Who could have guessed we'd be here? Who could have guessed that Season 3, which got off to such an ugly and joyless and borderline unwatchable start (if anything ever trumps "Dead Inside" as the worst episode of Girls ever, I'll be legitimately surprised and horrified), would end on such a touching and effective and funny note? If the fairytale Season 2 finale felt like a lame cop-out (which it was), then last night's Season 3 finale "Two Plane Rides" brought the show back down to earth where it belongs. It was bittersweet series of endings, to say the least, for Hannah and Co. But in your 20s, those are far more common than those elusive happy endings, anyway. Certain things about "Two Plane Rides" felt rushed, which is really too bad considering they could have cut the bullshit from earlier this season to make room for compelling story lines like Jessa's complicated request from Beadie to Shoshanna's understandable meltdown. For the first time in a long time, Girls has not only left me wanting more, but put me back in these girls' corners. Well, except for Marnie. Marnie is the worst.
It was only a matter of time. The groundwork has been laid for almost the entirety of Season 3 about how there are too many cracks in Hannah and Adam's foundation for them to sustain a healthy long-term relationship. These two may be crazy for each other (crazy being the operative word here) but their relationship started as such an uneven mess that it's impossible to build it from the ground up. As much as Adam would like to argue that Hannah still associates him with his "older" version, it's a little hard to do that when scorned ex-girlfriends show up at coffee shops or he acts distant and moody on a moment's notice. But Hannah's just as much at fault, too. She is self-absorbed, but also puts Adam on an impossible pedestal even when he doesn't necessarily deserve to be up there. Last week, Adam told her "I'm very committed to you "at this time" and her mother tried to plead with her "You're so special you deserve everything…he's nice, but stay open to possibilities" and it all seemed to fall on deaf ears. These two are operating on very different frequencies (see: how they both dealt with the subject of death this season) and as much as we want them to be perfect together, these are two imperfect people.
In case you hadn't noticed, I wasn't the biggest fan of the episode "Dead Inside". I thought it was cruel and ugly and unfunny and used a death as a way to challenge viewers who don't like these characters. I understand not wanting to conform to what's expected of you, but rubbing everyone's face in their heartlessness seemed like a surefire way to turn off even the most fervent supporters. (See: me.) Since that fateful episode, in which Hannah whined more about the fate of her book than the actual passing of her editor David and all of her (female) pals talked about loss and death with nothing more than eye-rolling boredom and snark, things have been on the upswing of late. Both "Incidentals" and "Beach House" began to make these characters human, and even likeable again. But, if like me, "Dead Inside" still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth (I'm still convinced that Hannah is a sociopath), "Flo" probably remedied that. Instead of a detached, mean-spirited look at loss, "Flo" was sensitive and personal and was reminiscent of Season 1 depth.
Boy, when Girls gets something wrong, it gets it so wrong, but when it gets something right, it gets it so right. Case in point: the soaring feeling you can get breezily walking through the streets of downtown Manhattan when everything in your life briefly, inexplicably falls into place and/or the crushing defeat that can surprise the hell out of you during what was supposed to be a routine trip to get frozen yogurt. Life in New York City changes on you on a dime, and sometimes you're zipping through Times Square having just heard the best news of your life, and other times you're carrying a pizza with you after having been dumped in Brooklyn.
Vacation is good for everyone. It's good for me, it's good for you and it's definitely good for TV shows stuck in a rut that it desperately needs to get out of. A change of scenery doesn't just physically take you out of your elements, but it mentally does, too. Destination/getaway episodes are nothing new, but rarely are they used to re-set the course of a series. Typically it's just an excuse to have the characters get into whacky shenanigans in Hawaii or meet Mickey Mouse. But Girls went a different route with "Beach House" and didn't use their getaway as a break from the norm, but rather as a device to have a lot of underlying issues come to a head. Vacation episodes are usually a fun distraction, but this one felt like the first truly authentic, funny, interesting, and -- believe it or not -- emotional episode of this rocky, thus-far-unlikable third season. Girls has had success with getting the characters out of the city before. Case in point: "The Return" and "Video Games." Last night's "Beach House" makes them three for three. (Maybe they need to leave New York more often?)
I keep waiting for the Hannah bubble to burst. Not the charmed-life bubble (because despite all her whining, it is one), but rather the self-absorbed bubble. Hannah has it in her mind that she is the greatest writer that the world will ever know and no amount of publisher deaths or the fact that she's only produced a few pieces of content will change that. It doesn't help matters that those around her are constantly telling her she's right (writers go through rejections and edits regularly, but that never seems to be the case for Hannah) and feels entitled to whatever success may come her way. There's no sense of humility or, more importantly, the will to really work in the business she claims to be above. That's why I was so pleasantly surprised by "Free Snacks," an episode that hit the nail right on the head about a lot of things in the current world of journalism. (Except for all those daily snacks. If that's really what's going on over at GQ, they can expect about a thousand resumes coming their way this week.) Hannah has no earthly idea how her industry works because she's so detached from it, in every way possible. So it was incredibly refreshing to watch her realize that everything isn't handed to you on a silver platter and that sometimes you have to compromise your dreams. No matter how "talented" you think you are, there are just as many – if not more – people out there just like you struggling to keep their head above water. While I don't think this experience will make Hannah a better person, or even a better writer (a good writer also listens; they don't just yell above the crowd), I do think this will make for a better show if she continues to experience some truly real-life circumstances.
In case you hadn't noticed, I really did not have any fond feelings for last week's episode of Girls. I thought it was nasty and ugly and showed not only the immaturity of these characters, but the show itself. (You'd like to think that by Season 3 there'd be some emotional growth for the female characters on a show called Girls.) On the other hand, "Dead Inside" allowed me, as a former champion of this series, to disconnect from even remotely liking any of these characters for good. It concretely proved that these are terrible, selfish sociopaths and I'm no longer laughing at their once-relatable twentysomethings-in-New-York-City antics, but marveling slack-jawed at what Millennial monsters they are. That's not to say I still wasn't disgusted with some of their behavior in last night's episode, "Only Child," I'm just no longer surprised by it. This is the M.O. of the show now. Well, the girls, anyway. That said, in addition to no longer being likable or relatable, Hannah and Co. are now utterly unbelievable.
Boy, did I really hate this week's episode of Girls, "Dead Inside." I mean truly despised sitting through this skin-crawling episode. And it's not just because the series has concretely proven, once and for all, that the main female characters (Hannah in particular) are actually just self-absorbed sociopaths with few remaining qualities left. But it's that the men seem to be the only characters left with any shred of decency or interesting characteristics or compassion. I'm not saying that Lena Dunham has to make her girls on Girls inauthentically sweet or overly emotional version of themselves, but I do think she has to make them marginally human human beings. They are not. They are mean, nasty people. And again, I don't need heroes and I don't need flawless characters (that's boring and doesn't ring true to life) but the line is blurred about whether we are supposed to be rooting against these people or gleefully basking in their outright horribleness. I quickly lost my patience with Entourage because it glorified a pack of emotionally vacant jerks who got everything they wanted, even if they didn't deserve it, and it became a marathon of pointless, joyless excess. Girls may not be a show about excess, but it does make you wonder if any of these women will actually grow up or they'll get to continue their path of selfishness and we have to just go along for the ride. Are the guys of Girls going to continue to be the only personable characters? Or can the girls get in on that action at some point, too?
Who's your least favorite girl on Girls? It's actually a tougher question to answer than who is your favorite, isn't it? Unlike, say, Sex and the City, where fans willingly identified themselves as the characters ("I'm a Miranda!"), Girls dares you to figure out who you can tolerate this week. And while your answers may fluctuate (Shoshanna's speed-talking insanity may charm you one week, and grate your nerves another), it's pretty apparent who Girls' least favorite girl is: Marnie. This show hates Marnie so much that not only have they made her storyline for the better part of two seasons "pout," but they have had her humiliate herself by singing in public twice now. Last night's episode of Girls, "She Said OK," was no exception to the Marnie-hating rule. But, lucky for her, there's a new girl in town named Caroline (Adam's little sister) and she is totally crazy and hate-worthy. In fact, Marnie hate may actually just turn to pitable from now on. Maybe. Until then, here's the good, the bad and the funny of "She Said OK," in which Hannah has her 25th birthday party and a whole lot goes wrong:
The first two seasons of Girls were divisive ones among viewers, to say the least, and that's because it's an either-or show. You either chuckle or cringe at the self-absorbed antics of Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her pack of equally misguided twenty-something friends Adam, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa (Adam Driver, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, and Jemima Kirke, respectively.) You either love and defend Girls (even when it makes you squirm), or you hate it and attempt to will it out of existence (especially when it makes you squirm.)
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