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Pinpointing the Most Iconic Girls Moments

Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson in “One Man’s Trash.” Photo: Jessica Miglio/HBO

Some shows break down easily into episodes or season-long arcs. Girls excelled at moments: shots, scenes, or bits of dialogue that could swivel the show’s themes, reveal new depths to a character, or alter the momentum of a storyline. As the show comes to a close, Vulture has rounded up a compendium of what we believe will be the Girls moments to remember.

Season one, episode one: “I could be the voice of my generation — or, at least, a voice of a generation.”
Hannah, incoherently stoned and ranting to her parents, delivers the line that would come to define her, Lena Dunham, and the show itself.

Season one, episode three: Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”

In what is possibly Girlsmost famous music cue, Hannah works through the news that she’s gotten HPV and her ex is gay by dancing to Robyn with Marnie. What better cure is there for 20-something confusion than Swedish pop?

Season one, episode ten: Eating cake on the beach after Jessa’s surprise wedding
After falling asleep on the F train, Hannah wakes up in Coney Island and wanders out to the beach alone with her leftovers from Jessa and Thomas-John’s wedding. After a whirligig of a first season, the world opens up into meditative, frightening calm.

Season two, episode one: Hannah dates Sandy, who loves Ayn Rand
After being criticized for its all-white cast, Girls brought on Sandy (Donald Glover), a conservative black man who dates Hannah until they unceremoniously break up after a fight about the quality of her writing. The two-episode arc remains Girls’ most memorable, if awkward, tangle with race, a crucial point of discussion in any conversation about its approach to the subject.

Season two, episode three: “It’s a Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive!”

What else is there to say when you’re high on cocaine for a writing assignment?

Season two, episode five: Shirtless ping-pong in “One Man’s Trash”
Hannah spends this bottle episode with a beautiful doctor played by Patrick Wilson. The entire episode feels surreal, like it could be a dream sequence, which many posited that it actually was. That idea (disproved by Wilson’s later cameo in season six) partially feels like a response to this episode’s frankness about Hannah’s body, which acts as sexual object but isn’t limited to that role. Hannah, shirtless, happily playing ping-pong, is herself.

Season two, episode nine: Marnie performs “Stronger”

Girls’ taste for cringe comedy arrives at its apex as Marnie interrupts her ex-boyfriend’s party to deliver an oblivious Kanye cover that makes you hate and pity her in equal measure. Runner-up Marnie cringe moments: her music video, and referring to the aesthetic of her wedding as “a nod to my heritage, which is white Christian woman.”

Season two, episode nine: The Q-tip

Under the pressure of a book deadline, Hannah’s OCD returns, which leads her to insert a Q-tip all the way into her eardrum, and then, at the end of the episode, do it once again. If you thought the psychological pain of watching Marnie cover Kanye was bad, the physical experience of watching Hannah grimace is all the worse.

Season two, episode ten: Adam’s run across Brooklyn
As Hannah breaks down while trying to deal with her deadline and her OCD, Adam races across town to be with her while keeping his phone open to Facetime. During this sequence, Girls morphs into a rom-com, even if the feeling doesn’t last.

Season three, episode seven: Shoshanna’s rant in “Beach House”

Girls’s four main characters hardly ever spent time together as a group, and when they did, the fireworks went off. The fight scene in “Beach House” acted as a pivot point for the series, as the girls faced the fact that they weren’t really going to be friends forever — an arc that would be bookended by this scene’s companion: the big friend breakup in season six’s “Goodbye Tour.”

Season three, episode 12: Hannah gets into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
Is Hannah a good writer? Girls gives us mixed evidence: compliments from some (her parents, her editors), dismissals from others (her future classmates in Iowa). But the look on Hannah’s face as she opens her envelope is easy to parse: pure joy.

Season four, episode six: Mimi-Rose Howard’s abortion
As a foil to Hannah, the most unnerving thing about Gillian Jacobs’s Mimi-Rose Howard was her outward confidence. While dating Adam, she casually reveals to him that she had an abortion, a moment that’s stunning mostly because a subject that TV usually treats heavily is instead treated so lightly.

Season four, episode eight: Hannah’s father comes out
Who knew that Elijah’s jab at Hannah all the way back in season one about her dad being gay would turn out to be right? Tad comes out to Loreen just before a dinner party, and suddenly we realize that the adults are just as confused as the girls.

Season five, episode three: Shoshanna in Japan
Girls tends to tighten its focus when its characters leave New York, something exemplified by Shoshanna’s journey to Japan in the early part of season five, where she finds love, purpose at work, and a new dye job. There are a lot of stand-out moments to pick from here, but the most iconic might be her thousand-yard stare from her quirky, new apartment at the end of “Japan,” as her boyfriend waits for her at JFK, then realizes she’s not coming home.

Photo: HBO

Season five, episode six: Charlie’s return
Marnie runs into a transformed version of her ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Christopher Abbott, who left the show after season two), on the street, as fantasy seems to intrude on reality, then spends the rest of the seemingly charmed day wandering through New York.

Season five, episode ten: Jessa’s fight with Adam
Jessa and Adam’s chemistry was one of Girls’s best late discoveries, even as their relationship tore Jessa and Hannah apart. Jessa’s guilt doubles back on her relationship with Adam at the end of season five, as she realizes that she’s lost a fundamental part of her identity (“I don’t steal people’s boyfriends”), and things descend into violence.

Season six, episode three: Matthew Rhys’s penis
In the companion episode to “One Man’s Trash,” Hannah performs an unsteady two-hander with the wolf-toothed author played by Rhys about the sexual-abuse allegations against him. At the episode’s climax, the spell cast by the author’s lavish compliments breaks, and Rhys reveals a prop that’s sure to go down in infamy.

Season six, episode eight: Hannah and Adam at the restaurant
In some of Dunham’s best acting on the series, Hannah and Adam sit down for dinner after a long day of pretending that getting together again to raise Hannah’s baby will magically fix everything. Then, with haunting predictability, reality sets in.

Season six, episode nine: Surprise! Shoshanna’s engaged
In Girls’ penultimate episode, after Shoshanna had seemingly disappeared from the rest of the season, the show sucked her back into its orbit to reveal that she’d simply found a fiancé and decided to cut the rest of the girls out of her life. Like the best Girls moments, this one arrives without warning, is shocking, and, in retrospect, makes sense.

HBO’s Girls: The Most Iconic Moments