Girls Season 6 Premiere Recap: "All I Wanted"

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Watching the first episode of the final season of Lena Dunham’s epic ode to the disaffected youth of the early 2010s, I realised that, halfway through this journey we have all unwittingly been a part of, I am now unable to extricate Lena Dunham the person from Hannah Horvath the character. Personal opinions about the creator aside, I can still appreciate Girls for what it is. It had its place, it ran its course, and now all we need to do is see how these women will reconcile the terrible mess they’ve made of their relationships, their lives, and each other.

Great news, for those of you wondering whether or not Hannah was going to actually nut up and publish something. The answer is yes. It’s a New York Times Modern Love column about her boyfriend sleeping with her best friend, and as per the montage, it’s a hit with at least one person — her dad. Adam, reading the paper and chewing a ragged nail while Jessa looks on, less so. Marnie loves it because of course she does, though not for the content, but for the fact that Hannah’s in print. Ray’s copy-editing what’s already been published. Shoshana’s into it, Hannah’s mom loves it. Hannah, carrying like, ten copies of the paper, smiles to herself. Welcome back. It’s happening. This is really happening.

In a coffee shop, Hannah up-talks her way through an interview with a woman who works at something called “Slag Mag.” The person interviewing her really goes in on her apparently transcendent Modern Love column, reiterating just how hard it must’ve been to watch her best friend and her ex-boyfriend bone in front of her very eyes. “Really, I feel like more of a dumpling than a woman,” Hannah says, clearly ready to milk this one-off for all its worth. She’s hired. For her vibe. Her look. Her shape. For an assignment: sending her to a female surf camp in the Hamptons, as the non-surfer, to cover the co-opting of surf culture and its “shitty yoga vibes.” Oh boy, we’re off to the races.

Did you remember that Marnie and Ray are boning? From the looks of the desultory sex we just witnessed — Ray comes, Marnie doesn’t, Ray picks up his well-worn copy of A Little Life and gets to reading — they won’t be boning for long. Marnie and her online therapist have realised that she needs her space, so she’s respectfully asking Ray to move out — hard to do, since he’s never moved in, but…she needs her space. He’s gotta go, though he certainly doesn’t want to go home to where ehe actually stays, with Adam — a place that I can only assume is a toxic love nest that smells of cigarettes and despair and reheated fish. He suggests Shoshanna’s house, but Marnie, citing her “manic energy,” firmly requests that he just go home and deal, reheated fish and all.

Marnie’s glossy exterior and her careful self-assuredness is nothing but a lie, masking the insecurity that lies within, as evidenced by her conversation with Hannah, who’s packing for her Hamptons assignment. She thinks its strange that Ray would want to stay with Shosh. But Marnie doesn’t want Ray to move in with her, and this has nothing to do with him. She’s going through a divorce and she needs the space.

Hannah Horvath, cub reporter, shows up for the surf competition dressed in her best imitation of what fancy people wear to the Hamptons. Judging from the yards of gauze and Indian-print cotton surrounding her, she got that part right. Clothed in Montauk’s finest beachwear — octagonal sunglasses and a vaguely tribal print monokini — Hannah waits patiently as the surf instructor, Paullouis (like the French, one word) played by Riz Ahmed, shows up. She’s going to hit on him, right? Or...something.

While that plays out, Ray returns to his home to find Jessa eating yogurt in the nude, unbothered, joined by Adam and his tiny panties. Their relationship is marked by a bizarre, manic physicality in a way that I’m sure is intended to make them feel “quirky” and “raw.” I’ll let you be the judge there. Anyway, it’s pretty uncomfortable for all and furthermore, Ray’s stuff has been cleared — “for sex reasons” — and pushed behind a curtain, in the corner, by the best window. Godspeed, bud.

Hannah is ready for surfing, wearing someone else’s wetsuit. An easy mistake to fix — just take the thing off and give it to its rightful owner, but in a surprise to no one, she’s naked under the thing. Anyway, once it’s sorted, surf lessons begin. Surfing looks hard, but especially the pop-up, which all the other women nail but Hannah does not. She paddles. She puts her hands on the rails. She falls.

Maybe it’s too early to expect any real, actionable change from any of these characters, but I’m not at all surprised that Hannah is doing everything she can to wriggle out of the surf lesson because she’s not good at it and it’s hard. The nurse kindly informs her that she can’t injure her “front arm” and that sand lice aren’t a thing, so she asks for an excuse. Instead of picking herself up and doing the job that was handed to her on a silver platter, she shirks responsibility, tans her vagina on a beach chair and swims in the pool instead. Are we supposed to feel something other than anger, here? Should we accept that Hannah is nothing more than an ungrateful brat who doesn’t deserve a lick of what she’s got? If the answer is yes, I’ll get there eventually, I swear.

Paullouis the surf instructor catches Hannah at the bar drinking a daiquiri and checks in on both her front arm injury and her state of mind. He gently suggests that if she let herself enjoy it, she’d probably like surf camp. Hannah is loath to admit defeat in the face of her own problems, and is also a child, so that argument doesn’t quite fly. But, talking to Paullouis for like, three seconds, ignites something in her, so she buys him some drinks on Slag Mag’s dime, asks some probing questions about whether or not the instructors sleep with their clients and then ends up grinding up on it, a billion drinks later.

There is dancing. There is the spilling of a drink. Then the groping, the kissing, and the inevitable sex scene that we all knew was coming.

Meanwhile, Ray has left the den of inequity that is his home and is back at Shosh’s, where things seem to be going just fine — really fine. Maybe more fine than Marnie and Ray, which is clearly what Marnie’s thinking when she breezes in with Starbucks in her best athleisure. It’s clear that they’re better matched — watching them bond over a mutual hate of Paul Krugman really hammers that home.

Back in Montauk, Hannah wakes extremely sunburned and throwing up off the top bunk. Instead of going back to her room to cry and write, though, she’s going to conquer her hatred of the beach by immersing herself in the ocean, nature’s best cure for what ails you. Paullouis is going to take her on a tour of Montauk, complete with some excellent product placement for both Montauk in general and their eponymous beer and making out in the sand, like in From Here to Eternity, but not quite as sexy, capped with a day eating Cheetos, smoking a joint, and watching Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper in bed, then sitting on the beach and talking. Hannah likes the beach now — I’m not sure why anyone would hate it, but as Paullouis says, “It’s so much easier to love something than it is to hate it.” This, of course, is the core of the toxicity of the characters themselves who at this point have calcified into caricatures of what they hate, not what they love. Perhaps this is the breakthrough that I’ve been looking for. Maybe this is the growth, couched in New Age vibes-speak. Maybe Hannah will take this back to New York. Maybe things will change.

While Hannah’s spiritual awakening begins in earnest, Marnie and Desi are sorting out the remains of their marriage, arguing over returning their registry and his therapeutic companion that is definitely not his girlfriend. Their music is stalled, but unlike Fleetwood Mac, they can’t work through the petty. All it takes for them to start making out again is Desi throwing a tiny compliment bone her way. “Thank you for really seeing me,” she murmurs. Gotta say, I saw that coming.

Hannah’s reporting trip has inspired her to hang around for a while, only because Paullouis is so alluring, but surprise, he’s got a girlfriend, in a relationship that exists only when they’re physically together. He didn’t get the impression that she was looking for something serious. She’s there on assignment, she reminds him, though we have yet to see her write a single word or complete said assignment. Sitting around a bonfire the last night, realising that every single woman on the retreat has come not to surf, but to leave their lives behind in exchange for another, simpler one, she looks happy enough. For now, we’ll have to settle for that.


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