vulture lists

Every Friendship on Girls, Ranked From Worst to Best

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture and HBO

Over the course of six seasons on HBO, Girls has paired up its main characters at a pace that would even leave soap-opera writers out of breath. Both Hannah and Jessa have dated Adam. Both Marnie and Shoshanna have hooked up with Ray. Heck, even Elijah slept with Marnie. Leave any two Girls characters together, and they’re bound to fight, hug it out, or hook up — and occasionally, all three. Then, of course, there’s the ever-changing status of friends, feuds, and full-blown rivalries. To make sense of such a dizzying history, Vulture created a field guide to the many friendships of Girls, ranked by their complexity and depth. (Note: This list doesn’t include secondary characters. Sorry, Laird!)

21. Jessa and Elijah
Standout moment: Elijah attends Jessa’s wedding (season 1, episode 10), and they both go to the beach house (season 3, episode 7), but they have never shared any significant moments or story lines.

The evidence: Though Elijah’s more concerned about outward appearances, both he and Jessa tend to act as agents of chaos and destruction in everyone else’s lives, especially Hannah’s, which makes them fairly redundant with regard to each other. If Girls gets around to a big Elijah-Jessa arc in season six, expect fireworks.

20. Shoshanna and Elijah
Standout moment: While watching Marnie and Desi perform at an open mic, Shoshanna mouths, “Oh my God” and Elijah looks at her in confusion and disdain. (season 3, episode 11)

The evidence: Though they both got deeper emotional arcs in season five, Elijah and Shoshanna spend much of Girls dishing out jokes, though he tends to be cynical while she’s more naïve. They both baffle each other, which is probably why they don’t spend much time together.

19. Jessa and Ray
Standout moment: At a party in Bushwick, Jessa makes Ray act as Shoshanna’s “crack spirit guide.” (season 1, episode 7)

The evidence: Ray tends to be exhausted by Jessa’s adventures, while Jessa will happily pass off her responsibilities to him, which doesn’t generate a lot of story between them. Still, Jessa dates Adam while he’s living with Ray in season five — and they shove all of his stuff into the corner at the beginning of season six — so he’s probably got a big move ahead of him.

18. Ray and Elijah
Standout moment: Elijah works at Ray’s coffee shop, but buys coffee from the hipster place across the street. (season 5, episode 2)

The evidence: Ray loves order, stability, and quiet, none of which interest Elijah. When talking to Marnie, Elijah refers to Ray as “old man Ray,” which makes you assume that, like most Girls viewers, Elijah isn’t sure why Ray is hanging out with everyone in the first place.

17. Adam and Elijah
Standout moment: After Adam is cast in a Broadway play, Elijah gives him tips on the Broadway scene: “Don’t come crying to me when Kristin Chenoweth passes out because you forgot to feed her.” (season 3, episode 8)

The evidence: A case of two characters with similar professional ambitions who have almost nothing else in common. The fact that Adam makes it to Broadway without caring about “Broadway” tears Elijah up inside.

16. Shoshanna and Adam
Standout moment: On a trip to pick up Jessa from rehab, Shoshanna tells him he’s glad he has nothing to do but be there for Hannah. “What if you had a job? Or responsibilities?” she says. “Or, like, places to be during the day? Or a best friend?” (season 3, episode 2)

The evidence: Compared to Shoshanna’s relative lightness, the depth and complexity of Adam’s characterization in the early seasons of Girls made it obvious, especially by season three, that the show hadn’t figured out what it wanted to do with her. To be fair, the depth and complexity of Adam’s life probably scares and confuses Shoshanna anyway.

15. Marnie and Adam
Standout moment: Marnie takes a taxi to rescue Hannah from Adam, shouting, “I know all about you and your sick instincts, and I’m not scared to be very clear with people about the kind of man that you are.” (season 1, episode 7)

The evidence: Marnie sees it as her job as a friend to defend Hannah from bad influences like Adam, which is precisely why she doesn’t spend much time with him.

14. Marnie and Shoshanna
Standout moment: Shoshanna says, “Nobody tells you how bad it’s gonna be in the real world,” and Marnie replies, “Yeah, they do. It’s pretty much all they ever tell you.” (season 4, episode 4)

The evidence: Despite the fact that they’ve both slept with Ray — or maybe because of it — Marnie and Shoshanna tend to avoid confronting each other. Most of their relationship plays out in small acts of passive aggression: Marnie condescending to Shoshanna; Shoshanna lashing out in response. (In season three’s “Beach House,” drunk Shosh gets in a few digs at Marnie, a.k.a. “miss tan legs,” who’s “tortured by self-doubt and fear.”)

13. Shoshanna and Jessa
Standout moment: Shoshanna tells Jessa she’s “a Carrie with some Samantha aspects and Charlotte hair”; Jessa has never seen the show; Shoshanna reacts with awe. (season 1, episode 1)

The evidence: Did you forget that Shoshanna and Jessa are cousins? They have almost nothing in common, except for the fact that they once lived together. Still, Shoshanna looks out for Jessa in her own misguided way, like helping “rescue” her from rehab in season three. Meanwhile, Jessa tends to react to Shosh’s neurosis with catlike amusement. Remember when she discovered Shosh watching her have sex in season one?

12. Hannah and Shoshanna
Standout moment: Shoshanna tells Hannah her baggage, which is that she has IBS, that she truly doesn’t love her grandmother, and that she’s a virgin. (season 1, episode 3)

The evidence: Though they’re only distant friends at best, and only because Shosh lived with Jessa, Shoshanna starts off the show looking up to Hannah, before turning on her and the rest of the group. Hannah, meanwhile, either ignores or condescends to Shoshanna, because Hannah can’t be bothered with many people aside from herself.

11. Hannah and Ray
Standout moment: Hannah tries to give Ray a blow job in exchange for driving her back to New York. They end up crashing his coffee truck. (season 5, episode 8)

The evidence: Ray gives Hannah curmudgeonly advice, including that she should wear pants with a “slim leg.” Hannah reacts with confusion and exhaustion.

10. Marnie and Elijah
Standout moment: After they try hooking up at Hannah’s housewarming party, Marnie tells Elijah, “You really don’t have to try to be anything you’re not.” Elijah responds, “Neither do you.” (season 2, episode 1)

The evidence: Ambitious and hyperaware of how the world looks at them, Marnie and Elijah have known each other since they did Rent together in college … and they’ve probably resented each other ever since. Both of them will show up to support each other’s professional ambitions — Elijah happily goes to Marnie’s open-mic performances — if only so they have ammunition to snark about later.

9. Marnie and Jessa
Standout moment: Marnie and Jessa make out in front of Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd), and then spill wine on his new rug. (season 1, episode 8)

The evidence: Friends since college, though Jessa dropped out, Marnie and Jessa view each other with a suspicion that reinforces their worst assumptions, despite moments of kindness that bring them together. (Like when Jessa saves Marnie’s wedding, for instance.) To Marnie, Jessa’s infuriatingly free-spirited. To Jessa, Marnie’s just uptight — and “you act like I’m uptight and then I follow suit! I become uptight.”

8. Hannah and Elijah
Standout moment: Elijah comes out to Hannah, then tells her: “It was nice to see you. Your dad is gay.” (season 1, episode 3)

The evidence: Hannah and Elijah are two of the most selfish characters on Girls, which is something of an achievement, but as long as they’re both doing something that interests them — such as the time when they do coke together — they get along great. Of all the pairs of friends on Girls, they also tend to get the funniest dialogue, mostly because they talk to amuse themselves.

7. Ray and Adam
Standout moment: Ray and Adam go to Staten Island to return a dog Adam stole. (season 2, episode 6)

The evidence: Ray enters the show as Charlie’s bandmate who brings drugs to Hannah and Marnie’s party, while Adam is the anonymous guy hooking up with Hannah. They become friends seemingly by accident, and eventually move in together without thinking too hard about it. In a world of hyperverbal, overanalyzed friendships, they’re a ballast of laconic bro-dem.

6. Marnie and Ray
Standout moment: When Ray psychoanalyzes Marnie: “I’m old enough to recognize that all this bullshit comes from a very deep, dank, dark, toxic well of insecurity, probably created by your absent father. And that allows you to be a sympathetic character.” (season 3, episode 5)

The evidence: Ray and Marnie both think they’re too smart for each other, and definitely better than dating each other. They start hooking up in season three, almost out of boredom, but they end up taking refuge in each other’s loneliness and insecurities.

5. Shoshanna and Ray
Standout moment: When Shoshanna realizes that Ray is homeless, he lashes out, “What makes me worth dating? What makes me worth fucking anything?” Her reply: “I’m falling in love with you.” (season 2, episode 4)

The evidence: Ray and Shosh share Girls’ sweetest relationship, especially when they start to fall in love in season two. Shoshanna encourages Ray’s ambition, while he encourages her to relax and open up. They’re so different, and of course it was never going to last, but the impressions they leave on each other do.

4. Hannah and Adam
Standout moment: Adam runs across Brooklyn to rescue Hannah. (season 2, episode 10)

The evidence: At first, Hannah and Adam seemed to anchor the most important love story on Girls. Their relationship survived awkward-sex beginnings and the return of Hannah’s OCD in season two, but started to fall apart after Adam booked a role on Broadway in season three. They were a couple best at their low points, then fell apart as they got it together.

3. Jessa and Adam
Standout moment: As their relationship spirals into a fight over Hannah, Jessa tells Adam, “I know that I have principles, and one thing I don’t do is steal people’s boyfriends. But you ruined that.” (season 5, episode 10)

The evidence: A fifth-season discovery, Jessa and Adam’s relationship violates all the codes of Hannah and Jessa’s friendship, but is otherwise surprisingly obvious. Like Hannah and Adam, they are both total weirdos, but where Hannah and Adam misunderstood each other, Jessa and Adam’s differences (and violent fights) pull them together.

2. Hannah and Marnie
Standout moment: As they fight in their apartment, Marnie tells Hannah, “I am a good fucking friend, unlike you. You are a bad friend.” (season 1, episode 9)

The evidence: Hannah and Marnie are extremely close at the beginning of Girls — they live together, they take baths together, they have a deep history from college. They’re friends who think they need to stay friends, even as their interests and personalities push them apart. It’s a testament to complexity of their relationship that Girls can have Hannah and Marnie get into the some of the most brutal fights and still land small moments between them — like when Marnie helps Hannah pack for Iowa at the beginning of season four, or when, after wandering through New York on her own in season five, Marnie wordlessly slips into bed with Hannah.

1. Hannah and Jessa
Standout moment: After leaving Thomas-John, Jessa climbs into a bath with Hannah, and blows a snot rocket into the tub. Hannah laughs, “That is so gross. I’m sorry you’re upset, but that is so gross.” (season 2, episode 4)

The evidence: Hannah and Jessa are friends for reasons they can’t understand, and probably wouldn’t be able to articulate. They’ve spent large portions of the show apart — whether in rehab, or Iowa, or because one of them got married — but they never escape each other. Who knows how the final scene of Girls might play out, but if it’s going to focus on any pair of characters, let’s hope it’s these two.

The Friendships of Girls, Ranked From Worst to Best