After six tumultuous years, Girls finally answers the question that has been at its centre: Will Hannah, Marnie and the rest of the girls ever grow up? The final season has been an attempt to address that question, and last week’s episode felt like a solid contender for an answer that I would’ve accepted without issue. It was a lovely coda to a show whose time is past due; Hannah found an house and a job and a new life somewhere upstate, separate from her friends. Like friends do after a certain amount of time, they’ve grown apart. Instead of giving us a “five years later” flash-forward episode showing neat and tidy endings for everyone, Girls left the world just as it entered: self-absorbed and slightly narcissistic but still willing to learn.
You can look at last week’s episode as the actual finale; this week felt more like a fitting epilogue.
At the episode’s start, Marnie pledges her allegiance to helping Hannah raise the baby, partially out of the goodness of her heart, but mostly for selfish reasons. Marnie’s living in her mom’s home gym and her life has essentially paused for the moment; she has no career or plans for the future, so helping Hannah raise the baby is a way to ascribe meaning and shape to something that is amorphous and free-wheeling. Besides, Hannah may think she has a lot of friends, but really, she doesn’t. The only person that showed up for her is Marnie. She wins.
Thankfully we are spared the heaving, red-faced and screaming television labor. Five months later and Hannah has a bouncing baby boy whose name, as Paul Louis wanted, is Grover. At the doctor’s, the baby passes his exam with flying colours except for one small detail — Hannah’s been having a lot of difficulty breastfeeding. “Sometimes there’s something in the chemistry, the fit — it’s just off,” the doctor tells her. That fact alone means nothing about whether or not Hannah’s a good mother — it’s something that happens and is just a fact of life — but this heavy-handed metaphor is what we’re left with for the final episode of this show. Hannah can’t breastfeed, ergo she is a terrible mother; if she can resolve this issue, her life will be back on track.
The idyllic vision of two independent women raising a baby together is less so in reality. In fact, the two are getting on each other’s nerves. Hannah’s stressed because she can’t breastfeed her son, while Marnie’s realising that she signed up for a life that she didn’t want but feels like she needs to follow through with in order to redeem herself as a good person. Right now, both girls want the life they used to have — free of responsibility with ample room to fuck up and have it be okay in the morning. The difference is that Marnie’s allowed to do that but Hannah decidedly is not. This tension comes to a head during dinner. Marnie casually mentions going out, but not with Hannah. “So I’ll just stay here with Grover, all by myself,” Hannah says in reproach, as if the fate that she willingly chose for herself is being imposed upon her.
Hannah’s frustration at being unable to breastfeed the baby is seeping into all other aspects of her life. She’s taking it out on Marnie, who certainly asked to be a part of this but is likely regretting her decision. So Marnie does what any logical person would do — she calls Loreen, who shows up with a hearty dose of reality. Does this sit well with Hannah? Of course not. She confronts Marnie on the porch wearing nothing but a breast pump and a pair of gym shorts, lecturing her best friend about how mature Hannah actually is while said best friend holds and tends to Hannah's child. A frank talk with her mother gives her some perspective. This whole latching business really isn’t a big deal; Hannah had trouble latching when she was a child and she turned out, uh, “fine.” That’s not enough for Hannah.
The rant that Hannah launches into about her unique and brave journey to be a single mother is probably supposed to be egregious in how tone-deaf and myopic it is. But after five seasons of unchecked narcissism and tunnel vision from these characters, maybe it’s the stress or the exhaustion of new motherhood, but she launches into a rant about how no one understands her now that she’s made the choice to raise a child all by herself.
“Maybe she thought you’d act like a fucking grownup,” Loreen says. “You made a choice to have a child and guess what? It’s the first one you can’t take back.”
That’s enough for Hannah to do what she does when shit hits the fan: leave.
While Hannah’s on her walkabout, life goes on. Marnie’s FaceTime phone sex is interrupted by Loreen, looking for breast milk. Hannah’s been gone for god knows how long, and the two women who volunteered to help are alone. Marnie denies that she was masturbating but Loreen wasn’t born yesterday. “It’s not masturbating if you’re video-chatting with someone,” she says in her defense. That someone is a personal trainer from Weehawken named Delvin P., and he looks like the only thing in Marnie’s life that gives her any sort of joy. Loreen asks if Marnie’s actually happy and her answer is less than convincing. Marnie doesn’t think that her happiness matters right now — she needs to be there for Hannah and so she must set her own happiness aside. But that’s not how successful and healthy relationships work. Both parties have to be happy in order for each to be a good friend to the other.
Hannah’s walk is interrupted by a girl screaming and crying in her underwear, running down a quiet street. The “emergency” incident the pantless girl is referring to is not really an emergency. Her mom asked her to do her homework. That’s it. As this is not a real issue, Hannah demands the pants and shoes she gave this girl back, lecturing her about how her mom cares about her and only wants the best. This is Hannah the parent. In the conversation with the girl who ran away because she didn’t want to do her homework, Hannah seems to realize the sacrifice that her mother made giving up the life she could’ve lived for one that was very different, though no less fulfilling.
This is her turning point. Everything else from here on out is an easy coast to the finish line.
Hannah finally makes it home to her mother and Marnie, who are sitting on the porch drinking wine and smoking a joint. Marnie’s realised that whatever she’s going to do, she needs to move on. When Hannah’s baby cries, all three women start at the sound, ready to tend to his needs. Hannah’s got this. She sits in the glider with the squalling Grover and attempts to breastfeed once again.
This time, miraculously, it works.