Girls finally came to an end last night.
(And yes, there are spoilers here.)
You can find exhaustive explainers of how well the episode worked (or didn't) all over the internet. Right from its 2012 beginning, the series firmly established itself as that kind of show: One you have to talk about, even if just to say you don't like it.
I did like it, most of the time. But not enough to not be extremely disoriented when I found myself crying quietly through the closing credits.
A rundown of what happened is useful, because after the season's ninth episode, 'Goodbye Tour'—in which the four friends cross paths, talk their shit out and agree they may have outgrown each other—'Latching' is annoyingly low-key.
Marnie ambushes Hannah in her new upstate home and demands to co-parent. Scary, controlling, and also quite helpful—a lot like Marnie, actually.
— Girls (@girlsHBO)
Cut to five months later.
Hannah has given birth to Grover (who is suddenly and inexplicably refusing to breastfeed), is taking everything personally and spiraling into the kind of breakdown that turns you into an asshole to even the people closest to you. Marnie is an irritatingly smug and well-informed "helper-mom", but even she has a breaking point. So she calls Hannah's mom, Loreen, for reinforcement.
A few overly scripted confrontations later (shout-out to Loreen's best-ever line: "You know who else is in emotional pain?" she asks Hannah. "Fucking everyone."), they get to grips with being grown-ups and sit on a step.
Then, six years, six seasons, and 62 episodes later, the series ends with a close-up on Hannah's tired, stunned face as Grover finally latches on.
Cut to black, suckling noises, Hannah singing Tracy Chapman. (I know?)
Many point out this frustrating anticlimax is, in fact, classic Girls: confounding viewer expectations, veering sideways into something weird, indulgent, and kind of boring—a lot like Hannah, actually.
But my tears came from somewhere else.
Sometimes a show is more than a show.
Long-running series inevitably get closely tangled in your life. You remember who you were when they started, and how far away this finale seemed. I dunno, mortality and the passing of time, or something.
Really good characters are embarrassing.
Exhibit A: Hannah's body makes its final, confronting appearance.
But it's not her nakedness that's shocking, or the fake "lactation nipples," or even when she takes off her pants in the street—it's the shot of her running up the road in her terribly fitting maternity jeans. The feeling in that shot, of being so ill at ease, of hating your clothes and the body you have to put them on, of everything just feeling messy and out of control, is horribly easy to identify with. And I've never even been pregnant.
Exhibit B: Marnie is Marnie. Not much else needs to be said, except of course she sings 'Fast Car' and of course, she actually seems to have a crush on the personal trainer/stranger she's sex-chatting. And of course she puts on a fake British accent to do it.
(Side note on a less-good character: I was not at all into Shouting Sulky Teenager who happened to teach Hannah the true meaning of motherhood on a random street. Another conveniently helpful stranger who just didn't need to be there.)
Aging is scary.
I'll fight anyone who tries to tell me the dreams of glory on Girls are a sign of millennial narcissism. There have been characters who dare greatly for centuries. But it's bittersweet to watch the moment when one of them realizes, "This might be it. This might be all there is."
Exhibit A: Yes, Hannah's "it" is really good. She has a dream job, doing something fulfilling that can (apparently) financially sustain a life for her and her child. At the same time, she has walked away from a vision she had for herself. Maybe because she's outgrown it. But part of her frantic lashing out in this episode is because it's still hard to see it go.
Exhibit B: You also see Loreen faced for about the millionth time with the less-than-idyllic way things have turned out for her. "I hate my best friend," she tells Marnie. "And all because I didn’t know how to let him go."
Girls was always at its best when it grappled with how we try to make something of ourselves and our relationships. And in this episode, what hits home is that sometimes we can't. Or not in the way we'd hoped, anyway.
Friendships are scarier.
Everyone talks about how the girls in Girls "were never really friends,"—compared to, say, the women in Sex and the City— or "were more about a stage in life than a relationship."
The friendships in Girls are toxic and inconsistent. They are also smart, complicated and enduring. Just like friendships in real life.
Exhibit A: Marnie is there for Hannah when it matters. Her motives are bizarre and self-involved and seem pretty unhealthy for both characters. It's not "nice" friendship. But it's hard to see how Hannah would have dealt with life after Grover's birth on her own.
Exhibit B: Watch Hannah and Jessa make up in episode nine and try not to cry. A) Disclaimer: I'm an easy crier. B) Watching Jessa crack is distressing. C) The high-wire of saying sorry and not screwing it up is relatable at such a deep level that this scene is basically emotional clickbait.
But you can't tell me, "They were never really friends."
— Girls (@girlsHBO)
You're never going to be that good at life. And you know what? Whatever.
I had so many frustrated questions at the end of this.
Why did they have to pick 'Fast Car'?! Why is Hannah's final narrative resolution 'Learning how to be a mom'?!! Why does Girls keep trying to weigh in on debates like breastfeeding as if it can give them any kind of nuance in 30 minutes?!!! Why is the script suddenly so heavy-handed?!!!! (cc. Grumpy teen.)
But there was something cathartic in the sudden (relative) silence of the dark screen. And, drawn in by the intimacy of Grover's amplified sucking noises and Hannah's gentle, terrible singing, it didn't feel weird to be crying.
Girls is over. Six years somehow just passed. And no one has any idea what they're doing.