I don’t have anything really profound to say about Girls at its conclusion. This is the first season I’ve written about, and watching its victory lap, in which it finally allows its characters to grow, even infinitesimally, has been both satisfying and annoying. I couldn’t fit years of frustration at the show’s emotional water-treading into each review, and so each gapes at the novel growth its characters achieve, and the incisiveness they bring when not forced to dick around in the same old self-defeating cycles. “Latching,” the series finale, doesn’t quite have the same impact.
Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Marnie (Allison Williams) are living together just like old times, only this time Marnie’s trespassed her way to nanniehood. She shows up in Hannah’s new college town (more specifically, Hannah’s bed in Hannah’s house in said town) to help her raise the coming baby—because, really, what else does Marnie have going on right now? And just when you all thought I was wrong in the time jump-prediction I made in last week’s review: BAM. Title card. Five months later.
Like Marnie, I win what was previously unwinnable, like TV recaps or friendships. She competes for affection because at her core she doesn’t understand love and I do the same, only over the Internet. Luckily, unlike Marnie, I’m not under any illusions that my readers are my best friends. But, even in its finale, Girls continues to be about bonds and their mysterious nature, either between mothers and children or girls and their best friends. The question of why we all put up with each other plagues the series and its characters until the very end: That “latching” is a positive for breastfeeding and a negative for interpersonal relationships is no coincidence.
The reason I bring up breastfeeding is that Hannah has had her son, Grover. Yes, Grover, the name the baby’s father Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed) told Hannah he liked on a stoned final phone call with his impregnated hook-up. Grover exists as a screaming, crying way to thrust familiar characters into one final unfamiliarity. While the debate between formula and breastfeeding is the sort of overly Internet-researched and eye-rolling obsession that Girls thrives on, the episode’s “fussy baby” plot sputters despite being brought up at every chance. It manifests in “Latching” mainly—for all its surface-level associations with breastfeeding as selfless, at least compared to Hannah’s overt narcissism—as joke sequences more familiar from co-writer Judd Apatow’s film work. One moment in particular, in which the episode splices together jokes about Hannah talking to her baby, has the same kind of “throw improv at the wall and sees what sticks” style of his movies. I’m not saying it’s always bad, but it’s stylistically stranded in an episode at its strongest in its heavier moments and character work.
It’s so much more involving to watch Marnie and Hannah live together again and hate each other with the buried viciousness of a couple that never should’ve stayed together. When Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” comes on the radio, tensions erupt between them—especially because it’s the most Marnie song not written by Maroon 5. Girls continues to insist that they’re friends, but we’ve all watched this far—they’re not fooling us anymore. (Though there is an excellent meta-gag about Williams refusing to show her nipples on the show.) It’s impossible to believe they’re fooling each other.
When Marnie calls in Hannah’s mom for back up, Loreen (Becky Ann Baker) arrives with the thin-ice temper of someone who won’t be fooled. After her patience breaks, from Hannah’s typical buyer’s remorse, a few sublime, long tracking shots around the house follows her tirade. Hannah flees and Loreen pursues, tearing into her with a harsh love like every angry mother that’s ever hated a new mom down to her very cells. Their screaming conversation—and most conversations in the episode—are not what you’d imagine, sometimes self-referencing that fact with a cheeky nod that their lives aren’t “a zany sitcom.” But it’s also an episode heavy on the stupid TV tropes, with only a smattering of the sharpness it usually uses to make up for it.
The small amount of joy sparked by Loreen catching Marnie in the middle of weird airline Facetime phone roleplay, and the insight when she subsequently compares Marnie and her daughter to herself and her gay husband, is snuffed out by the episode’s cutesy nonsense. Hannah storms from the house in search, I can only imagine, of a life lesson. Thankfully, she immediately finds one, in the form of the most on-the-nose bratty girl the writers could conjure up without laughing so hard at their own idea that they couldn’t work the keyboard. The bratty girl (played by an overzealous Rubyrose Hill) runs up to Hannah pantsless, screaming and crying out in the night. She complains about her mother, giving an asinine reason why she’s wandering the streets like a Law & Order: SVU cold open, just so Hannah can take off and offer her jeans and realize (yet again) that it’s time for her to grow up.
It seems like every few episodes, the characters reset to their default factory setting (shittiness) and require a system shock from an outside event—someone even worse—so they can improve. As Hannah returns, rebooted by that annoying high school genie, Marnie talks again of starting over, sharing a glass of wine with Loreen. They work toward their peace as Hannah climbs the stairs and feeds her son, working toward her own.
The pop-scored credits trend continues and evolves, in its final iteration, with a soundtrack of Grover cooing and Hannah singing “Fast Car” (It’s catchy, OK?), so the last words spoken in the series are Hannah whispering to her baby, “I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.” In “Pilot,” Hannah had a feeling she could be a lot of someones, but Girls has finally given her a longer-term someone to be, even if Loreen’s reassuring presence reminds us that not time nor motherhood can lock girls down.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.