A look at the heartbreaking, bittersweet season 5 ending of "Girls," a show that has been at its best when the lead characters are at their worst.
When “Girls” first started, I had a hard time accepting that this dysfunctional group of girls would ever be friends. They didn’t seem to have similar interests and didn’t even seem to like each other very much. As the show’s gone on, and each character has become more herself, those differences have become even clearer.
But this season, the show has stopped pretending that these people are supposed to hang out together all the time. It’s been the anti-“Sex and the City” from the start — no flagrant materialism or career- or husband-chasing ambitions here. But in season 5 (the penultimate season, as the show finishes next year), they are tied together by history, loyalty or habit, but not particularly by true friendship.
At Marnie’s doomed wedding, their irascible differences came into sharper relief, and after that episode they all went their separate ways, like planets in a solar system orbiting a sun, never sharing the same exact location.
Shosh went to Tokyo, fell in love, dyed her hair pink, got fired, and returned to New York, jobless and dumped by her boyfriend.
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In what was possibly the best episode of the entire series, Marnie, now married to a megalomaniac man-child, hooked up with her ex who’d become a heroin addict and street hustler, and got a divorce. Elijah went out with a dashing TV newscaster and realized he wanted to be more than a boy toy and had his spirit crushed. And Adam and Jessa fell in love, and broke Hannah’s heart. (And their own).
As for Hannah, for most of the season she was her irritating, selfish self: when she was not being nasty to her very kind and loving and patient, if slightly pedantic, boyfriend with the worst name, Fran, she was flashing her privates ala Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” to the school principal and otherwise engaging in completely inappropriate and obnoxious behavior, the worst of which featured her and Ray in upstate New York. (R.I.P. Ray’s coffee truck.)
It’s a shame that it took five seasons for “Girls” to find itself. Instead of jumping away from the discomfort, this season held the camera and forced you to look. One of the of the most poignant moments came during the penultimate episode, when the Tally Schifrin character from Hannah’s Iowa writing days, reappeared. It captured the glorious spark of close friendship that many women experience throughout their lives, like falling in love without the sex, and it perhaps, peeled back a bit of the psychological curtain on creator Lena Dunham. As the stand in for Dunham, Schifrin’s character, who has already had novels, essays and awards and accolades, while Hannah has been a failed schoolteacher, explains that she’s a “monster.” “She feeds on praise and controversy and it’s exhausting and boring all at once,” she says.
Hannah feels pity for her, not because her situation is so terrible, but because Tally thinks it is.
It’s fitting that “Girls” has been its best when the girls (and their adjacent guys) have been at their worst. Everyone — including Hannah’s parents — is experiencing an identity crisis. Perhaps that’s the point. It was only when they stopped gazing at their own navels and looked outward did they realize the way forward. So good, I even shed a tear.