A review of the “Girls” season 3 finale coming up just as soon as I can feel the labia forming…
“Well, I'm sick of trying to work it out. Can't one thing ever be easy with you?” -Adam
There are times when each season of “Girls” can feel haphazard and patchwork, with characters appearing and disappearing at random and story arcs being interrupted for short story-ish digressions that take Hannah out of town and/or give most of the cast the week off. That's not necessarily a bad thing, both because those digressions (like “Flo” this season) often represent the series at its best, and because it does a nice job of conveying how directionless and random Hannah Horvath's life can become.
And I'm always impressed with the way the show tends to conclude its seasons in a way that bring everything full circle for Hannah (and, at times, for her friends). Season 1, for instance opens with Hannah stuffing her face with pasta, and ends with her doing the same with a piece of wedding cake, and her interactions with Adam in that episode neatly pay off everything the two of them went through over those 10 episodes. Early in season 2, Adam breaks into Hannah's apartment and she's so scared that she calls the cops on him; at the end of that season, he kicks her door in and it's a heroic, romantic gesture.
Season 3, meanwhile, opened with the very simple image of Hannah and Adam's bodies entwined as they sleep peacefully together, followed by Adam dutifully bringing Hannah her OCD medication. They are together, they are happy, and yet she is entirely reliant on him to function. Over the course of this year, the two of them went through personal and professional ups and downs, from the stress of having Caroline living with them to Hannah's editor's death and Adam's discomfort at her lack of empathy to Hannah's envy of Adam getting this big break while she was being paid well in a job she hated. And we conclude – in a way that somewhat echoes Adam's “What the fuck is wrong with you?” query from the season 1 finale – with the two of them on the rocks, but also with Hannah alone, studying the letter from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and smiling at the thought of finally having professional direction in her life again, and a chance to feel special and creative and adventurous in the way that she's always wanted to. It's not a happy ending for the season, necessarily, because things are so precarious with Adam, but it feels true to everything we saw Hannah go through this year. And by making the closing moment not involve her relationship, or her alienation of her friends, but the possibility of a new direction for Hannah, it feels exciting and suggests some real growth for the series – even as I'm well aware that the realities of having the other characters living in New York means Hannah isn't likely to spend two years trying to be “bicoastal.”
So that was all very effective, and the moment where Hannah told Adam about Iowa right before opening night hit that “Girls” sweet spot of being uncomfortable while feeling like exactly the thing Hannah would do there. We know Adam well enough to know how he will respond to this news at this moment, and Hannah knows him even better, but she needs to share this news and the ways in which it makes her seem special again, and in her mind what better time is there than when Adam is poised to also feel extra special?
Beyond Adam and Hannah's story, “Two Plane Rides” did a nice job of tying back in several of this season's other loose threads. Jessa's arc on the whole was underfed (and without last year's maternity leave excuse), but even though Shoshana appeared even less often this year, Zosia Mamet was so good in the finale – in particular in the intermission scene with Ray, where she was allowed to be dramatic in a way she's virtually never gotten to do in this role – that she sold the notion of Shoshana having had a lost year, overreacting too much to the breakup with Ray and the sexual freedom she suddenly felt, and realizing too late how badly she had screwed up. There were several times earlier in the season where she was being smug about how unsuccessful her group of older friends had been, but now she's wound up in the discount bin with the rest of them. And Ray has now improbably been placed in position to turn down two of the four Girls (though perhaps Shoshana can bulldoze him the way Marnie did last week).
Even Caroline came back, and we got an explanation for where she's been: shacked up with Laird, first at his brother's compound upstate, now in his ground floor apartment where she is carrying his spawn. As a human being, I am horrified at the notion of Caroline reproducing and raising a child (I'm more scared for that kid than any fictional one since Bobby Bacala and Janice Soprano reproduced); as a viewer of “Girls,” I am delighted for the comic possibilities of it.
Overall, there were times where the whole of “Girls” season 3 was, like season 2, threatening to be a little less than the sum of its individual parts. And while I still think they can do better at servicing the supporting characters – or else need to pull a “True Detective” and treat them all as secondary figures there simply to tell us more about Hannah and possibly Adam – this finale, like the last one, pulled enough of the season together to make the whole journey feel satisfying. This remains a weird, at times maddening show that on occasion I feel the need to watch while I'm inside a sensory deprivation tank and the TV is outside it, and yet the writing and direction remain so sharp, and Hannah remains such a well-drawn character – even with her knack for being spectacularly irritating at times – that I'm in it for the long haul, even if that haul takes us to Iowa for a while.
Some other thoughts:
* Again, I don't know that the show really knew what it was doing with Jessa this year – or, at least, that it had the time to tell that story properly, even given two more episodes than normal. Beadie asking Jessa to help her commit suicide – then begging her to call 911 when she realizes she was mistaken – felt awfully rushed, and would have worked better if Beadie had been around for at least half a season. Hopefully, this isn't the last we'll see of Louise Lasser on the show.
* Am I wrong, or did it seem that by the end of the phone call, Mr. and Mrs. Horvath appeared willing to pay for Iowa? If so, interesting but not that surprising that they would pay for something that suggests Hannah has a direction in her life again, even as they wouldn't subsidize her aimless lifestyle from the start of the series.
* Shoshana, confused by the British accents: “But it's called 'Major Barbara.'” Did she think it was a Barbra Streisand biography? Or just that the name doesn't exist in England?
* If the show had only brought Andrew Rannells back for the gag where Elijah (who earlier was scolding Ray for not being dressed up enough) is revealed to be wearing formal shorts… dayenu.
* More wardrobe humor: Marnie and Clementine are both wearing green dresses to opening night, though Clementine could already tell what Marnie is up to with Desi – and unfortunately for her, her attempt to warn Desi appears to have backfired on her.
* Hannah is consulting a picture of Olivia Wilde when she applies her makeup for opening night, and sure enough she winds up with the kind of cat eye look Wilde's been known to sport on the red carpet.
* The concluding song is Michael Penn's “Good Girl Down.”
That's almost it for this season of “Girls” for me. With any luck, I'll have one more piece on the show going up sometime tomorrow morning – UPDATE: it was this interview with Judd Apatow – and then when that's done, I will think long and hard about how many new commenting rules I need to add just related to this one show.
But as for “Two Plane Rides,” what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org