What Would a Hannah-Adam Endgame Look Like on Girls?

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Photo: HBO

Sunday’s episode of Girls ends with some particularly pointed visual symmetry. “Full Disclosure” concludes, as so many Girls episodes do, with a close-up image of Hannah’s face. She’s struck by some strong emotion, overcome by a wash of memories. She’s watching the independent film Adam and Jessa made about their uncomfortable love triangle, and after a remarkably intimate, tender moment, the film shows us a tight shot of Adam’s face as he’s watching the Hannah stand-in character walk away. Hannah’s watching the movie on a computer, and Adam’s watching an actress, but the implication is of them looking at one another. They’re not in the same place, but they’re watching a version of one another, and they’re presented to the audience as a matched set — two faces that fill the frame, one after another.

It’s hard to say where Girls is headed for its finale, but given the last few episodes and some especially pointed moments from “Full Disclosure,” it’s hard not to wonder if the endgame of this series will include Adam and Hannah reuniting. Let’s look at the evidence.

Beginnings and endings
Hannah’s efforts to be an adult define the earliest days of Girls, and from the start of season one, she performed her grown-up-ness across several fronts. Much of that effort always centered on Hannah’s career, but it’s also been delineated by her relationship with Adam. When Hannah was 25, Adam was mysterious and enigmatic, always potentially too much for her, tough to nail down, emotionally inscrutable. Her ability to handle a relationship with him was as much a part of her attempt to be grown-up as writing an e-book, getting a nine-to-five job, or hosting a dinner party. It was also a reminder of how often her vision didn’t match her actions: One of Adam’s most memorable tics from those early days is that he always called Hannah “kid.”

The end of the series is looking more and more like a response to some of those earliest questions of the show: Can Hannah write professionally? Can she make choices? Can she elect to take on responsibility? Who is she going to be? It would make sense that early questions about Adam might also get answers at the end. Can she handle a relationship with him? Does she want to? If nothing else, Hannah ending up with Adam would create a fitting balance for the end of the series.

We’ve had some hints
This is very thin, but it’s fascinating: After their breakup in season two, one of the earliest reunion scenes between Adam and Hannah is interrupted by Natalia, who threatens Hannah with an unplanned pregnancy she won’t be able to handle. Although the suggestion is that unexpected maternity is frightening — a horror-story outcome, basically — it’s interesting to see Girls toy with this image of Hannah and Adam as disastrous parents, however briefly and jokingly.

Jessa reckoning with Adam’s memories
Up until this point, Hannah and Adam’s interactions in season six have been strictly about her trying her best to avoid him, and him bugging her for permission to make the movie (or to watch it after it’s been completed). But we’ve also had access to a different perspective on Hannah and Adam’s past: Jessa’s perspective. Season five of Girls made Jessa and Adam’s relationship seem like an excellent, inevitable pairing. They both struggled with substance abuse, and they’re both odd ducks who don’t fit easily into the world. Season six, though, has entailed Jessa reckoning with the reality of Adam and Hannah’s history. She loves the idea of her relationship with Adam as the most intense, most pure, most remarkably true fit. In her mind, they’ve been an epic love story.

Making the Full Dis:closure film compels Jessa to reconsider that narrative. All the intimacy and intensity and deep, inexplicable connection she’s imagined between herself and Adam? He remembers all of that with Hannah. In making the film, Adam reenacts himself staring at his ex with great, loving tenderness. Meanwhile, Jessa stands by watching the production, waiting for the scenes when Hannah and Adam are revealed to be boring, incompatible duds, for signs of his frustration with her, and for proof that they were terrible partners. Instead, she’s presented with nostalgia for a relationship that fell apart.

Adam and Sample
Girls has shown us several visions of less-than-happy motherhood and child caretaking. The scene between Marnie and her mother in “Full Disclosure” is one of the most excruciating things I’ve ever seen, and Marnie blames her mother (fairly or not) for growing up with a sense of self-worth that’s defined by male attention. Shoshanna’s parents are divorced, and we see them sniping at one another when she graduates from NYU. Jessa’s mother is absent. Hannah’s mother has slowly moved from a stern disciplinarian, trying to force her daughter to stand on her own, into someone increasingly in need of her own caretaking. (The pot-gummy incident was the most explicit example of this role reversal.)

In general, Girls has treated the idea of rearing a child as something either burdensome or frightening. (Jessa made for a particularly, sometimes hilariously, disinterested nanny, for instance.) That perspective was most pointed after Adam’s sister Caroline had baby Sample, and then abandoned Laird to take care of the baby on his own. Laird, to his credit and somewhat to everyone’s surprise, proved mostly up to the task. You know who else was surprisingly adept at stepping in when Laird needed help? Adam.

At the time, the fifth-season scenes of Adam taking care of a baby didn’t make a whole lot of sense, except as an obstacle to his early relationship with Jessa. While she found the caretaking mostly manageable but horribly boring, Adam took on that responsibility with great seriousness. Now, with Hannah considering motherhood and simultaneously considering Adam, those scenes of him worrying about feeding Sample small bites suddenly look different — more pointed, and possibly more meaningful.

So there’s a reasonable amount of evidence that suggests Adam and Hannah may well be the goal for a Girls ending. However, thinking about what it would mean for the show to end with Hannah and Adam together — what it would mean for the characters, for the series, and for the dialogue about what role Girls plays in a broader television context — is something else entirely.

Season five ends with Hannah, in a moment of triumph, charging toward the camera with power and determination. She’s finally standing on her own, she’s attained some professional success, and she’s managing to merge her personal pain with her creative impulse toward self-expression. I liked that image of her. My hope is that whether or not she ends up with Adam at the end of the series, and whether or not she’s become a mother, that element of Hannah Horvath, grown-up, is still an essential part of the show’s conclusion.

At the same time, I hate to put too much pressure on the end of this series as the way to determine its entire retroactive worth. It’s something critics emphasize too much about TV endings in general, and Girls has always been so good at creating moments and stand-alone episodic moods that it’d be a shame to see the entire show hang on the success or failure of its final half-hour. Of course, it will still be a hard needle for the series to thread. Its legacy, its pitfalls, and so much of what’s fueled its controversy has been its stubborn resistance to letting its characters follow easy, definable, easy-to-cheer-for arcs. If the final moments of Girls look like a miraculous wish-fulfillment, with Hannah holding a baby in one hand, a book deal in the other, and with her gazing lovingly at her committed romantic partner, it would be a way for the show to give its audience everything they’ve claimed to want. Stability and success, as measured by some admittedly conservative yardsticks.

If that’s the final image, though, it will also undermine what’s made Hannah such a fascinating, polarizing, lightning-rod force in the cultural conversation. She’ll have made it! A rom-com ending! She’d be done! But in that version of an ending, does it justify all her failures in the past? Does it excuse her, or erase her mistakes, or render all of that previous flailing worthwhile? Would it make Hannah Horvath, famously indifferent to whether we like her … likable?

Is that what we want from this show — a fairy-tale ending? Or is there space for something less simple, something more ambiguous and difficult and inconclusive? Regardless, one of the remarkable things about Girls is that even after all this time, even this close to the ending, I don’t know exactly what to want from it. But I’m more interested than ever to find out what we’ll get.

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