Season 1, Season 10: “She Did”
Suddenly, everything has changed. That might be the recurring theme of “Girls” across its first season, one that has seen Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) navigate their early 20s and the curveballs that come with it. As we’ve said time and again, Lena Dunham’s focus on character, combined with a willingness to allow them to be unlikeable, wrong, selfish or simply unsure — as one tends to be at that pre-adulthood age — has afforded the show a real resonance that belies its standard sitcom set up. Besides a couple mid-season episodes that wobbled, Dunham’s instincts have proven right more often than not, with “Girls” delivering unexpected big laughs and tender moments in the unlikeliest places. And so it’s fitting that the season finale reorients the lives of everyone. Well, almost.
Following on the bitter blowout last week, “She Did” opens with Marnie getting her last things out of the apartment with Hannah, packing them into a U-haul and heading…somewhere. It seems she has embraced shedding her proclivity for rules and order, and for now decides to crash at Shoshanna’s until she finds an apartment, with some extra room currently available thanks to Jessa’s mysterious disappearance. The void left by Marnie is both physical — the apartment now looks somewhat uninhabited and empty — and emotional for Hannah. She feels guilty for hurting Marnie and likely also realizes that in many ways she’s lost her best friend. But Adam (Emmy worthy Adam Driver) is able to take one worry off the mind of the perpetually under-employed Hannah — he offers to move in and help split the rent for the place. Hannah is surprised, and slightly freaked out, and though she doesn’t say it out loud, remains non-commital to the idea.
But it’s an enigmatic text from the AWOL Jessa that bring everyone under the same roof to close things off for season one. She instructs everyone to dress up and show up to a party at 7 PM sharp — an unusual command from the perpetually late Jessa. Everyone arrives to find that — surprise! — not only is Jessa getting married, it’s to Thomas (Chris O’Dowd) the douchebag that tried to engage in a threeway with her and Marnie. And while it might seem like an unearned narrative maneuver, there is a strange logic to this. It was just last week that Katherine (Kathryn Hahn) warned Jessa that she might be afraid to face who she really is, and in weird way, she’s a good fit with Thomas. They both like to travel, they are both well read to a certain degree and there is something in how they are so different, that makes their pairing sensible. To pull out an old cliche, it’s opposites attract, and as they explain during the ceremony how they met and fell in love all in the span of two weeks, it seems like the perfectly impulsive, whimsical and Jessa thing to do.
In fact, it’s such a Jessa thing to do that the surprise wears off quickly into celebration. With the party in full swing, Marnie and Charlie — who is there solo as his girlfriend Audrey is on the West Coast blogging a tortilla soup contest (amazing) — cross paths and he plainly proposes that they should go and fuck in the bathroom. As they joke about it, the conversation becomes something like foreplay, and as Charlie grabs her wrist to take her to the bathroom, Marnie backs down thinking he’s still joking….or was he? He unconvincingly laughs it off, but there is no doubt the intent was there. It’s a nice, awkward little moment, showing the emotional pendulum is still swinging between the two, as it so often does when relationships break apart. Again it’s a pretty emotionally observant bit of writing from Dunham, but it’s Hannah — as Dunham has done throughout the season — who gets the most unsparing treatment.
It turns out Hannah’s ex-boyfriend Elijah (who fesses up giving her HPV) has been invited to the impromptu wedding as well, and upon learning he’s living in an SRO (single room occupancy), sharing his floor and bathroom with “murderers, junkies and girls who huff,” she asks if he’d like to be her roommate. Of course, he agrees. Adam is obviously blindsided by the news, and leaving the party to prevent a scene drops another golden one line nugget: “If you want to fuck me from behind, you could at least pull my hair back.”
The argument spills back into the street. “Is this is the game, you chase me for six months like I’m the Beatles and then you shrug? What the fuck is wrong with you?” Adam asks. Hannah falls back into the defensive, claiming she’s scared all the time — more than most people are, but Adam isn’t buying it. “You don’t have the right to be,” he says, which is pehaps the truest assessment of Hannah — who has been supported first by her parents, and then by Marnie — so far. “I told you once I commit to something, I really fucking commit. You asked for this. And now you’re being a fucking bitch.” Moving between the sidewalk and a street, Adam gets hit/grazed by a car. Being put into the ambulance and driven away, Adam refuses to have Hannah join him in the ride to the hospital, and this is the last line we’ll get about her for the season: “Don’t let her in here, she’s a monster.”
Hannah hits the subway to go home, falls asleep, has her purse stolen and when she wakes up, it’s dawn on Coney Island. In a nice little sequence she winds up on the beach, eating the remains of the wedding cake and looking out at the ocean — broke again, single again and no more wise than she was at the beginning of the season. Hannah isn’t necessarily a monster, but her insecurity has driven her to do somewhat monstrous things. She has a great desire to create art and be in a relationship, but her inability to trust herself, or to be vulnerable enough to rely on those around her when they offer a hand, has sabotaged her nearly at every turn this season. Her coping mechanisms — sarcasm, judgment — have left her alone, and for anyone who has had a relentlessly self-pitying friend, the isolation that breeds will be familiar. And yet, we hold out hope for Hannah, who will hopefully be swayed to make real change like her friends are.
Marnie closes off the night by making the moves on the exactly the kind of man she would never have considered in the past. Sure she’s a bit drunk — which allows us to see looser, more enjoyable side to her — but when she kisses guest star Bobby Moynihan, it’s as much because he’s some entirely outside her sphere (overweight, awkward, not necessarily on the path to the success), as it is because he’s made her laugh in a way we’ve never seen her do. It’s kind of adorable, though the heartbreak on Charlie’s face who accidentally sees it, is palpable. Meanwhile, in another unlikely-but-totally-makes-sense pairing, Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Shoshanna get together, and yes, she will lose her viriginity. There is no one in the show aside from Adam who better assesses the opposite sex, but Ray can’t fight the fascination he’s had with Shoshanna ever since looking out for her while she was on a crack high in Bushwick. As for Shoshanna, she makes it clear he has to “stay out of my emotional way” but she’s glad to finally no longer be a sexual outsider even if “everyone’s a dumb whore.”
“She Did” is a great capper to what has been remarkable outing for Lena Dunham and “Girls.” While a silly debate has raged about ethnic representation on the show (something that, curiously, other hit shows we can think of get an automatic pass for), it’s missing the point entirely. Lena Dunham isn’t making a documentary about life in Brooklyn, but a dramedy about the four very specific young women. What’s here is true to her experience and we’d argue it would be more “dishonest” for Dunham to attempt the voice of African-American or [insert diversity group] young woman. And it’s a testament to just how strong Dunham’s writing is that the show resonates well beyond the demographics of her characters anyway, even to a thirty-something dude living north of the border. “Girls” deserves every inch of praise it gets. Smart, funny and at times bracingly real about life’s disappointments and small cruelties, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna in season two . [A]
Songs in this episode: Tom Tom Club “On On On On”; Azealia Banks “212”; Girls “Magic”; Lady “Yankin'”; J3 “Special Slit”; Generationals “Yours Forever”; Beyonce “Halo”; Sister Nancy “Bam Bam”; Washington “Cement”; Abby Bernstein “Spend The Night”; Michael Penn “On Your Way”