Apr 17, 2017

TV Retrospective: "Girls" - Season 6

Scene from Girls
It is easy to make the argument that in the five years and six seasons that Girls aired on HBO that nothing major happened. There was very little of a story arc that made series finale "Latching" feel like a triumphant moment for the series. However, there is something to the show's meandering that has made it endearing, even making the hushed and scared silence that Hannah (Lena Dunham) sings in over the closing credits, resonate on a deeper level. The series was about being 20-somethings who were too stubborn to become the adults that have been idealized on TV. In that final moment, Hannah took responsibility for her child - of whom was born after a drunken one night stand with a surf instructor (Riz Ahmed) impregnated her. It's the ultimate sign that the show's moniker no longer fits. Yes, Hannah is still a little immature, but by the series end she has at least learned to be more cognizant and responsible. It's the small step that may frustrate viewers expecting this years ago, but makes for a powerful send-off to a great final season of a comedy series.
One of the series' strongest elements going into season six was that it was knowingly the end of the show. Whereas previous seasons felt like they meandered in trivial stories of woe, it was crunch time to make the final 10 episodes stand as the grand statement by which the show's legacy would be judged. Sure, many have dropped off after the first season, but those who did missed some powerful episodes that were sporadically sprinkled throughout the later seasons. In the case of season six; creator, writer, director, and actress Dunham cleverly centralized the show and made a quaint summary of why Girls was a show that resonated. It is the show's most focused year of episodes and maybe its most secretly mature. 
Even as the series unknowingly says goodbye to the supporting cast, it feels tragic and honest in a way that most shows wouldn't have the gall to pull off. The central group of Girls have grown apart so much that many have gone episodes without appearing. It's a point that's brought up in "Goodbye Tour" where Hannah visits Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) only to find out that she got married. It's a shocking detail, but one that thrusts the show into a final thesis statement about Hannah, Shoshanna, Marnie (Allison Williams), and Jessa (Jemima Kirke): they don't actually like each other. It's hard to believe if one cut ties with the show after season one, but becomes an achingly obvious revelation when looking at the show. Instead of showing relationships in a TV version of conventional, the show decided that it would do it realistically. This meant that groups fall apart and reform in new and strange patterns. It's a part of growing older. With Hannah ending the show alone as a mother, it's a far cry from "Pilot" where she is getting high and making egregious proclamations. True, it took a hissy fit to get there, but with that moment of selfishness came enlightenment about the struggles of maturity.
While the show was mostly about Hannah's pregnancy over the final run, the final 10 episodes focused on the growth of every other character who had detached from her life. Adam (Adam Driver) made an indie film to contextualize his feelings for his ex Hannah. Jessa is sober and becoming disinterested in reckless behavior. Marnie still struggles with her toxic ex-husband Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who is revealed to be an insecure drug addict. Even Elijah (Andrew Rannells), who initially agreed to be the baby's father, found success in theater with a musical version of White Men Can't Jump. Everyone has their own modicum of success. Some is measured financially while others is measured in emotional fulfillment. Whatever the case may be, everyone ends the show acknowledging and changing some of their childish ways.
Most of all, it's a show that successfully showed the conflicts of how life doesn't always go according to a plan. Speaking as the dreams of season one have been long dashed, Girls shows the struggle to accept that humility with grace. It is best reflected when Hannah's mom (Becky Ann Baker) appears in "Latching" while giving Marnie some advice. She revealed that she was married to a gay man (Peter Scolari) and that her life since has been disappointing. Even then, she does her best to make every day matter. In this small moment, Girls understands that adulthood isn't any easier than the struggles that the past six seasons have shown. There will always be miserable days. The trick is to find the joy in them and to take responsibility for your own well being. For Hannah, that is perfectly symbolized in her choice to raise a child without a father figure. She is alone and scared, but it's what has to be done. If she's anything like her mother, she'll make it out just fine.
Girls was accidentally a controversial show in a tangential way. While it was meant to show the foolishness of youth as it correlated to life and relationships in the 21st century, it became the poster child for the absurdity that a spoiled generation faces. It's true that the series may be too niche to appeal to a generation two decades from now, but for now it captures an era of humanity that didn't really have an outlet before. Over six seasons, Dunham expertly showed how someone can evolve over time in spite of making some large mistakes. In the final stretch, it was the final moments of nostalgic youth mixed with the scary maturity of the years likely to be seen in Women. Of course, Dunham is probably done with Hannah, especially since she left her in a powerful and poignant place. That's sad. Even if Girls is over, it gives the sense that life goes on and one day Hannah will be telling her son's friends about the loneliness of adulthood. It's a cyclical thing. It's just a matter of noticing the subtle changes that can happen over time. It's what Girls did best. 

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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