Accused by some of whitewashing Brooklyn and beloved by others for depicting the harsh truth of post-college New York life for over-educated women in their 20s, Girls may well be TV’s most talked-about comedy. Considering that most of those conversations hinge on how realistic the show is or isn’t, this season we’re recapping Girls by asking three writers who should know — our interns, Chloe Pantazi, Alison Herman, and Julia Pugachevsky — how real each episode felt. Read their responses to last night’s season finale, characterized by a few unexpected romantic reunions and one entirely unsurprising split, and let us know what you think in the comments.
Julia Pugachevsky: It’s not that I can’t accept a cliffhanger finale – I let go of the fact that Mad Men ended with Don possibly about to embark on an affair and the mid-season torture that was the Breaking Bad finale. But seeing every relationship you like fall apart and every relationship you question come back together is so true to life that it makes you wonder what’s in store for Season 3 and, more importantly, if you’ll even want to watch anymore when you could easily just observe your friends and family.
Because who hasn’t known a Marnie-and-Charlie couple – the kind of people who sink their claws into each other out of fear? Since Marnie’s embarrassing performance, there’s been no mention of her singing, and with a crutch like Charlie, it’s hard to imagine she’ll go back to trying to achieve a real goal in life. Because accomplishing anything that’s worth it at all is inevitably painful, and it becomes all too tempting to just stay in with your wealthy boyfriend and drink chardonnay than go out to some tiny bar in Bushwick and try to sing over the clank of glasses. And it’s not that being in love isn’t valid; it’s that they aren’t in love – they’re just mistaking a lack of other options for destiny. And this error, this paralyzed state, may be a grievous error for the both of them — but especially Marnie, who, like Jessa, has no clue what she’s after or capable of.
And then Shoshanna breaks up with Ray, which is disappointing because Ray, the best guy on the show by far, is willing to change for her. But it’s also a good step because she recognizes her own need to grow as a person. And the line about feeling sorry for him as she would for a monkey is the kind of honesty that so many people need to hear but never do.
For instance, Hannah could benefit from some of Shoshanna’s wisdom, as she’s fallen so deep into the rabbit hole that no one knows whether she’ll come out the other side. She still hasn’t written the book she’s supposed to finish, but she’s back with Adam, now that he’s run through Brooklyn shirtless and kicked down her door. It’s perfect that this is the last scene we see: Hannah is the ultimate example of someone who had everything she wanted given to her and still ended up on a path she knows will only go downhill, if not to relationship problems with Adam, then a lawsuit. Which is why I’ll definitely keep watching come Season 3.
Chloe Pantazi: By the end of Season 2 of Girls, with her OCD raging, and now a ruptured eardrum after last episode’s Q-Tip fiasco, Hannah’s gone from irksome to worrying. When her editor David calls to warn her that if she doesn’t submit the pages for her book, she’ll be threatened with a lawsuit, Hannah goes into meltdown mode. With a day to finish her book, she should be knocking back espressos and typing frantically, but instead she’s guzzling Cool Whip and chopping her hair into a bad pixie cut. Meanwhile, at the top of the Word document on her MacBook, there’s just one sentence: “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance…”
When Marnie finally goes to check on her friend – Hannah’s hiding behind the bed – she spots the sentence and reads it with a sad smile. Before she leaves, she picks up the candlesticks that she and Hannah quarreled over when she left the apartment last season. Yet Marnie had another reason to go to Hannah’s; no doubt, she wanted to tell her about her rebooted relationship with her ex. Post-coital, over brunch, Marnie’s disappointed when she realizes that Charlie believes they’re just having casual sex. But she fights for him, telling him she wants to settle down with him. A declaration like Marnie’s might really scare off most blokes, but Charlie’s been waiting for it. Although it’s a bit coincidental that Marnie’s interest in him only sparked up again on hearing about his newfound wealth.
Meanwhile, Shoshanna’s pestering Ray about his lack of ambition, so he decides he’ll go back to school to complete his PhD in Latin Studies. (Obviously, all the Latin majors get the well-paid banking jobs.) But when his boss at Grumpy’s counters his resignation by offering him the manager’s position at the new Brooklyn Heights café, Ray obliges; ultimately, he wants a simple life. Still, he walks away murmuring made-up job titles to impress Shoshanna with. When she finds out, though, she promptly breaks up with him. Hereafter, Shoshanna will be found either in her room playing T-Swift’s break-up songs, or at a trendy East Village bar making out with tall blond boys. Sadly, this is perhaps the most realistic storyline of the finale – as much as I loved them while they lasted, Ray and Sho’ just wouldn’t work in reality.
Avoiding Marnie, and with Shoshanna preoccupied, Hannah leaves an embittered message on Jessa’s phone that she’ll probably never check anyway. Though earlier in the episode we see Adam and Natalia together – by some miracle, they’re still having sex, albeit awkwardly, after last week’s “get on all fours” catastrophe – it’s Adam who winds up coming to Hannah’s rescue. Noticing her strange behavior in a Facetime chat, Adam charges through Brooklyn shirtless, and ends up at Hannah’s, kicking the door down and scooping her up in his arms. Of course, he’ll be the one to save her.
Alison Herman: There’s a fine line between making use of standard rom-com tropes in order to comment on them and simply rehashing tired plot devices. Somewhere between Marnie’s tearful confession of love and Adam’s barefoot run through the streets of Brooklyn, Girls barged straight over that line in last night’s season finale, transforming itself from Sex and the City’s charmingly self-conscious heir apparent into plain old Sex and the City 2.0.
In all three of last night’s major plot lines, I got the distinct sense that Girls was resting on its laurels, relying on its audience to recognize its difference from other shows on television instead of creating that distance itself. Exhibit A is Marnie and Charlie, who tearfully reignite an obviously codependent relationship because Marnie finally admits that all she wants is two kids and a picket fence, courtesy of Charlie’s startup money — not that she knows how much he has. Marnie and Charlie have exactly the kind of love story we’re conditioned to want by textbook network dramas like Gossip Girl: a cycle of ups and downs that inevitably ends with the unhappy couple declaring they’re “meant to be.” Like Chuck and Blair.
Even Shoshanna and Ray’s breakup felt oddly routine. The cheating, the “I don’t think this is working” followed by “because you’re so negative,” the yelling and lashing out and rebound hooking up: all that’s missing is Season 3’s inevitable story of Shoshanna finding herself while navigating New York single life.
Which brings us to Adam and Hannah, the Big and Carrie to Shoshanna’s Charlotte. Their storyline certainly came the closest to actually critiquing a cliché instead of recycling it. Adam’s abandonment of Natalia for his ex isn’t a choice of true love over conventional romance: it’s a conscious decision to return to a girl who gives in and adapts to his sexual quirks rather than stick with a woman who’s willing to address them, a process that would also force Adam to tackle some serious emotional issues. Despite that underlying, not-so-romantic rationale, the audience is clearly meant to root for Adam as he sprints to Hannah’s apartment, a scene that could only have been more classic if it were set in an airport. Sure, the live Facetiming was a cute, realistic touch, but at the end of the day, it was an extra squeeze of icing on a very stale cake.