season finales

How Girls Grew Up in Season 4

Don’t let these people delivery your baby. Photo: Mark Schafer/HBO

Last week’s penultimate episode of Girls felt like the season finale. Marnie was engaged, Ray was elected, Adam was all messed up as usual, and Hannah had a beautifully crystalized analysis of where she was in her life: “I’m faking everything.” We could have left things there, more or less. But season four has been about triumphs, big and small, and last night’s “Home Birth” reemphasized that. As much as we’ve seen Hannah fail over the course of the show, she’s changing and growing and thriving. “I’m gonna tell you some things about being alive,” she told the newborn Jessa-Hannah. “Life, man. I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can guarantee intrigue.” For someone who has bemoaned ordinariness and boredom like Hannah has, intrigue is its own kind of perfection.

The finale’s closing scene jumps ahead, “six months later.” It could have shown us Shosh in Tokyo, or Marnie either with or without Desi (for a second I thought it might show us their wedding), or Jessa sitting in a classroom, or Ray, I don’t know, complaining about something. What’s worth the six-month leap? Seeing Hannah noodle down the snowy street with Fran seems like Girls’ way of saying she couldn’t turn her back on all the growth we saw from her over the course of the season, but specifically in the finale. She really meant it when she told Adam they couldn’t get back together. As confusing as it is to have her dad come out, she can still have strong, positive relationships with both her parents. Having a panic attack is not a failure, but having someone who can be a source of comfort and stability during one is a success. While I’m sure Fran’s weird shit will surface on the show eventually — it’s Girls, everyone has weird shit — he’s been positioned so far as a genuinely decent human. That’s kind of a first for the show. When Hannah gives and receives love and support from monster humans like Marnie, Jessa, Shosh, Elijah, and Adam, she has a monster life. When she looks for that love and support from a teenager, she has a foray into teenage life. When she tries doing drugs from Laird, she has sex with Laird. (Laird!) Maybe if she’s around Fran’s brand of smiley calm, she, too, can enjoy that kind of emotional safety.

Season four’s arc isn’t just about successes. It’s about choosing, about learning how to determine our own paths. Life doesn’t just befall us, and moments of triumph (or at least moments that feel like triumph) come less from serendipity and more from determination. Shosh accidentally talked her way out of a job at the beginning of the season; by the finale, she was deciding for herself what kind of gig she wanted. Adam dumped Hannah but didn’t even tell her; last night, Hannah definitively declined his attempts to get back together. Tad came out. Jessa decided what she wanted. Ray, one of the more actualized characters on the show, got the thrill of telling off Desi. Marnie’s history of terrible dude companions continued, but even she declined the label executive’s offer to accompany her on guitar and decided she played guitar well, too, and could do things on her own. I did not care for that song, but I think we were supposed to view her performance as a victory.

Having each Girl spin more into her own realm this season made it seem like they shouldn’t really be each other’s support systems anymore, and the time-jump not including anyone except Hannah and Fran seemed to confirm just that. Hannah’s path forward doesn’t have to be with Shosh or Marnie or Jessa. We get to pick who we become, whom we spend time with, and whom we support. Those aren’t always easy choices, and sometimes they hardly feel like choices at all, but that’s part of the work of growing up. “You have a future,” Hannah’s mom, Loreen, told her at the end of the episode. “You’re not like me, giving your life to one man who ate it all up. You have time to go out there and forge something new. You have time to forge ten new things, not just reenact, reimagine the same old thing with the same foolish man.” Forge, Hannah! Forge.