This Girls review contains spoilers.
The final two episodes of Girls’ penultimate season went out with a series of sizable bangs. HBO billed this as a two-part finale but, in actuality, these episodes are only connected in the same way every episode of Girls is connected (and I guess that they also both have “love” in their titles). So I’ll judge them more as two, self-contained pieces.
Girls Season 5 Episode 9: “Love Stories”
This episode’s signature move is dramatic soliloquies. There are a whole lot of scenes of characters unloading their pain onto other characters. Marnie gets a little monologue, Hannah gets a big one, Elijah delivers a giant one; even Tally Schifrin (Jenny Slate)—who we haven’t seen since the first season—gets to let it all out and tell us how she really feels.This mostly works. At the end of a season of Girls, the characters always have a lot more baggage in tow. The season itself feels like it’s bursting with pent-up drama. So an episode in which some of the valves get a bit of release makes sense, at least on an emotional level. It’s the reason that even a character we haven’t seen for five years seems entitled to our sympathy.
This dramatic monologue approach works best from Elijah, who pours his heart out to his lover-for-a-few-episodes, newscaster Dill Harcourt. I haven’t honestly much cared about Elijah’s arc this season; I appreciate that the show’s principal gay character got his own standalone relationship storyline, but we weren’t given a deep enough look into it to understand what Elijah and Dill really see in each other. In fact, when Elijah tells Dill in this episode that he loves him for more than his money and his stuff, I felt I had no idea what the “more” was because it simply hadn’t been previously shown to me.
It feels, therefore, like a sensible ending to this plot thread that Dill basically tells Elijah he’s just not that into him (and crushingly notes that he’d prefer to be with “someone less aimless”). But the scene works because Andrew Rannells acts the crap out of it and gets all teary-eyed (as does Corey Stoll). Actually, considering I’ve not found much reason to be invested in Elijah this season, these last two episodes are a real showcase for him. After this dramatic scene, he works through the pain by being his unapologetically bitchy self through to the end to hilarious and cathartic effect.
The focus of this episode, however, is Hannah running into Tally Schifrin. Since Iowa, Hannah has completely stopped writing. Tally—who went to college with Hannah and is basically the successful writer Hannah wishes she was—is the perfect character to rekindle her creativity. Previously, Tally was little more to Hannah than an embodiment of obnoxious success, but now they’re both at a place in their lives where they’re ready to be honest with each other so they end up getting along really well.
It’s truly just a lot of fun watching Lena Dunham and Jenny Slate mess around together. The drama never really gets laid on too thick because it’s tempered with ridiculousness: we can feel badly for Hannah but then are reminded how awful and self-serving everyone on this show is when Tally encourages Hannah to steal some poor guy’s bike and she does. Though that’s not to completely dismiss the dramatic stuff, which maybe strays into the melo end of the spectrum at times, but a lot of which is wonderfully written. Take, for example, Hannah’s assessment of Adam and Jessa: “I love them both so much I don’t know who to warn about the other one.”
There’s positivity here too, for Shoshanna, Marnie, and Ray. Shosh shows up at Ray’s café ready to PR the place back to relevancy. It just plain brings me a lot of joy to see how naturally Shosh and Ray interact and how much they now care for each other as friends. Shosh also has a scene where she dresses up like a cartoon private eye, which is kind of insane, but, whatever, these last two episodes are allowed some extremes.
Also, Marnie realizes she loves Ray which happens a little fast (she says herself she was supposed to be alone for a while), but, shoot, we want this for Ray, don’t we? We do. By the way, Alex Karpovsky, who plays Ray, directed this episode. Everything’s comin’ up, Ray!
Girls Season 5 Episode 10: “I Love You Baby”
This is one of Girls’ better finales just because it has such a nice mixture of ups and downs. It’s a marked improvement from season four’s finale, which was sappy and felt off. It doesn’t beat season one’s finale, which had one of my favorite final shots the show’s ever done: Hannah alone, eating cake on the beach in the dark. No, “I Love You Baby” has more in common with the drama-turned-up-to-eleven, madcap season two finale, though I think this one works better.
On the positive side of things, Marnie suggests Ray go on tour with her to counterbalance the shittiness of Desi and Tandice (Lisa Bonet). It’s just nice to see Marnie and Ray accepting that they’re now the weird couple they are even though the tour promises future horribleness. This is foreshadowed acutely by Desi, ever the insufferable dick, already refusing to unlock the dressing room at their inaugural gig because he’s busy getting a hummer from the girl who runs his fansite (he’s an actor of very mild success too, remember).
Shoshanna is already turning Ray’s café around by introducing an anti-hipster gimmick to the place (signs she’s put up include “UN-FREE THE NIPPLE” and “TRUST THE GOVERNMENT”). This is a less-focused-on plot in the episode, but it’s always nice to see Colin Quinn again and the scenes he shares with Zosia Mamet are very sweet.
Hannah gets back in touch with her storytelling side by performing a monologue for The Moth, a real-world NYC event where you get up on a stage and tell a life story without using any notes. It’s a good ending to this season to see the rebirth of Hannah’s writing and it’s delivered in a cool, unbroken, three-and-a-half-minute shot of Hannah telling her tale. Also, just before it, we get one of the episode’s best lines as another storyteller informs Hannah, “I have a podcast. I care.”
I mentioned that Elijah is one of the best parts of these finale episodes and I love how he’s heartbroken and on the rampage here, just storming through everything and being brutally honest with everyone. It’s great that, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he’s being a huge dick, what Elijah tells Hannah’s dad, Tad, gets through to him enough that Tad makes the decision to look up the guy he hooked up with on his last visit to New York. Also, Elijah and Hannah’s mom get the last scene of dialogue; it’s dark and really fucking funny.
As for the negative (I think?) stuff, there’s the argument Adam and Jessa have, which reaches such mad, destructive heights it gives off the unreality of theater (Adam is an actor, I suppose). It’s a brilliant idea that Hannah—even though she’s barely been in touch with either of them—is still at the center of this relationship. Everything they know about each other is filtered through what Hannah has gossiped about them and Hannah tells everyone everything. It results in an absurdist setpiece as Jessa and Adam lay waste to poor Ray’s apartment (well, at least he still has Marnie) and Adam goes all Jack Nicholson in The Shining (there is no way the reference is undeliberate) when he punches through the bathroom door.
This Jessa and Adam violence is good, mental fun to watch though it beggars belief more than a little. Jessa herself notes, “It was just so over-the-top unnecessary.” But, although this scene feels arguably crazier than the show it exists in, in a storytelling sense, you can’t ask for a much more cathartic finale than to have the characters break a whole bunch of shit.
The last shot of “I Love You Baby” is a freeze frame of a smiling, jogging Hannah, hopeful again for the future. It’s cheesy as hell and made me guffaw, but, unlike season four’s finale, it was a lot closer to the good kind of cheesy.
Season five started rough but the back half really stepped up its game. I’m excited to see what we get in the sixth, and final, season of Girls.