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‘Girls’ Closes Its Season With a (Mostly) Happy Ending, But Was It Earned?

'Girls' Closes Its Season With a (Mostly) Happy Ending, But Was It Earned?

The article below contains spoilers for “Together,” the March 17th, 2013 episode of “Girls.”

“Girls” wrapped up its second season last night with “Together,” an episode directed by Lena Dunham and cowritten by her and executive producer Judd Apatow that offered two remarkably conventional romantic comedy moments underneath a gloss of Brooklyn quirk and sexual frankness. First Marnie (Allison Williams) and her ex Charlie (Christopher Abbott), with whom she’d started sleeping again, hashed out their relationship over brunch, a discussion that found with the former plunging into the exact same blind assumptions she’d made with Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) a few episodes earlier. “Are you trying to tell me that we’re not dating?!” she demanded when he demurred, and after apparently not communicating at all since the pair linked up again before she confessed to him that she wanted to see him every morning, to make him snacks at night and to eventually have his little brown (?) babies and watch him die.

It was the kind of over the top, emotional admission that an earlier incarnation of the show might have smacked down with a flat rejection (Charlie’s certainly earned one at this point), but “Girls” seemed determined to wrap its year up with a mostly happy ending, and so instead Marnie’s burst of earnestness prompted a similar one from her would-be beau. Charlie told her that he’s always loved her and that everything good he’s done he’s done for her, making it okay for the moment to close with a reminder that he’s become conveniently rich. All of Marnie’s problems are, for now, solved, and she seems to have learned very little.

Hannah’s arc was similarly and disappointingly retrograde, despite a poignant evocation of a feeling many people have had in their floundering early days (or, hell, supposedly stable middle ones) of adulthood — that longing for someone to swoop in and take care of you. Panicked over her passed book deadline (with her editor David, played by John Cameron Mitchell, being gloriously unsympathetic — “you are the future, I guess”) and in the grip of OCD, she’s spent her days at home googling possible illnesses, hiding from friends and giving herself a terrible haircut with the help of downstairs neighbor Laird (Jon Glaser). A call to her father (Peter Scolari) revealed he felt that she was doing the twentysomething equivalent of pretending to be sick in order to not go to school — a judgment both true and not, her predicament half genuinely problematic and half self-inflicted.

Alone, her ear still ringing from last week’s q-tip incident, Hannah was clearly feeling this opportunity to make her writerly dreams come true slip away — and so along came Adam (Adam Driver) to the rescue, after she accidentally FaceTimed him and he spotted her in the midst of counting her own blinks. His (shirtless, of course) run to her apartment (with a pause to take the subway) was funny and characteristically odd, but its off-kilter swooniness was counterbalanced by how unearned it felt. Was there really nothing that Hannah could do to help herself from her self-created crisis? Maybe Adam’s mixture of aggression and almost maternal care fits perfectly with Hannah’s disastrousness, but his scooping her up from the bed where she was hiding from the world didn’t seem like a charming reunion but a romanticization of being rescued, of not doing anything to help yourself.

Last season, “Girls” ended with Adam storming out on Hannah after she misunderstood his offer to move in with her — he got hit by a car, she fell asleep on the train ride home and woke up in Coney Island, robbed of her purse but still in possession of cake. One can’t begrudge the show wanting a more uplifting turn this time around, but to give two of its four characters scenes that, combined, would be the shabby chic equivalent of the running-through-the-airport ending of a Meg Ryan movie felt alarmingly phony even with Jessa (Jemima Kirke) still absent and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) making the most grown-up move in the show when breaking up with Ray (Alex Karpovsky) because of his overwhelming negativity.

This season of “Girls” had seen some radical highs and lows, from Marnie and Elijah’s (Andrew Rannells) excruciating hookup and the demise of Jessa’s marriage to Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd) to the meandering episodes that took the show to Staten Island, upstate New York and a high-end Brooklyn brownstone. The marked difference between last week’s extremely dark turn, in which every character embarked on an act of self-destruction, and the strenuous upturn of last night finale reveal a show in search of what’s next. “Girls” is a show about being young and about the terrible and sometimes wonderful aspects of figuring things out for the first time and often failing at them. But that state of formlessness is also, in its nature, a fairly narrow one, as people slowly determine what they want and who they are and start moving in directions guided by those things.

“Girls” is bound to move from being show about post-college life to one about twentysomethings, a minor designation that, watching “Together,” also seemed important. Hannah and Marnie and Jessa and Shoshanna needn’t shake the world nor make any dramatic discoveries about themselves and the nature of existence, but they do need to slowly grow and change, even if it’s in ways that aren’t that positive. This season ended with the sense that, despite all those experiences Marnie told Charlie they’d accrued, most of the characters were basically back where they began — and the show is striving to position that as a good thing when it doesn’t feel that way.

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