This review contains spoilers.
Already the opinions on Girls’ final episode are pouring into the Twitterverse and there seems to be a fair amount of disappointment. Many folks appear to be of the mind that last week’s episode should have been the finale, which I can understand. It featured the entire core female friend group, whereas this one only has Hannah, her mother, and Marnie. Plus, it gave something of a coda to all the girls’ friendships, which felt vaguely uplifting.
But for an episode that culminated in an extended dancing/goofing off montage, I thought it was kind of a downer. I mean, Shoshanna definitively rejected everyone. Sure, Hannah and Jessa made up, which was nice, but there was something of an implication that none of the girls would ever really be involved in each other’s lives again and that this was the last hurrah. That’s a decent, bittersweet idea, but it was too abrupt a break for me, most specifically because Marnie and Hannah barely even interacted and, though the show has shifted its character dynamics drastically over the course of its run, I always felt Marnie and Hannah were the foundation relationship of the series.
Latching appears to agree with me, with the opening shot echoing the opening shot of the series’ pilot, with Marnie and Hannah sharing a bed (though Marnie apparently doesn’t wear a mouth guard anymore; unbelievable! Marnie’s mouth guard is canon). To drive the point home, Marnie lists off all of Hannah’s other friends, none of whom are there for her in that moment and declares, “I win. I’m your best friend.”
I expected this episode to pull a time jump, and it does, but not a very big one. Instead, it’s only five months. Hannah’s baby is born but it’s still early days. We get no major insight into what a “settled” Hannah (if such a thing exists) might look like. The entire finale is concerned with her still coming to grips with accepting her role as a mother. We don’t even see what her teaching job is like.
Hannah is borderline intolerable for the bulk of Latching, lashing out at her mother and Marnie, who are only doing their best trying to help. Coming face-to-face with how hard bringing up a baby is, actually feeling this impact on her life, is terrifying and exhausting to Hannah and, in true Hannah form, her instinct is to give up and blame everyone else. It makes perfect sense for the character, but it’s not exactly a joy to watch and doesn’t leave a lot of room for comedy.
Marnie comes across a lot better. Most people seem to hate Marnie, but I’ve always tried to defend her and it’s nice to see that she’s doing her best to be selfless and adult-ish here. She also happens to get the funniest line in Latching. When Hannah relays the doctor’s assessment that her baby is the perfect weight, Marnie coos to him, “That’s like the greatest compliment a person can get!”
It’s always great to see Becky Ann Baker as Hannah’s mother, Loreen, there to shout at and talk some sense into Hannah and Marnie respectively. It feels correct for a show called Girls to end with an episode exclusively focused on women — none of whom are currently coupled with anyone, I might add — simply trying their best to survive. The spectre of manhood exists, with Marnie sex-roleplaying with a guy on Facetime and also the fact that Hannah’s kid is a boy, who she actually did name Grover at her baby daddy’s suggestion. But this is ultimately an episode about women helping women, which I think was the right way to go. (I will admit, however, that it’s a let-down that we never got to see Ray again. His break-up with Marnie and subsequent new love with Abigail simply happened too fast and felt artificial.)
While I would never say something as goofy as “there is nothing else the finale could have been,” this is a perfectly logical finale for Girls. If you were waiting for the payoff of Hannah becoming the famous writer she always thought she might be, you haven’t been watching the same show I have. This has always just been a show about people struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. It’s about incremental failures and successes. It was never going to end with everyone’s dreams coming true. (That said, you did get a bit of that anyway as Elijah basically got exactly what he wanted. Also, frankly, the fact that Hannah’s a writer who regularly gets paid work and has locked down a professor position is enough of an impossible dream come true already.)
If you were hoping for a more resolute climax to all the girls’ friendships, either implying they’d all be together forever or, alternatively, ending with them very clearly going their separate ways, well, that’s not a very realistic expectation either. We’ve watched these people gradually grow up and apart, their lives becoming organically and realistically isolated from one another. At this stage, the bonds between them aren’t strong enough to justify either a great, big, lovey-dovey ending or a tragic, heartfelt goodbye. It’s just not that kind of show. Ending on a small, gently hopeful note is about all that makes sense for Girls and this finale delivered that.
But the thing is this: this was not a deeply emotional episode. I totally accept this as the series finale. Something bigger and more dramatic — whether positive or negative — would have rung false. But I simply didn’t feel that much either. I was just annoyed at Hannah for over half of the episode and then, at the end, moderately pleased for her and Marnie. I’m okay with Latching, but I can’t deny that Girls has made me far sadder before and far happier before, too. And it’s certainly made me laugh a lot more. This is an unassuming, decent, final episode. There are just others I liked better.