Girls Recap: Too Much History

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Lena Dunham and Adam Driver. Photo: HBO
Girls

Girls

What Will We Do This Time About Adam? Season 6 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 5 stars

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of Hannah and Adam reuniting at the end of Girls. I laid out some of the evidence for why that might be where the show wants to go: the idea of them coming full circle, Adam’s preoccupation with parenthood and child-rearing, how Adam and Hannah both reexamine their past through his movie. It was clear that Girls was gesturing toward that possibility, and planned to confront it in some way. At the same time, I was leery about the image of Hannah at the end of this show, fairy-tale love partner in hand. I was concerned about what that might say about where Girls wants to take Hannah, and what that would retroactively do to her arc as a character.

“What Will We Do This Time About Adam?” addresses that looming, portentous “will they get back together” feeling that the season has been building toward, while also putting to rest all my fears about that possible ending. As we knew might be the case at the end of episode seven, Hannah and Adam go running at each other headlong. It’s sparked by Adam telling Jessa, straight out, that he has to explore a future with Hannah and that he’s sorry, but there’s nothing else he could do. When he tracks her down to the bodega where she’s stocking up on Popsicles, there’s only the barest hesitation on her part. He proposes that they raise the baby together, and the next thing you know, they’re in her apartment having very careful sex, giddy and loving and self-conscious.

Much of the episode is dedicated to Hannah and Adam playing a game of Castles in the Sky. They talk about what their future will look like, why they want this baby, and how much sense it makes for them to be together. “There’s too much history here,” he tells her. “There’s too much good stuff for us not to try.” They both get a chance to talk about what matters to them, and the goals they have — Hannah in particular can finally talk about how frightened she is without worrying about her listener’s judgment. There’s a funny Elijah scene at the beginning of the episode, where Hannah tries to talk about how worried she is, and Elijah immediately jumps in to say he’ll help her find one of the two doctors in America who will give her an abortion at this stage. “I’m not getting an abortion, Elijah, I’m having feelings. It’s different!” she yells. That scene tees up the nearly identical conversation Hannah can then have later with Adam, where she tells him how scared she is, listing an endless, anxiety-fueled catalogue of implausible ways she’s worried she’ll hurt her baby. Adam, finally, is a listener who accepts that fear, then lets her explain why she wants this child anyhow.

After wandering through Brooklyn in a golden, heat-wave-inflected haze, Hannah and Adam end up in a hardware store idly shopping for baby furniture. Adam talks about building a crib and a bureau, rambling about how much better handmade furniture will be for the baby, and Hannah’s gaze zeroes in on an image of a mother and baby on the front of an infant bathtub. She stares at them, this beatific, airbrushed Madonna and child, suddenly confronted with a new wave of reality about what she’s doing. She’s been so busy defending the pregnancy to others that she hasn’t really been able to process it for herself. This is the moment the fairy-tale ending with Adam collapses, at least for Hannah.

The entire sequence is beautiful. It’s dreamlike and often deliriously happy, as though Hannah and Adam had both been transported to a different version of themselves where everything is possible and exciting, where their fears and self-doubts can be assuaged, where the real world intrudes very little. They’re in a fantastically lovely and fragile bubble. When it bursts, as it inevitably must, it’s sad and moving and utterly, completely predestined. They sit across from one another in a restaurant, and the same fairy tale, “what if life were like this” mode they’ve been employing all day kicks in again. Except this time, the content shifts to things that are too grounded and too permanent. Hannah’s already woken up from the dream, but she plays along a little until Adam finally catches up. They’ll move into a new place! It’ll be fun! Except maybe they should get married. And join a food co-op. And Hannah will need to deal with bills, because it’s not Adam’s strong suit.

Lena Dunham and Adam Driver are both remarkably good here, as Hannah and Adam stare at each other knowing the whole day has been a gorgeous and unsustainable charade, and that they have to say good-bye. Dunham’s Hannah falls apart with that very specific sort of weeping that’s half collapse and half acceptance. Driver’s Adam is even better, managing to shift from daydreaming to saying good-bye while hardly even moving. The final image of them is maybe a little on the nose, symmetrically framed through the outside of the restaurant window like a still from a romantic comedy, or like the last photo in an album of engagement pictures. But its chintzy symbolism is undercut by the deep sadness of the moment. They’re saying good-bye to each other, and Girls is saying good-bye to the idea of them.

The episode’s other stories form emotional poles on either side of the Hannah/Adam send-off. On the one end, we get a blossoming relationship between Ray and Shoshanna’s former boss Abigail, who hit it off with uncanny chemistry, much to Shoshanna’s confusion and dismay. They roam around Brooklyn like the happy meet-cute version of what Hannah and Adam can’t be; Hannah and Adam only work inside their tiny, transient, self-contained bubble, but Ray and Abigail come to life in literal conversation with the world around them. They continue Hermie’s oral-history project, the one Shoshanna doesn’t quite get, with Abigail prompting Ray to engage with the strangers he wants to interview. They have ridiculously identical ideas about the answer to their silly, perfect, identity-defining question (and again, Shoshanna is left out in the cold). They have what’s obviously a terrible kiss on a carousel, straining across a distance with their faces in deliberate asynchronous motion. Neither of them seems to mind.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, we watch Jessa flail through the day in Adam’s absence. She calls the cable company to demand that she get “the full package of elite channels” before hanging up to puke; she pops in to visit Laird and tell him how hard it is not to think about Hannah and Adam upstairs at that moment; and then she finally lands in a bar and picks up a stranger for anonymous sex in the bathroom. So much of this season is explicitly mirroring moments that have come before, and this horribly sad sex scene feels like a direct callback to Jessa’s story in the second episode of the series, “Vagina Panic.” She’s pregnant then, and ends up having sex with an attractive stranger in a bar rather than showing up for her abortion appointment. That scene ends with her realizing she’s bleeding, and is no longer pregnant. The series — or at least Jessa — treats it as a consequences-free version of the pregnancy story. She walks away scot-free.

Of course, there’s a possibility that Jessa’s pregnant now as well. The sudden puking is TV Pregnancy Plot 101, and the callback certainly feels overt. I really hope that’s not the case — I’ve barely come around on the idea of Hannah’s pregnancy, and if the end of Girls is just “everyone has to deal with whether or not they’re pregnant,” that’s not going to be a good look. For just this episode, though, it doesn’t particularly matter. Back in the days of “Vagina Panic” and Jessa’s pregnancy scare, she managed to duck out of the ramifications of her pregnancy with little fallout — the show almost never addresses it again. Now, in what could be an actual consequences-free version of that same scene (she’s separated from Adam; she can do what she likes), Jessa is a weeping, collapsing mess of consequences and sadness.

Adam ends up back at their apartment at the end of the night, begging Jessa to let him in. Hannah’s alone in her bedroom, failing to fall asleep. Meanwhile, Ray and Abigail are giddily riding a lit carousel, kissing each other and not caring about anything else. Only two more episodes! Girls is going out on such a high note, and I’ll miss it so much.

Girls Recap: Too Much History