A Guy on “Girls”: Matrimony Gone Phony, The Isle of Coney, and Did Marnie Bone Thee? (S1/E10, “She Did”)

In searching for grand summation of the season-in-full, perhaps the best I can offer is that last night’s season finale continued the show’s habit of defying where you think it’s going. The moments you would think to be massive (such as the disbanding of the Hannah-Marnie household) are often brief and void of shmaltz. Meanwhile, things that seemed comparatively irrelevant (Jessa’s telling off of “Thomas John”) are without warning made massive. I was particularly intrigued by the prospect of Marnie crashing at Shoshanna’s for longer than originally planned: it seems an ideal way to shift alliances and have at least three out of four of the major characters learn a great deal more about themselves in relation to one another.

We also got to see everyone look great dressed up. The show all season long has understood that parties are the best, and that watching others party without actually having to attend is a close second. Like “Welcome to Bushwick” from three weeks back (how we’ve grown, True Believer!), it’s a chance to get the main and supporting cast in a room and have them bounce off each other.

My immediate reaction to the wedding revelation was that it felt like all of Jessa’s worst qualities come to light. Her manic immaturity veiled as jet-setter impulsiveness. Her attention-starved outbursts packaged as coy “mysteries.” And frankly, her track record of picking the lousiest dudes possible.  There is something to be said for her supposed self-confidence: she will never be the sort whose life will ever be single-mindedly dictated by marriage or any one partner. For better and worse, the wedding felt like another instance of Jessa’s flakiness. It would have bothered me more if I had more invested in her as a character, but nothing she has done to date seems to bare much relevance or consequence towards what comes next. In speaking to several different women about Girls, I’m often surprised by how often they unprompted cite Jessa as the most desirable of the bunch. More than once I’ve heard her described as the one men must be crushing on. I don’t know what exactly it says about her, or about these women. Perhaps the half-truth that men are drawn to crazy girls is seeping in on a wide scale. I say half-truth because I wonder if it is not just as true that there is something within Jessa that piques the interest of these women more than Jessa peaks mine. Whether it’s a certain liberated spirit or something more innately carnal is up to them.

As for the party itself: Dunham’s arrival to the mystery party showcased all I find endearing in her: terrible dance moves, an overzealous streak that undercuts self-doubt: “My shoes match my dress, kind of!” she hollers in with a kind of croaked melody. And the show finally had a truly inspired music choice, albeit for kind of an easy joke, busting out Lady’s “Yankin” to punctuate the newlywed’s vows with rampant profanity and bombastic oblivion. Bobby Moynihan was great as the MC. His “Ladels and Gentlebeans!” was one of the most beautifully stupid phrases to strike my ears in ages, and there was something satisfying (if not a little YouPorn) about Marnie’s seduction of him: the bubbly, hot girl taking the nerd by the hand and granting him a golden ticket to carefree sex. So moves the spirit after Shoshanna accidentally eviscerates your life by reminding you that “Everything you own is in garbage bags in my kitchen.” Shoshanna herself, while still criminally shortchanged on screen time, had at least one terrific scene with Ray. She also best articulated the idiocy of the Jessa-Thomas marriage with her stunned sadness at having worn white, because she, like everyone else, had no idea she was attending a wedding.

The big Hannah-Adam blowoff often felt contrived: it was too on-the-nose that he’d be hit by a car, and his 180 on commitment doesn’t align what we’ve know of him. That said, there was power and even something strangely admirable in his blowup. While his track record in this relationship is far from spotless, his thesis statement was sound: everyone is scared to some degree, and Hannah is too bright to let fear keep her from becoming who she wants to be.  The question he’s raising is why she can’t both be with him while becoming the writer she wants to be.  In the season finale wrap-up on Slate‘s “The XX Factor”, Girls‘ Executive Producer Jenni Konner writes that “Hannah has always been a character who doesn’t always want what she thinks she wants.” On one hand, the phrasing here feels shifty: how do we not want what we choose, via method or impulse, even if it’s as something as dense as Thomas John’s hand in marriage? The punch of Konner’s statement then seems to be that we don’t always know how to listen to ourselves, or how to ask for what we want, particularly in our mid-twenties. Not only Hannah, but nearly every significant character of the show, with the possible exception of Ray, has acted against their best interests at one point or another.

And from a separate tech standpoint, the shot from Adam’s viewpoint in the ambulance pulling away from Hannah was one of the best all season. I have found myself rooting for the show, particularly the Dunham directed eps, to find a visual language: relish its New York backdrop while avoiding schmaltzy postcard moments, and to avoid the non-stop “talking heads” setups of most filmed TV comedies.

To that end: what a marvelous closing scene. At its best, Girls shares a kinship with Louie, in particular Dunham with that other poet of the bodily grotesque, Louis C.K. Her hollering across the train platform at dawn to a band of sarcastic teenagers certainly felt like it could have come right from C.K. Maris Kreizman even suggested it wouldn’t have felt out of place for Louie to be there in that scene, to “instill life lessons.” In Hannah’s sleepy voyage to the end of the F train, and subsequent walk through Coney Island, we get a view of the city as a microcosm of odd amoebas floating, a place of wonder-via-confusion. The closing shot of Hannah – lost in thought while inhaling a bare-handed, crumbling glob of frosting – could have been the more truthful image inviting in viewers on the show’s pre-premiere billboards. This is Hannah Horvath, sitting in the sand, beautifully uninhibited: salty and sweet, crudely united.

Now go and read all of Emily Goldsher-Diamond’s “Girl on Girls” write ups again!  They’re delightful!  And perhaps we’ll see you back here for season two, provided the late night labor of TV recapping doesn’t deliver us to an early grave.

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