Season finale review: ‘Girls’ – ‘She Did’

“Girls” has wrapped up its first season. I did a long interview with Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner again to bookend the pre-season chat we had, and I have a review of the finale coming up just as soon as I blog from a tortilla soup contest…

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” -Adam

We entered this debut season of “Girls” with Hannah Horvath stuffing her face, unaware that her expectations for her life was about to be blown up by her parents. We end it with Hannah again shoving food into her mouth – this time a piece of cake, which is the only thing she seems to have left after losing her best friend, her boyfriend and even her purse, after falling asleep on the F train. 

“Girls” is a show that never flinched, never worried much about making you like the main characters – even though I developed affection for several of them in spite of their constant screw-ups and selfishness – and instead let them make mistakes, hurt themselves and each other, in a fashion that was at times very funny, at others heartbreaking.

“She Did” – written and directed, like the pilot, by Lena Dunham – had a little bit of everything that made this such a memorable (if divisive) first season. There was, again, the image of Hannah going to town on that cake on the beach at Coney Island. There was another big party that brought all four women together under the same roof, even if they each quickly spun away from each other to deal with their own problems. There was a bold, abrupt, bizarre life change, as Jessa dramatically overreacted to Kathryn’s lecture last week and impulsively married Thomas John, the creepy Wall Street guy from episode 8. Elijah came back to verbally spar with both Marnie and Hannah. Ray and Shoshanna reconnected after their misadventures outside the warehouse party, and Ray finally relieved Shoshanna of the pesky virginity problem that had been vexing her all season. And Hannah once more sabotaged herself and misread every signal she was getting from Adam.

I spent a good 10 minutes or so of “She Did” just trying to compose myself and accept that Jessa would be marrying Thomas John. This suggests it was either a leap too far, or (more likely) that Dunham did a good job of putting me into the mindset of every guest at that ridiculous wedding, also unable to comprehend that Jessa was marrying anyone, let alone this mash-up-making tool.

I particularly enjoyed Shoshanna’s dismayed reaction, less to the wedding itself, than to the realization of just how one-sided her friendship with her cousin has been. Shoshanna tells Jessa every minor detail of her existence; Jessa springs this on her unannounced, which means Shoshanna winds up as That Girl(*) who wears white to someone else’s wedding. And because Shoshanna is so distracted by her irritation, Ray offering to take her to bed plays almost like an afterthought at first, until we get to the sweet, amusing scene in the bedroom where he decides he’s up for the responsibility of teaching her the ways of lovemaking.

(*) I haven’t seen That Girl at every wedding I’ve been to, but I’ve seen it often enough to be amused and/or horrified. My favorite was when a guest not only wore a long white dress, but played tremendous box out defense to keep anyone else from getting near the bouquet.

While Shoshanna clearly breaks some of her patterns in the finale, the other women are a mixed bag. You can read Jessa getting married as another impulsive adventure she’s gone on without thought to the consequences, and yet it’s one where the consequences will be much less avoidable. She leaps into something grown-up (and as Dunham notes in our interview, it’s the adult nature of it as much as the surprise and the man she’s marrying that freaks everyone out) and won’t be able to run away from it as easily as she runs from the other grenades she keeps dropping in the world. Time may be a rubber band, but this marriage seems like it’s going to snap back and hit her.

Marnie, meanwhile, deflects Charlie’s advances to the point where he has to either commit to them or back out, and he backs out. And rather than pursue her obviously interested ex, Marnie instead decides to try something new – and perhaps to keep aping her new pal Jessa – by seducing Thomas John’s friend Thadd (played by Bobby Moynihan).

And Hannah? Hannah does what she always does, it seems, by doing her best to ruin what seems like a great situation. Having already chased away Marnie, she panics at the thought of Adam caring enough to want to move in with her, and instead invites Elijah to take up residence in the vacant bedroom. As you might expect, Adam takes this poorly and tears into her outside the party. And what’s amazing is that even in this moment where the guy she cares about deeply is calling her out on her fickleness, her stupidity, and her selfishness, Hannah finds whole new ways to be selfish. She’s narcissistic even about her own fears, insisting, “I’m like the most scared person who’s alive!”

The minute Adam started wandering back and forth in the street, I began worrying he was about to get the Todd Mulcahy treatment, which would have felt tonally off to a wild degree. Instead, he only got the partial Mulcahy: clipped by a passing van, but mainly providing an excuse to physically separate Adam from Hannah while also showing the havoc she can wreak on the lives of those she cares about.

There are many, many things wrong with Hannah Horvath. And I’ve enjoyed seeing them all detailed over these 10 episodes – and, on occasion, seeing her better instincts improbably win the day. To borrow a line Ray uses on Shoshanna, “Girls” vibrates on a very strange frequency, yet I can’t stop thinking about it half the time.

Now if y’all will excuse me, there’s a cupcake waiting for me in the tub.

Some other thoughts:

* You may recall that one of the trailers for the season featured a scene at the coffee shop where Ray tells Hannah, “I could change the world one extremely dumb girl at a time, and when I look at you, I see a pupil,” and Hannah smiles and says, “Thank you.” That was originally in this episode, but it was running so long, and there was so much plot to deal with, that the scene got cut from the actual show, but the exchange seemed to sum up the series nicely in trailer form, so they kept it there.

* In the interview, Konner and Dunham said they don’t like to stunt-cast the show, but they’ve definitely taken good advantage of recognizable faces, whether it’s Chris O’Dowd (who I expect to see a lot more of next season) or Moynihan.

* Elijah’s return brings with it some closure on the HPV mystery, and also reveals his boyfriend as a much older man. His presence just can’t stop mortifying Hannah, though, between the boyfriend saying he knows of her as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and suggesting that Elijah has described her as looking like Camryn Manheim.

So go read the interview, if you have 18 hours to kill, and then tell me, what did everybody else think?