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.
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.
It is an inherent belief that the holiday season and family gatherings go hand-in-hand like puffy earmuffs on an exposed frozen ear. Well, writer-director (and co-star) Joe Swanberg backs up this assertion with his dysfunctional familial gem Happy Christmas. The gift-giving in Happy Christmas is predicated upon breezy disillusionment, personal and professional malaise, and the underscoring of being unfulfilled. Once again Swanberg puts his unique stamp on the microscopic root of relationships and the fragile consequences of coping with the pressures of such interaction.
In “I Saw You”, the penultimate episode of Girls Season 3, writers Lena Dunham and Paul Simms manage to balance plot and characterization for Girls’ ensemble cast while commenting on the show’s overall themes. The episodes sheds light on the characters’ strength and weaknesses and exposes and accentuates the tension in their relationships. Adam (Adam Driver) is growing apart from Hannah (Lena Dunham) as his play gets closer to premiere and begins to bond with Ray (Alex Karpovsky). Marnie (Allison Williams) gets to meet one of her art heroes, the photographer Beadie (Louise Lasser) while preparing for a big open mic night with Adam’s cast-mate Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Director Jesse Peretz uses timely scene transitions to show how the different “girls” rise and fall. “I Saw You” does a great job balancing the various characters’ plot lines while still having room for keen observations about them and several funny moment.