‘Girls’ Season 3 Finale Recap: “Two Plane Rides”


Acceptance letters’ great virtue is making life seem uncomplicated. Just for a second, getting into one’s top choice college or law school or, in Hannah’s case, MFA program feels like the solution to all of one’s problems. The piece of paper Hannah delicately tapes together is her own personal Golden Ticket, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is her chocolate factory. “I got in” is a rare rush of pure validation, a reassurance that all of Hannah’s temper tantrums in the name of creative freedom were worth it and that her dreams of being a capital-W Writer aren’t all hot air. It’s no wonder that our final glimpse of Hannah for the next year or so is her clutching that letter for dear life. The rest of her life is far less reassuring and far more messy.

For most of “Two Plane Rides,” I was fairly certain, as I’m sure Lena Dunham wanted me to be, that Hannah would mess this up somehow. She’d decide her relationship with Adam was more important, or she’d have a Carrie Bradshaw epiphany that New York is her boyfriend or something. Not only would packing Hannah off to the Midwest be a massive game-changer for a show that makes its name on being all about 2010s New York; making the difficult but right choice just isn’t very Hannah. I’m still not sure if Girls is going to carry through and spend a season or two with its main character in another state. But at the end of the episode, Hannah seems fairly set on enrolling, though it remains to be seen whether Iowa will be a GQ-style excuse for fun guest stars and inside-baseball satire or an actual, long-term commitment.

Hannah as Iowa Writer also continues this season’s hot streak of predicting cultural conversations before they actually happen (Jezebel Photoshop controversy, anyone?). I haven’t read any other recaps yet, but I’m sure a massive chunk of them will reference MFA vs. NYC, the recent n+1 anthology of writers writing about where they choose to write. The last three seasons of Girls, in retrospect, have been the story of Hannah trying out the latter option, to resounding un-success. The last four years of her life, she tells her dad, have been “a total wash.” She’s tried the unpaid publishing internship. She’s tried telling all to the Internet for dirt cheap. She’s even tried the high-paying corporate gig. None of them has worked for Hannah as a writer, giving her either too much or too little freedom to pursue what she wants.

Now it’s time to give Iowa a shot. It’s also a convenient answer to the tension between her and Adam. For the past few weeks, Adam’s Broadway gig has turned them into creative competitors. He’s even used his role as Major Barbara as leverage in their fights; as the actor with something big in the works, he has the right to do whatever’s necessary in the name of his craft. Hannah never got that moral high ground as a Condé Nast copywriter. The Iowa letter puts them on more equal footing. Adam gets to leave the apartment, no matter how it affects Hannah? Great. Hannah gets to leave New York, no matter how it affects Adam.

This break feels more final than the first season’s shouting match, probably because it’s quieter. A few weeks ago, I guessed that Hannah and Adam would end when they came to the mutual realization that they just weren’t right for each other. That’s more or less what happened. Hannah moving to Iowa is a big deal, but not so big a deal that it would kill a healthy relationship. She and Adam are one of “those artist couples,” however, and not in the way she means in her dressing room speech. They’ve developed into creative people with conflicting needs: Adam for space, Hannah for unquestioning support. Each of them needs a Mr. LuPone, a partner who’s willing to do whatever it takes to help them realize their dreams. Neither is able to provide that help for the other.

While Hannah’s busy planning for her future, however, Shoshanna’s just got placed on hold. Shosh has had very little to do in her own right this season, and her solo adventures have been much less effective than her appearances as a voice of reason for other characters. If she’s had one unifying theme recently, it’s been the buildup to her college graduation—the promise of freedom that just got ripped out from under her. Evidently, her decision to commit to a 15-year plan came only after her partying and hookups did irreparable damage to her GPA. Her attempt to reunite with Ray, despite Marnie’s fantastically callous confession that they’ve been sleeping together, comes off as an effort to take the hint life’s throwing at her and go back to simpler times: being in college and a monogamous relationship.

It’s too little, too late. Much as she’d like to pretend the last year never happened (or as she tells Ray, like they’d never broken up), Ray’s moved on. Never mind that the person he moved on with just graduated from “severely self-involved” to “pathological narcissist.” At least Marnie’s aware of her issues; she tells Hannah at the beginning of the episode that she uses sex for validation. That doesn’t stop her from doing it all over again.

For a while, Desi seemed like he could be good for Marnie, someone who saw her as a creative partner rather than a romantic interest and forced her to do the same. That goes right out the window when he kisses her in his dressing room, a make-out session she doesn’t hesitate to brag about to Hannah and even Elijah as if it’s something to be proud of. Marnie’s an insanely gorgeous 25-year-old; she should know that by now, or at least be past the point of needing guys like Charlie or Desi or even Ray to prove it by lusting after her. With nothing else going her way, though, Marnie’s left spying on a breakup she caused to reassure herself she’s the kind of girl worth dumping a girlfriend for. That’s one way to forget you’re a college frenemy’s assistant, I guess.

And that’s pretty much it, with the exception of Jessa assisting her artist boss in an aborted suicide attempt—an adventure that felt more like a midseason diversion than a finale. Until next year, when Hannah finds out what it’s like to be around people just as self-absorbed as she is, Marnie finds out that cheaters make fantastic boyfriends, Shoshanna starts working at whatever high-profile fashion company wants to shell out for a Girls cameo, and Jessa keeps being Jessa.