Going into its final season, there seemed to be a lot of thinkpieces characterizing Girls as the show that launched a million thinkpieces (if you can wrap your mind around that). That said, I really didn’t do a ton of writing about Girls on this blog (apart from a season 3 review) despite being a fairly unabashed fan of it from nearly the beginning. And maybe it’s that unabashed fandom that oddly enough deterred me from writing about it.
Because, honestly, I just got tired of feeling the need to defend it. I’ve always been aware that Girls is not a perfect show. It’s rarely a show that’s “feel good” television, even though I think if I had to put it into any one genre, I would describe it as a comedy. But more than anything, I’m well aware it wasn’t a show for everybody. And I don’t think Lena Dunham and her collaborators (which included Judd Apatow, who seemed to contribute more to the series than you’d think) were ever trying to make a show for everyone. But for whatever reason it turned into this cultural lightning rod of millennial scorn, even though most of this was probably just spurred on by internet culture writers that didn’t have nearly as many interesting television shows to write about five years ago as we do now.
Which I think gets at why Girls wasn’t just a show that people on the internet liked to bitch about, but was actually a fairly important TV show – because at the time it debuted, there simply wasn’t anything like it on American television. Sure, Louie had debuted about a year-and-a-half prior, but Girls dared to push the envelope maybe not further, but certainly in other daring directions, in terms of what a half hour show could be. And in particular, about the frank, honest way young adult women could be depicted on TV.
And yes, the amount of nudity was one aspect that disarmed people, but I always found the show’s emotional nakedness to be just as disarming. I can remember that first season being one of those rare works that lingers with you, as I’d go about my day, working a crappy retail job, while the feelings of its latest episode would rattle around in my brain. Granted, it also helped that I was similarly in that same weird post-college phase as Hannah and her pals when the show debuted, and have always been able to connect to the show in the way it depicts what far more adventurous people choose to do with their 20s.
Though if I’m being honest, I think like a lot of people, I was never quite as excited about Girls as I was in that first season. However, I think the show was more consistent than people give it credit for over the course of its six seasons. By that, I mean the show consistently found the characters reinventing themselves and trying new things that would seem completely out-of-left field on any typical sitcom, which in turn made the show feel a little inconsistent. Because I think in most half hour comedies, we almost expect that bedrock foundation of characters plugging away at the same old shit, delivering the same old laughs, week after week. However, Girls was willing to show that people are constantly in a state of trying to figure shit out, whatever their age.
Which of course brings us to the show’s Sunday night finale, in which we saw Hannah finally trading the chaos of New York City for the sticks, to try her hand at motherhood. While by her side she has her last friend standing, Marnie (Alison Williams). It wasn’t your typical finale, in that it only featured those two out of the main cast (as well as Hannah’s mom). But then again, I wasn’t expecting a typical series finale, and considering Girls could often be quite the prickly show, I wasn’t expecting an “all hugging” finale either. Though I think the episode’s final shot was a nice bit of earned optimism in an episode that featured more than its share of characters shouting at each other about how life is tough shit.
So ultimately, I thought it was a sly and appropriate way of ending this always unpredictable show, especially considering it more or less tied things up with Shoshanna, Jessa, Adam, and Ray in its penultimate episode. Or at least, tied it up as much as it needed to. Because another thing I thought was kind of great about the finale is it showed that just because someone makes a clean break from their past, it doesn’t mean they won’t be carrying around the baggage they’ve had with them their whole lives. These characters may be done trying to figure shit out on television, but it’s not hard to imagine them out there somewhere, trying to figure shit out, while a new generation waits to replace millennials as the next wave of adult children.