Girls is a dramedy and its season finales, with all the wrapping up that needs to get done in them, invariably turn out heavy on the dram side and light on the edy. This is true of Season 3’s finale as well. It delivers the occasional funny moment, but mostly it’s tragedy after tragedy (with a sprinkling of hope).
This isn’t a bad thing. Girls is a show that’s willfully playful with its tone, and part of the joy of watching this series is to see which version of it will be served up each week. When it wants to be a comedy, it makes me laugh out loud pretty consistently. And when it goes for the drama angle, it has the potential to kick my ass, and make me feel all kinds of sad and hopeful and confused, which is exactly what “Two Plane Rides” accomplished.
I’ve noticed Lena Dunham always gets a writing and direction credit for both the premieres and finales of every season of her show. This might seem like a no-brainer—as the creator, she should have heavy input into the direction the show will be going, something premieres and finales play a major role in establishing—but it’s not necessarily a given in American television, especially in sitcoms (something I would say Girls still very much is). Plus, creators are typically writers, but that Dunham’s also a director is a unique benefit to her and this show, and I do always feel her episodes—likely because of her film school background—have a “short film” look and tone to them. I tend to find Girls to be at its best when the episodes feel like vignettes rather than TV episodes, and it gives the seasons a nice bit of symmetry that they start and end with short films written and directed by Lena Dunham.
Also giving this episode some symmetry is the return of stuff all but forgotten early on in the season, like, for example, Caroline. Her return is (blissfully) understated because she’s not shrieking and being generally awful, yet it’s also hugely momentous because she’s apparently living in Hannah’s building and is also pregnant with Laird’s child. I understand some people criticize Girls for not really holding to narrative arcs, often introducing plot elements and quickly abandoning them entirely, but I wonder if that might not actually be a calculated move. This show skews toward the naturalistic and though it might not always be as satisfying as a more tightly, conventionally structured program, it feels right for this show. Furthermore, there are times like this where a character suddenly turns up again. Caroline’s reappearance is hardly conclusive and might introduce more questions than answers, but also serves as a demonstration that the show didn’t forget about her but had some kind of plan for her all along (even if it was a weird one that doesn’t make total sense to us).
Also, revealing of this plan is Hannah getting into the MFA program at The University of Iowa. Hannah mentioned to Shoshanna in the second episode of the season that she applies to grad school every year. Turns out what seemed like a throwaway line at the time was actually going to be a lifeline for Hannah after leaving her job and (it would seem) breaking up with Adam.
I also love how it felt like Shoshanna was the character most in the background for all of Season 3, there largely to be occasionally affected by the actions of the other girls, and yet “Two Plane Rides” is a huge Shosh episode that presents her as an incredibly tragic figure at her lowest point in the series thus far. Even though Shosh didn’t get a ton of screen time this year, her storyline here somehow made it feel like all the small moments we saw with her throughout the season—struggling to study, worrying about her GPA, blowing up at her friends—couldn’t add up to anything else except a huge crash. This episode gave Zosia Mamet a chance to present Shosh as more than just a sort of ridiculous motor-mouth, and it made me feel so, so sad for her.
Rounding out the tragedy was Adam pretty much being a dick, Marnie finally making out with Desi, and Jessa helping Beedee kill herself. But, just like the episode “I Saw You” before this one, the extent of how tragic these things are is as of yet uncertain. Hannah seems happy enough to leave behind her drama with Adam to pursue her degree. Marnie’s thing with Desi seems to have made her truly happy, but it’s obviously not a settled situation because of his girlfriend and all (plus, this development is likely to have some effect on Ray). Finally, Jessa’s storyline takes a concept you don’t think will actually ever happen, then actually has it happen, and then makes it funny again when Beedee realizes she doesn’t want to die. (Doesn’t sound funny when I describe it, I realize, but it was.)
This was a great way for the season to go out. Like last week again, it gave all the characters something meaningful to do and batted my heart all about in the process. It also really made me look forward to the next season. The way things ended, I feel like next year has got to be The Year of Shoshanna, and we’ll get (or at least we should get) a lot more of her. Also, if Adam and Hannah break up again, will we follow Adam the way we did last season? Do we even want to if he’s turning into a douchebag now?! And, finally, this episode seemed to be pretty resolute about moving Hannah to Iowa. How the hell is that going to work out?
For people who only have a peripheral awareness of Girls and just see it as that show about spoiled hipsters living in Brooklyn, it’s certainly going to throw a wrench into the uninformed criticism-works if this series up and moves its main character to Iowa. I don’t think anybody expected that.
And that’s why Girls continues to be so awesome.