“Girls” ended its fifth and penultimate season Sunday night with a two-episode finale that found Hannah quitting her job with no prospects lined up. That’s about what we’d expect from a character that’s come to epitomize the self-entitled millennial. But as the finale progressed, we actually saw Hannah Horvath grow up a little bit.
“We were always conscious, especially because the show has been at times such a lightning rod, of overstaying our welcome,” “Girls” creator Lena Dunham said at this year’s Sundance Film Festival of deciding to end the show after the sixth season. Certainly, the argument could be made that the show could have, or even should have, ended already.
On the other hand, the fifth season of “Girls” has garnered its fair share of critical acclaim, with some calling it the show’s best season yet. Perhaps that’s because this season took the main characters in a decidedly realistic direction (as in, different directions). Marnie got married to her musical partner, Desi. Shoshanna moved to Japan. Jessa took a serious approach to her sobriety.
Over the course of the season, Marnie’s marriage predictably imploded. Shoshanna returned from Japan with pastel pink hair and had an existential crisis on a moving airport walkway (Why am I here?!). Jessa’s dedication to staying sober brought her closer to Adam, putting a strain on her longtime friendship with Hannah, whose on-off relationship with Adam has been the source of “Girls” storylines for the better part of the show’s five seasons.
In the season finale, Hannah shared the sadness she felt upon finding out about Adam and Jessa’s relationship in a refreshingly honest turn at the famed open-mic storytelling competition known as The Moth. “I can only control the mayhem I create around me,” she told the crowd after revealing that she’d sent the couple a fruit basket and a note that “sincerely” wished them good luck.
Prior to Sunday’s finale, Hannah seemed to be resigned to more of the same shenanigans. A recent episode featured her exposing herself to her boss, and later hitchhiking her way back to the city from upstate New York after a series of misguided decisions. For much of the season, Hannah had been dating a “nice guy” named Fran, whose frustration with Hannah as a person was perpetually apparent. The relationship ended shortly after they had embarked on a road trip together — Hannah locked herself in a rest stop bathroom and texted Fran that she didn’t want to take that journey after all.
In the first part of the finale, a scene between Hannah’s roommate/BFF Elijah and Dill Harcourt, the famous news anchor he had been casually dating, seemed to hint at some of the criticism of “Girls” and its main characters. When Elijah told Dill he wanted to be exclusive, Dill admitted that he was looking for “someone special,” but that he hadn’t found him yet. “Someone less aimless,” Dill told a heartbroken Elijah.
Despite the sheer wackiness of Hannah hitching a ride from a stranger named Hector (“Scandal’s” Guillermo Diaz, in a fun nod to Dunham’s appearance on the ABC show), the conversation they had on the drive back to the city ended up being a precursor to the changes Hannah made in the finale. Hannah also found inspiration from an unlikely source: her college frenemy Tally (Jenny Slate), who she ran into after quitting her job. In an exchange made more candid by the presence of marijuana, Tally — a published author who Hannah sees as successful — confessed that she wasn’t as happy as one might expect her to be.
“Look at you. You’ve had all these, like, boyfriends and jobs and moments and you’ve lived all this truth,” Tally told Hannah after divulging that she Googles herself every day to see what other people might be saying about her. After months of not writing, Hannah committed herself to telling her story at The Moth. “So, you’re writing again?” her father asked upon finding out about Hannah’s plans. “I don’t know, but I have something say,” she said.
Season 5 of “Girls” included several high points, the most memorable of which saw Marnie unexpectedly reuniting with her ex-boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott), who had changed dramatically since we last saw him in the show’s second season. The result was a particularly strong episode that felt like a short film and ultimately brought Marnie to the conclusion that she should end her marriage to Desi.
That decision will no doubt be explored in the show’s final season. Despite vowing to stay alone for a while, Marnie realized that she wanted to be with Ray, the most sensible, if grumpy, member of Hannah’s inner-circle. Marnie also decided to take Ray along, as she and Desi took their increasingly popular musical act on the road.
Ray left Brooklyn knowing that the coffee shop he manages was in good hands, thanks to Shoshanna’s brand marketing genius. The once-naive Shosh helped the struggling establishment become an anti-hipster destination (“earnest beards only,” read one posted sign).
Jessa, known for her breezy air of nonchalance, exploded at Adam for causing friction between her and Hannah. “I’ll never forgive you,” she told him as the argument, which had been brewing for days, devolved into the pair throwing anything they could find across Adam’s apartment in a violent fit of dysfunction. The Adam-Jessa pairing is a divisive storyline, for sure, but it was left unresolved, and thus open for development in the show’s final episodes. (Also left unresolved — and largely unexplored in the finale — was Adam sister Caroline’s strongly implied postpartum depression.)
Ultimately though, it’s Hannah who has the most territory to explore in the show’s final season. Season 5 ended with her taking an exhilarated lap across the Brooklyn Bridge, but there was nothing aimless about it.