adam, something evident in her pride in his performance and her recognition of how he has inspired her. The problem is that Hannah is Hannah – she cannot help but make his night all about her. Could she have waited a few hours and told him afterwards? Of course not – she wouldn’t be Hannah Horvath if she had.
The final scene of her breaking into a smile as she clutches her acceptance letter says it all. When push comes to shove, her writing is the most important thing in her life, even more so than Adam. Her break-up with him removes the last reason for her to stay in New York. Unconsciously, it’s what she wants.
Shoshanna‘s year of living dangerously comes back to bite her as she fails a class she needed to graduate, wrecking her meticulous ten-year plan.
This is the second time this season we have seen her repressed anger come pouring out. The first time (in Beach House) was alcohol-fuelled, as she imparted some home truths to her friends. This time, she trashes her apartment and nearly throttles Marnie when she tells her about her and Ray.
Her solution is to try to wind back the clock and revive her relationship with Ray, as she realises what she chose to walk away from.
You make me a more stable human, and you make me want to be the best version of myself, and I just want to be your girlfriend again, and I just want to pretend that I was never not your girlfriend before. I love you.
However, she learns the hard way that not everything conforms to her detailed plan and that other people move on as Ray rejects her. Back to the drawing board.
In many respects, Marnie has changed almost as little as Hannah has.
She at least acknowledges that she uses sex to cover up her insecurities. However, that doesn’t stop her using Ray. Nor does it prevent her from pursuing Desi, despite knowing about his girlfriend and having confessed her fling with Ray to Shoshanna.
She also still hasn’t completely moved on from Charlie, taking a leaf out of Hannah’s book and turning Shoshanna’s bemoaning her failure to graduate into a discussion about herself.
So how far has Marnie come? Professionally, she is now in a worse job than when we first met her. Personally, she has gone from being in a stable relationship to sleeping with her friend’s ex and becoming ‘the other woman’. And she continues to pursue her singing dream. In almost every way, she has gone backwards since we first met her and become a worse person for it. Marnie is only ever a likable person when everything is going well for her.
As in the second half of season two, Jessa has barely been present at all, with much of her thin storyline isolated from the others. She was in rehab briefly, she worked in a children’s clothing store, she stole money and fell spectacularly off the wagon again. And now we discover the real reason Beadie hired her: to procure the drugs she needs to take her own life.
Jessa, never one to worry excessively about the morality or legality of any situation, complies. She feeds Beadie a lethal cocktail of drugs, only for the artist to change her mind and scream at her to call 911.
I’m not sure quite what to make of Jessa’s closing two-episode arc. It feels disconnected from the other girls’ storylines and seems to be almost an afterthought – unless these events have consequences for Jessa next season. For Jessa to face up to the results of her actions would be a first.
In truth, none of the four principal characters have grown up at all in the three seasons we have known them. Indeed each has to some extent regressed, making them less likable than ever (in particular Hannah and Marnie). But each character has been beautifully and realistically drawn by Dunham.
With Hannah seemingly on her way to Iowa, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic between the quartet changes. It’s exactly the kind of upheaval that happens between groups of friends in their twenties, as careers and marriage and children tear apart even the closest of friendships. Will Hannah’s move be the final straw for friendships that have been increasingly fragile for some time? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out. I’ll be looking forward to it.
We discover where Adam’s sister Caroline disappeared to – not far, as it turns out. She moved in with Hannah’s former junkie neighbour Laird and is having a baby with him. (She’s convinced it’s a girl because she can feel its labia forming.)
Elijah again steals every scene he’s in, from his suit jacket and shorts combo to him sneaking into the photos of the cast of Adam’s play. Good news: he’ll be joining the main cast for next season.
Hannah’s parents are so sweet and supportive, and yet they were so right to have cut off her money right at the outset of the series, forcing her to stand on her own two feet. (And doesn’t that seem like such a long time ago?)
Episode rating: 9/10. Season 3 rating: 9/10