Lessons in the ‘Girls’ Lexicon: Finale

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Syd: Well, here we are, at the end of what I consider to be one of the most unpredictable and emotionally confusing seasons of TV in my long career as a television viewer. I would absolutely love to have a face-to-face meeting with Dunham to try to figure out what the hell is going on inside of her head, but unfortunately I’m neither nearly well-connected nor cool enough. So, in place of real facts, I’ll give you my opinion (you lucky dogs!).  Season 2 didn’t necessarily suck, rather it was a huge and surprising departure from Season 1. Dunham moved away from somewhat fluffy, inoffensive “white girl problems” (i.e. Shoshanna’s virginity, Hannah being cut off from her parents, Jessa’s sexual dalliances, and Marnie’s struggle to cope with a lackluster boyfriend) and decided to use Season 2 to tackle some really complex issues. We witnessed parental abandonment, drug abuse, sexual assault, and really scary case of OCD.  Needless to say, it was a difficult season to watch—not because it was bad, but because I expected one kind of show and received something completely different. While I could use up this space to shit on all the things that went wrong in Girls Season 2, I’ve instead decided to have a discussion with Blog writer and fellow Girls enthusiast Sam Levison.

Sam: Girls‘ third episode, “All Adventurous Women Do,” concluded with a rather endearing scene. Hannah Horvath, having fully established herself as lovably awkward and aimless by this point, is listening (or jamming out, rather) to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” Marnie comes home from work, giggles in the doorway and joins her in the bedroom disco. Hannah’s no longer dancing on her own—GET IT!? If Girls continued to rest solely on such “relatable” contrivances it might have made for some fleeting fun—but real life isn’t always a bad day and a rejuvenating dance party. Season 2 has expressed this notion in all its dark, cringeworthy truth. For lack of a better metaphor, one might view it as a Funny People for Season 1’s The Forty Year-Old Virgin. Here on Blog, there’s been a tendency to lament the show’s changes. I’d respectfully disagree and argue that this season, while ostensibly less funny, is a triumph (I’ll elaborate on this below).  Sure Season 2 is difficult at times, but so is life.

Syd: I agree—life is hard, and Season 2 does a great job of portraying that. I think separating Season 2 from Season 1—actually, taking it out of the context of a TV show entirely—would help me view it in a more positive light. I know, that sounds confusing, just bear with me. After watching the infamous episode in which Hannah lives with a complete— albeit very handsome—stranger, one of my friends came up with an interesting perspective: he told me to look at each episode as a short film rather than a chapter of a series. This really resonated with me, as I feel like Season 2 was somewhat disjointed and unorganized, and it was difficult to follow each character’s storyline.  Personally, I like my TV shows to fit a pattern, of sorts. I want to see fluid character development and I like being able to have some idea of where the various plots are heading. That being said, I also enjoy an element of surprise and I appreciate being challenged by complex and controversial issues that sprout up throughout a season. I just felt that Season 2 of Girls held far too many “what the fuck” moments for my liking. As a collection of 10 short films, though, I think it would have kicked ass.

Sam: Point taken. Perhaps the extreme inconsistencies are a result of Dunham’s film background, though I’d like to believe that they have some symbolic significance. Any period of time—a day, a summer, a year—is fractured and haphazard for the individuals who experience it. I think that this rings particularly true for twenty-somethings. In this way, tonal whimsy is just business as usual. Coke nights, staycations with strangers, thigh crease sex, and mental health collapses happen because life before a steady job and a steady mate might play that way (correct me if I’m wrong, I’m just a college junior who has consumed far, far too much film and TV). Moreover, I think the disjointedness also reflects the ensemble nature of the show. Hannah’s at the center, but Marnie, Jessa, Ray, Shosh and Adam have lives too. Essentially nobody is ever on the same page and therefore each thread takes on a different quality. Girls lacks unity, but I think that might be the point. 

Syd: Totally valid. Dunham has obviously given us a lot to talk about this season, which is a success in itself. So, seeing as the previous Girls posts have focused on lessons (in lexicon), let’s stick with that theme and explore some of the more profound things we’ve learned from Season 2. Personally, I’m fascinated by the extraordinary fall (and pseudo-rise) of Marnie. She was a complete trainwreck but also a big source of entertainment throughout the season (schadenfreude, sorry ‘bout it). The one lesson I’m taking away from the “worst year” of Marnie’s life is that the more tightly wound a person is, the more forcefully they’ll spiral out of control.  Also, the phrase “eventually I want your little brown babies and I want to watch you die” leads to a happy, romantic ending. Noted!

Sam: Speaking of out-of-control spirals, the single aspect of this season of Girls that struck me hardest was how Hannah’s life seemed comparatively less problem-ridden when she wasn’t getting anywhere professionally in Season 1. In her state of post-graduate malaise, all Hannah could whine about was getting the opportunity to write her book. When she finally gets this opportunity, however, her world essentially falls apart into crippling neurosis and self-imposed exile. So what can we take away from this? Goals, dreams, and aspirations are certainly important, although achieving them is no panacea. Problems certainly don’t disappear, and new ones are bound to emerge.

Syd: On a more positive note, Shoshanna taught us that it’s possible to remain true to one’s character (quirks, neuroses, and all) even in the face of adversity and new experiences. We see her character develop significantly throughout Season 2, but she still manages to maintain her status as the beloved Shosh from Season 1. Unlike some of the other characters in the show, we were able to sympathize with her plight as a young, naive New Yorker, even when she did something not-so-kosher—like “hold hands” with a doorman.

Sam: I think the Rayshanna (Thanks, Vulture!) plotline illustrated another, if slightly trite lesson this season: maturity is a bit of a farce (every plotline illustrates this—especially Jessa’s—but let’s stick to one for the sake of space). Ray is twelve years Shoshanna’s senior and acts as if cynicism is equivalent to wisdom, yet at times he seems significantly more childlike than his college-aged partner. Shosh may have stuffed animals, but she has some general ambition (she’s seeking a “personal renaissance” in the near future). Ray, on the other hand, disrespects his customers at Grumpy’s, whines almost perpetually and ultimately takes stock in a solitary thing: his girlfriend. Of course this isn’t to say that dedication to one’s relationship is immature, but such extreme narrow sightedness seems juvenile. In sum, it seems like maturity is less about age and more about accountability. A quote from Hannah sums it up pretty well:

“You know when you’re young and you drop a glass, and your dad’s like ‘get out of the way?’ so you can be safe while he cleans it up? Well now, no one really cares if I clean it up myself. No one really cares if I get cut with glass. If I break something no one says ‘let me take care of that’.”

In conclusion: One thing we can definitely agree on is that the finale was hasty, contrived, and generally subpar. The music choice was questionable, and the episode needed to be longer than 30 minutes in order to provide a truly satisfying end to the season. However, we were able to pull out one final pearl of wisdom from Hannah: “Life can be scary. Life is much intense. You’ve kind of gotta ride it like a pony or you’ll get a haircut.”

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