This week on Girls … Hannah and Adam help Caroline through a complicated labour and come to a turning point in their relationship. Marnie goes it alone. And Jessa and Shoshanna make potentially life-changing decisions.
Birth and rebirth
I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can guarantee intrigue.
As Caroline‘s baby is born prematurely in hospital after an aborted attempt to self-doula her own home birth, each of the four main characters is reborn in their own way.
Just as Hannah took the leap to go to Iowa in last season’s finale, so Shoshanna pursues her dream job in Tokyo after Ray‘s boss Hermie offers her some sage advice. (“Be the walker, not the dog.”)
After her calm actions in confirming Caroline’s breach baby and talking sense into Laird, Jessa decides to become a therapist – a career choice seemingly at odds with her usual disregard for other people’s feelings but one which makes a strange kind of sense for a young woman who has never been afraid to speak her mind.
After Desi is spooked by Ray’s incisive dismantling of his flaws and doesn’t show up for the showcase with record label boss Marcos, Marnie‘s self-confidence plays to her advantage as she discovers her backbone and goes out and gives an assured solo performance.
And Hannah quietly but firmly tells Adam she can’t be with him when he tells her he made a mistake with Mimi-Rose and has finished with her. Lena Dunham and Adam Driver act the hell out of a scene which is heart-breaking but so much better than just putting the two star-crossed lovers back together again. In the coda, which flashes forward six months, we discover that she is now in a happy relationship with fellow teacher Fran.
By contrast, Hannah’s parents Tad and Loreen are beyond the point of reinventing themselves. They remain together despite his coming out as gay, although her mother admits that “the sad part is I don’t really have a future”.
Home Birth brings a pleasing sense of closure to this season’s storylines while opening up a whole host of possibilities for season five by moving the clock on half a year.
What does Hannah being with Fran mean for Adam’s future in the show? And does this mean she has fully settled into her new vocation as a teacher?
With Marnie having showcased her solo talent, where does this leave her relationship with Desi, both musically and in terms of their engagement? Is success just around the corner for a newly self-reliant Marnie, and does Desi’s potential absence open up the door for Ray again? She has certainly come a long way since being so easily rattled at the brunch performance in the season opener.
Is Shoshanna still in Tokyo six months hence? Has Jessa followed through on her decision to become a therapist? And what of Tad and Loreen?
Overall, this has been an up-and-down season with a strong finish. For much of it, I’ve struggled to really connect with any of the four leads as their likeability has plummeted and their degree of contact with reality has diminished. And yet in this final episode there’s something eminently satisfying about Hannah’s quiet strength, Marnie discovering some inner steel, Shoshanna seizing control of her own destiny and Jessa using words to help rather than hurt others.
Jessa has been the most remote and least likeable of the girls all season – and yet we finish this season with her story having, in many ways, the greatest scope for exploring new opportunities. Is she about to grow up and finally join the real world rather than constantly rebelling against it?
She’s a beautiful, fully-formed woman, dazzling in her complexity, maddening in her mystery and you underestimate her every f***Ing day.
Girls has often fallen down in its treatment of its male characters, but the verbose Ray and the cutting sarcasm of Elijah (sadly absent from this episode) have often delivered the best lines in many episodes. Ray’s eloquent take-down of Desi – is there a character who is more of a drip anywhere on TV? – is the most emotionally satisfying moment of the entire season. Although Elijah has been used almost exclusively as a foil for Hannah rather than as a character in his own right, Andrew Rannells is always a joy to watch. And Adam ends the season with his and Hannah’s roles reversed – for once it’s he who needs her, while she is as calm and sorted as we have ever seen her. Is this a temporary hiatus, or has she now simply outgrown their relationship?
Lena Dunham has never been afraid to move her characters in new directions so it will be interesting to see to what extent each girl has exerted their new-found direction and independence when the series returns next year. There’s a sense that the show is now less outrageous – more grown-up, maybe? – than it was to begin with, but that’s no bad thing.
At the end of a season which has largely seen the female characters acting almost completely independently of one another, will season five see them brought closer together again, or will they continue to flit about on the periphery of each other’s orbits? It’s particularly noticeable at the end of the episode that Hannah’s first call is not to Marnie or Jessa, as it would have been in previous seasons, but to her mum.
An excellent finale, one that brought both a sense of closure and of new beginnings. Perfection? No. Intriguing? Yes. Girls just got interesting again.
Fun stuff, references & quotables
- Yes, that’s Spike Jonze guest-starring as record label president Marcos.
- Ray to Desi: “Don’t ever think that you get on stage anywhere where the vast majority of the crowd doesn’t think, ‘Douche!’ Douche!’ You know how you feel when you watch Imagine Dragons play? Well that’s how we feel about you. And you know what? Imagine Dragons are great, and you’re the douche.” Amen to that.
- Hermie: “It makes sense like a Danielle Steel novel makes sense to a woman with emphysema.”
- Laird, after being told by Jessa to man up: “I’m not a man. I’m a Jewish recovering junkie and I weigh 135 pounds.”
- Jessa-Hannah Bluebell Poem Schlessinger Sackler. And why not?
- The closing credits song is Family of the Year’s Carry Me.
Episode rating: 9/10. Season 4 rating: 8/10