Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thoughts on the Third-Season Finale of "Girls"

As we did last week with Episodes' entire third season, let us now consider the third-season finale of Girls through its main characters, the titular quartet.

Hannah Here's the thing about Hannah: She's infuriating. This season she actually showed signs of growth (Loreen Horvath's shrewd observation about Adam aside, Hannah's was the sole voice of reason among the women of her extended family when her grandmother was in the hospital), but when she backslid, she fell way down to the depths of the gutter. I get her frustration with Adam. It didn't take Patti LuPone to tell me that Adam was acting like a prick. If he wants to be an actor, especially a stage actor, he's going to have to learn how to live in the real world while practicing his craft. He can't push his girlfriend away every time he gets an acting gig because she interferes with his concentration process. ("When I see you, I think play time" is so condescending and trivializing.) When Daniel Day-Lewis goes Method, at least he's on location somewhere, presumably away from his wife, Rebecca Miller, so it's not like he's completely ignoring her from just a few blocks away.

But then, actors might be the only people on earth who are even more self-absorbed than writers, which probably makes them a terrible match. Hannah and Adam are both flowers right now, and every relationship needs a gardener. Hannah's timing was so predictable. She told Adam about grad school right before his debut performance as a sort of payback and also to make the moment all about her. (In a bit of brilliant acting, Lena Dunham spotlighted the wheels turning in Hannah's head.) Adam, in return, made Hannah's news all about him. I've hated Adam ever since he came all over Shiri Appleby last season. He and Hannah are probably doomed, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Walking away from him was the smartest thing Hannah did all episode. And I loved her final word. When I left David sitting alone in that bar in Bangkok a year and a half ago, I so wish I had said "Have a nice trip" on my way out.

Marnie Here's the other thing about Hannah: For a self-involved writer so lacking in self-awareness, she's very good at zeroing in on other people's flaws. I've never been a fan of Marnie, but this season she actually made me wish her bodily harm. Her insecurity is so extreme that it could almost be its own character. It drives nearly everything she does. There hasn't been a single moment this season that she's even remotely seemed like someone I'd want to be around.

I generally don't like it when women on TV go around bitch slapping each other, but I was secretly hoping that Marnie would get hers during the bathroom altercation with Clementine, whose boyfriend she had just kissed. Marnie reminds me of Abby, the character Donna Mills used to play on Knot's Landing, always going after guys who are either involved with or connected to other women. (In the second season, she even started sniffing around Charlie, the boyfriend she had dumped, when he was with another girl, like his unavailability made him appealing again.)

At least you could see what Abby was going for (money and power). Elijah (Hannah's now-gay ex), Ray (Shoshanna's ex) and Desi (the creepy guy in Adam's play who doth protest too much that he belongs to Clementine) are no keepers, and Marnie knows it. She just wants to prove that she can get the guy, any guy. To go around swooning and bragging because your un-single songwriting partner just planted a big one on you seems like the act of an unstable and dangerous woman. She has it coming, and if Desi's jealous soon-to-be ex doesn't deliver it next season, I sort of hope Shoshanna does.

Jessa At least Jessa has an excuse for most of her bad behavior this season. She's a junkie. That's not an excuse, but it's an explanation. The drugs made her do it! I actually liked her for the first time in the season finale, and I wish the storyline with her and the elderly artist (the great Louise Lasser, decades away from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) had played out over more episodes like it did on 90210 when Sally Kellerman was the woman of a certain advanced age. I've never seen myself as the type of person who could bring myself to help someone die, for various reasons, none of them being because they might change their mind when it's almost too late. What a twist. I so didn't see that coming.

Shoshanna Zosia Mamet delivers the goods acting-wise, so it's a shame that Lena Dunham seems to care least about her character. After three seasons, I feel like we hardly know Shoshanna, and I really want to. Why is she such an odd duck? Did her parents make her do it? Have we even seen her parents? During the weekend-getaway episode where she blasted her friends, revealing a previously unseen assertiveness and rage, I actually found myself fearing her a little. There's definitely something there.

The intermission scene with her and Ray was the highlight of the finale. It was so raw and real. We've all been there, wishing we could turn back the clock and redo a bad choice, but how many of us have the guts to actually beg an ex to take us back a year after dumping him. (I briefly considered it last year, so I understand what it took for Marnie to do it.) It doesn't matter that I don't understand why she wants Ray. What does matter is that it's not because of what happened between him and Marnie -- Shoshanna clearly had a reconciliation in mind even before Marnie revealed her fling with Ray -- but rather, in spite of it, which must be true love indeed. I don't want them back together next season, but I do want to know what's really going on with Shoshanna.
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