Girls finale review: As HBO’s show-of-a-generation ends, it’s time for you to begin
Cast - Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Andrew Rannells
Rating - 4/5
The best way to understand Hannah – heck, the only way to even begin trying to understand Hannah, one of 21st century TV’s greatest puzzles – is to look at her apartment.
Over the years, it has welcomed several people, and seen the backs of several more. Its lavatories have witnessed unspeakable acts. Much milk has been spilt on its floors. But in the volatile, unpredictable life of Hannah Horvath, it has remained – ever since she first returned to it after being told that the big bad world her parents had always warned her about was finally here – the only constant.
A lot has changed in the five years since 2012, when Girls began its run, both in the show and outside of it. Hannah has gone from being an unpaid intern, four essays into her book, to being, well, the voice of her generation – or at least a voice of a generation.
The only thing about her – despite her almost tragic propensity to attract trouble – that has remained unchanged even after all this time, is her goal, the purpose to her existence, the through-line that connects the various stages of her being. Even after six seasons, she is, and always will be, a mystery. But for as long as she has been able to hold a pen, she has wanted to be a writer. And now, after hustling for so many years, writing trend blogs and peddling her ebook to the smarmiest New York City publishers, she has - and she barely realises this - achieved her dream.
And this is true for all the major characters - Marnie, Shosh, Jessa, Ray, even Adam. As Shoshanna loves to remind them, it’s shocking how little they’ve accomplished. Everything around them has changed, but at their core, they still remain the same people they were all those years ago - not entirely girls, but not yet ladies either.
Girls has always been an inconsistent show. There are times when it has been downright insufferable. But there has to be a reason we’ve stuck with it. There has to be a reason that it has struck a chord with so many people (some of them even decent human beings) across the world, when most of us can’t get through a YouTube video without getting bored.
The final season is, fittingly, as messy as the five seasons that came before it. There are times when it becomes too self-indulgent, too smug as it looks back at its own remarkable journey, too narcissistic - just like Hannah. But then, it’ll offer a brilliant moment of clarity, a moment of honesty that is near-impossible to find in another show about entitled millennials conning their way through life - and all this without resorting to easy gags at the expense of, say, Snapchat.
It also continues in The Great Girls Tradition of being kinder to its male characters than it is to the women. Ironically, the guys have always been way more likeable than anyone else on the show. In season 6, Ray, who is by far my favourite character (he is, after all, the only voice of reason in this shrill world), is given a reason to live. It would not have surprised me, and I’m willing to bet that it would not have surprised you either, had he, at some point in the previous 5 seasons, committed suicide. Ray is that sort of person - drenched in apathy, frighteningly intelligent, and too disappointed in the world to bother making it better.
Shows like this, like the revolving door of characters that come in and out of Hannah’s life - and her apartment - are not too uncommon. It began, after all, as a tribute to Sex and the City, created by a generation of women that swore by it. But very few of them manage to leave behind a legacy. Very few of them capture the truth of what it was like to be alive at a certain time, in a certain place, surrounded by a certain kind of people. And even fewer remain as fiercely individualistic, and as in love with failure, as this show.
And however infuriating Girls may be, you know exactly who it’s about, you know the sort of people that meander in and out of its episodes. You know their dreams, you know what’s right for them, you want to nudge them away from the bad decisions and you want to call emergency bathroom meetings every time one of them messes up. Even if they don’t. Especially if they don’t.
It’s going to be weird not having any more Girls to look forward to. But Hannah’s always going to be around. Somewhere. Probably in Brooklyn, in her apartment, surrounded by unpaid bills, her iPhone lying forgotten on the floor, for in that moment, she’d be dancing on her own.