The fifth season of HBO’s Girls aired its two-part finale …
With “Home Birth”, Lena Dunham and the rest of the Girls team end what has been a strong, but somewhat disjointed season in peak form, delivering a fantastic season ender that could have easily, and satisfyingly, served as a series finale. The episode is creative, moving and laugh out loud rewind-the-DVR-repeatedly-and-belly-laugh-each-time funny (more on Ray later). Even better, it services all of its main characters, putting them in moments of crisis and forcing them to make what could easily become life-altering decisions, all while feeling natural to the characters’ journeys.
It’s been a tough year for Hannah. After her disheartening experience in Iowa, she returns home to a boyfriend who’s moved on and now, her father comes out of the closet, throwing doubt on her childhood and the one stable relationship in her life, that of her parents. While it’s likely Hannah doth protest too much, her repeated claims that she’s fine and her assertion that her father’s sexuality has nothing to do with her are pleasant surprises. Her therapist (Bob Balaban) was right- Hannah’s handling the changes in her life with shocking maturity.
After the intense and draining “Sit-In”, in “Close-Up”, Girls chooses to continue the narrative not with Hannah, but Adam, following him and Mimi-Rose through their typical morning routine. It’s a good move—viewers already know what Hannah looks like post-breakup, but Mimi-Rose and the person Adam’s become with her are new entities and it’s exciting to see their dynamic explored. As Jessa has said, Adam is lighter here than he has been recently, energetic and optimistic in a way he hasn’t consistently been with Hannah since getting his Broadway break in season three. It’s nice to see, despite how short-lived it is. Gillian Jacobs is a strong addition to the cast as Mimi-Rose, making her entertainingly similar to Hannah in her self-centeredness while diametrically opposed in the way that manifests itself. Mimi-Rose’s revelation that she’s had an abortion without consulting Adam is harsh, making her feel utterly cold and lacking in empathy, but this is countered by her lovely sentiment that she may not need Adam, but she wants him, and to her, that’s far more meaningful. Adam has ricocheted from one end of the spectrum to the other and it will be interesting to see how he handles the emotional whiplash.
Hannah and Adam’s relationship has been a staple of Girls. Even when they’ve been broken up or dating other people, their connection has defined much of their individual journeys. Given its significance, “Sit-In” wisely devotes its entire runtime to the dissolution of the pairing, following Hannah through a very long day as she tries to process and accept that Adam’s moved on. Just as much importance is put on the audience’s reaction, with writers Paul Simms and Max Brockman holding viewers’ hands throughout, easing Hannah and everyone watching at home through an unexpected and potentially painful transition. On the whole, they’re successful, though with Marnie and Hannah’s late-episode conversation, the subtext becomes text in the show’s most glaring and least successful meta scene yet. It’s the end of an era on Girls, or so the writers would have us believe, and “Sit-In” is a wonderfully elegiac and fitting goodbye to what has been one of the series’ most significant relationships.
Well that was quick. After only three episodes, Hannah is out of Iowa and back in New York and while the end of “Cubbies” promises plenty of knotty, interesting developments to come, it’s hard not to be disappointed. Girls coped very well with Hannah’s lack of proximity to the group. In the age of Skype, there’s no reason she couldn’t have stayed in close communication with the entire New York crew while exploring her surroundings a bit more and coming to grips with herself in this new context. Most of Hannah’s peers at the Writers’ Workshop remain undeveloped and it’s unlikely any of them will return any time soon. In Iowa, Hannah is surrounded by fellow writers who can challenge her and force her to reevaluate and either commit to or adjust their artistic and personal choices. Unfortunately, Hannah retreats from this challenge and, after a lovely dinner with her Dad, makes another substantial life choice without consulting Adam.
With Hannah’s goodbyes out of the way, “Triggering” opens where many expected the season premiere to begin: Hannah, New York City girl, is in Iowa, and she can’t believe the rent. This episode focuses almost entirely on Hannah’s transition to life at the University of Iowa, surrounded by open green space and her artistic peers. Hannah’s on board with the former, for now, but she’s much less certain about the latter. This is the first time she’s been forced to engage with fellow writers about her personal work, writers who are at roughly the same place in their lives and careers that she is; it’s a lot harder to dismiss their criticisms than those she’s faced thus far.
In many ways a direct continuation of its strong third season, Girls’ season four premiere picks up shortly after the events of last year’s finale, with Hannah preparing to leave for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Marnie continuing her musical and romantic partnership with guitarist Desi, Jessa newly unemployed, and Shoshanna freshly graduated. This is a change of pace for the series, which has previously taken advantage of the season breaks to jump its characters forward in time, with significant developments occurring offscreen (the start of Hannah’s relationship with Sandy, Jessa checking herself into rehab, Charlie leaving Marnie). Fun as it may have been to jump right into Hannah’s fish-out-of-water adventure in Iowa, it’s nice to get one more episode with the leads together, reestablishing their bonds before they’re tested.