Girls Finale Recap: Running in Place

7 minute read

Another season of Girls has ended, and nobody seems to have budged. Let’s break it down storyline by storyline.

(First a note: we find out in the beginning of the episode that Adam’s crazy sister Caroline is pregnant with drug-addicted Laird’s baby. Just in case you thought any of the main characters are creepy/weird, here’s Caroline to provide a barometer: “I can feel the labia forming,” Caroline tells Hannah of her fetus. “This is a woman.”)


Jessa probably spent the least amount of time on screen this season, and the majority of that time she was either high or in rehab. In the finale, Jessa’s new boss, the photographer Bee Dee, asks Jessa to help her kill herself by getting her drugs—a moment that would feel a bit weightier had we not just met Bee Dee last week. Jessa finally agrees and help her new mentor (I use that term generously because, again, we know next to nothing about Bee Dee or her relationship with Jessa). Bee Dee has already swallowed the pills when she (predictably) decides she wants to live after all and yells at Jessa to call 911.

Jessa will likely get in some trouble for assisting in an attempted suicide. We found her in rehab at the beginning of this season, we might find her in jail at the beginning of the next. Sure, she fell off the wagon then climbed back on, but we haven’t learned much else about Jessa this season except her friends don’t seem to care all that much about her. Next.


Shoshanna’s year of partying was bound to bite her in the bum, and why not save that incoming karma for the final episode? Shoshanna finds out that she cannot graduate from NYU because she failed one of her classes. She goes into a rage, throwing everything in her room. When Marnie casually drops by to tell her that she slept with Ray — “sometimes multiple times a night” — Shoshanna tackles Marnie and tells her she hates her. We do too, Shosh. We do too.

Shoshanna finally realizes that Ray makes her want to “be the best version” of herself and begs for him back during intermission on Adam’s opening night. He says they’re in different places with different goals and rejects her. You would think beyond-honest Ray would have come up with a more creative way to turn her down since their life goals seem more aligned now than they did when they dated.

Shoshanna has maybe learned some life lessons, like not to take the Rays of the world for granted. Her voice seems a little less high pitched. I don’t know if it was because her hair was styled in a slightly less bizarre way and she seemed a lot less peppy than usual, but she reminded me of her character on Mad Men for the first time in this show. Ultimately though, Shoshanna wasn’t given enough time to learn and change except for a few glimmering moments at the beach house and in this episode.


Marnie’s perpetual state of heartbrokenness continues to lead her to make bad romantic choices. Charlie, Booth, Elijah, Ray, Desi: Marnie doesn’t have a great track record. She either takes advantage of men or pines after unattainable guys who turn out to be d-bags. Or both. The constant cycle of heartbreak to new romance-turned-heartbreak is getting a little old.

This episode alone was a CliffsNotes to Marnie’s entire romantic journey in the last three seasons: after being tackled by Shoshanna for sleeping with Ray, Marnie pushes that situation to the back of her mind as she attempts to seduce Desi. She brings him a gift — James Taylor’s guitar pick — in his dressing room before the show and receives a bare-chested kiss in return. Marnie is glowing when she gets back to her seat before the play. Hannah asks her why she’s so chipper considering she just had a riff with her friend over a boy, and she brags that Desi kissed her.

“Are you serious? That’s another person with a girlfriend,” Hannah rightly points out.

Marnie seems to get her comeuppance when Desi’s girlfriend, Clementine, confronts her in the bathroom and calls her pathetic. There’s even a little “who wore it best moment” as the women stand next to each other in similar green dresses. But later that night, Marnie creepily watches Desi and Clementine have a fight outside the bar as she peeks around a fence. Who knows whether she’s the cause, but Marnie’s eyes are so big and wet she could be a Disney cartoon. Marnie’s fantasy about Desi (like her fantasy about Charlie before him) is turning her into a bit of a stalker. So unless Marnie winds up single and satisfied or in a stable relationship where she doesn’t idolize a guy or blatantly use him for sex at the beginning of next season, I’d say we’re back to square one with her too.

Lena Dunham and Allison Williams in GirlsMark Schafer—Mark Schafer 2013/HBO


Hannah has been struggling with everyone else’s artistic success this season. Marnie seems to be building a small singing career, Adam is on Broadway and Hannah spent much of her time writing advertorial content for GQ after losing her book deal. Though Adam’s demands during rehearsals seem outlandish — he moves out and basically ignores her except for sex — Hannah hasn’t been the most selfless person either. She announced that she was quitting her job while out with Adam’s friends and lied to him about how she was dealing with death to make herself feel better.

In this episode, Hannah finally finds herself back in the big leagues: she’s admitted to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Hannah enters Adam’s dressing room and puts on her best soothing girlfriend voice (seriously, it sounds like she’s imitating the brave wife of a dying man in a hospital procedural show) to break the news to Adam that she’s gotten in. She delivers a speech about each of them having their individual endeavors and seems genuinely happy when Adam later takes the stage.

But Hannah was in a much grumpier mood when Adam was succeeding and she was not. While the two ought to each find individual success, dropping the Iowa bomb on Adam did feel like a power play — even if it was only meant to boost her own confidence, not dampen his. It’s as if the two have to dare each other to object to the other’s success.

After the play is over, Adam says he thinks he blew it on stage and blames Hannah for telling him the Iowa news beforehand. He accuses her of leaving him, even though he’s the one who moved out for a month and just last episode was contemplating breaking up with her. The two have a fight — possibly a relationship-ending one.

The show concludes with a montage showing all the various characters hitting rock bottom — again. Jessa dials 911; Shoshanna breaks a window with her textbook; Marnie spies on Desi; Adam looks miserable at the after-party. And though Hannah initially seems sad as she enters her apartment, a smile crosses her face when she sees her acceptance letter.

Hannah may not have grown all that much this season. She is still as self-involved and vapid as ever: when she’s debating whether or not to move to Iowa, she tells her parents, “This is where I live. I’d have to find new friends. I’d have to find a new place to buy yogurt.” But it’s nice to see this season end with Hannah forging her own path to happiness rather than relying on a knight in shining armor to rescue her. The last season ended with Adam holding Hannah. This season ends with Hannah cradling her future.

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