One thing you can say for sure about this final season of Girls: It is not wasting any time. Last week’s episode felt like a bombshell, a huge plot revelation that came directly on the heels of a bottle episode that felt similarly bomb-like, albeit in an entirely different way. First, the fascinating argumentative twists and tricks and trapdoors of “American Bitch,” then the pure plot double stunner of Hannah’s pregnancy and Hermie’s death in “Painful Evacuation.” And now, in “Gummies,” we launch into a necessary, tripartite accounting for everything that’s come before.
I’d thought there’d be more time spent with Hannah trying to make a pro- or anti-abortion decision about this pregnancy. Her circumstances, which she does clearly lay out in that excellent Word document, don’t make for the easiest parenting options. (That document is a funny list, especially “I’m bad at sports,” but there’s also notable self-awareness written into it. “I will make less than 24K this year” and “I am only 27 — I act even younger than that” are some pretty significant steps toward Hannah knowing herself.) (Also I am here to tell you from personal experience that being bad at sports does not necessarily disqualify you from parenting.) In spite of that, her decision seems like it’s made. And further, she’s unusually, uncharacteristically confident about it.
“Gummies” supports that decision by having Hannah’s mother Loreen show up, and by performing some parental role reversal. You expect, frankly, for Loreen to snap at Hannah’s certainty, to question how Hannah could possibly support a child, whether she truly has the maturity to undertake such a life-changing role. Instead, Loreen lets Hannah prove her readiness. First Hannah’s pressed into offering up some comforting, hopeful advice in response to her mother’s deep, obviously gnawing loneliness. And then, Hannah has to track down Loreen somewhere within Brooklyn, after she eats way too many pot-laced gummies and goes haring off on her own. As premises go, it has the benefit of being both plausible within Loreen’s character arc — we’ve seen her struggle more and more over the past several seasons — and having some fitting circularity. Think back to the pilot, when Hannah drinks the opium tea Ray brought to a dinner party, and then pitifully presents herself to be rescued by her parents. Plus, what better way to signal Loreen’s childishness (and her need for parenting) than to have her take too many edibles in the form of brightly colored kid’s candy?
So Hannah enlists a reluctantly helpful Elijah to help track her down, and then eventually corner her in a Chinese restaurant, and this is the point when Loreen spills the information that Hannah’s pregnant, to Elijah’s deep shock. The “come back to reality” speech Hannah was bracing for from her mother finally arrives from Elijah, who is far more direct and even cruel than Loreen might’ve been. He’s hurt about what he sees as Hannah discarding their relationship, and he’s astonished that Hannah seems to be envisioning bringing a baby into their current situation, and will be asking Elijah to help.
It’s a really effective, intense little scene between Hannah and Elijah. They’re crammed inside the kitchen of this restaurant, surrounded by busy staff trying to work while these two furious, wounded people have a terrible, personal fight. And neither of them comes off particularly well. Elijah’s complete lack of sympathy or openness to Hannah’s decision is not surprising, but neither does it reflect well on his friendship. Hannah is probably the calmest, most self-aware, most “adult” version of herself this show has ever presented, and yet we also learn that she’s imagining a cheerful sitcom-y version of this scenario where she’s a “a cool mom like Lorelai Gilmore” and she and Elijah tackle the world together. “You’re not ready for this,” they spit at each other, both of them probably right. But the scene lands on Elijah’s final declaration that Hannah will be “a terrible mother,” making it clear where the episode wants our sympathies fall. Even more pointedly, “Gummies” lets us see Hannah mothering her own mother, and mostly succeeding.
While Hannah and Elijah are tracking Loreen across Brooklyn and ripping each other to shreds in a restaurant kitchen, Adam and Jessa have launched their new film project, and are shooting scenes. They’ve found an actor to play Hannah (who they’ve renamed Mira for the movie), and we have the undeniably odd experience of watching Jessa watch reenacted portions of Hannah and Adam’s relationship, as rewritten by Adam. First there’s the spanking-punishment scene, then we get a new version of Adam taking care of “Mira” when she goes off her meds. Watching them, Jessa realizes her vision of Adam’s history with Hannah is far less complex than the one he remembers. It’s even more surprising to her that Adam views that past with such tenderness — theirs is supposed to be the relationship that’s too intense to live. And yet, there’s Adam, gently and passionately caring for this eerie past-Hannah stand-in while Jessa stands watching on the sidelines.
Maybe the simplest, clearest relationships in this episode are the ones between Marnie and Ray, and Shoshanna and Ray. In case there was ever any doubt, Marnie and Ray are a disaster who are now hopefully done (leaving Marnie plenty of time for Physique57 and Quiet Pilates), and Shoshanna and Ray should probably be together. Shoshanna’s quiet, confident, weirdly compassionate assertion that she’ll never die is one of the sweetest, funniest, most Shoshanna things she could’ve said in this circumstance. Ray’s amused, of course, but he’s also undeniably comforted.
It’s fascinating that “Painful Evacuation” and “Gummies” are drawing Hannah and Ray’s stories in parallel lines. Hannah’s being forced to grow up through pregnancy, through the prospect of new life and motherhood and an embodied future that demands her attention. Ray, meanwhile, is being forced to do the same thanks to the sudden arrival of death, and of his even more pointed awareness that life is short. Neither of these stories are especially novel, and it’s particularly frustrating in the case of Hannah, who is yet another female character being pushed through the gauntlet of pregnancy to prove her adulthood. But it’s especially fascinating that Girls, a show so focused on interiority and the self, is ending by creating these opportunities for change through outside forces. Hannah was already starting to get her life together, but she still needs this huge push from some outside event (okay, technically from inside) to launch her to the ending.
Change is coming, and Girls is looking ahead. But even though all of its plots are ostensibly about looking forward — toward parenthood, toward new projects, toward life without a mentor — “Gummies” is most invested in a retrospective vision. We see Ray looking back on his relationship with Hermie, Jessa watching these earlier visions of Hannah and Adam replaying themselves again in front of her, and especially in the final scene, we see Hannah sitting on a stoop next to a literal reincarnation of a version of her younger self. Each of these three stories are about Girls characters forced to examine themselves in the context of who they were in the past, and really think about whether they’ve changed, and whether they can change.
To no small extent, it’s also about Girls looking back on itself. This is literally the case, as Jessa stands there in the hallway watching earlier scenes from the series, reevaluating (or refusing to reevaluate, I suppose), her understanding of them. It’s literally the case as Hannah sits there outside, looking at this woman who represents both her past and her possible future – the actress who plays Mira gives Hannah the most realistic parenting portrait Hannah receives from anyone. “Kids are super-easy,” she tells Hannah. “It’s being an adult that’s hard.” In some form or another, this is the message Hannah’s been repeating from the very beginning of the series, and the statement the show has been probing, questioning, laughing at, and taking seriously from day one. The question’s back now, as we approach the end of the show, but it was something to snicker at and regard with some distant dismay in season one. Now, things suddenly look much more serious. Hannah and Adam may still be trying to decide whether or not they can change; I think Girls is also working to answer that question about itself.
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