The Frustrating Brilliance Of The 'Girls' Finale

There shouldn't be a perfect way to put a cap on it.

Back in 2012, I placed HBO's Girls at the top of my annual "Best of TV" list. I praised it as follows:

"Those who have ignorantly labeled or dismissed Lena Dunham's polarizing comedy about entitled twentysomething white chicks living in Brooklyn as a Millennial Sex and the City should be pitied for their lack of open-mindedness, their trite arguments, and the huge sticks they have up their asses. Because they apparently haven't scraped away the surface to see that underneath the whiny, woe-is-me sensibilities is an acutely observed portrait of post-collegiate life, packed with embarrassing mistakes and complaints we've all been guilty of making (but never wanted to admit or remember). Many comedies and dramas have attempted to paint the Twentysomething Experience, usually with no real resonance, accuracy, or success. What this show has that others didn't is a creator at its helm who's actually living it in real time (note: writer-director-star Dunham is 24) as well as a female lead who actually looks like she's torn through an occasional pint of Ben & Jerry's (and yes, that matters)..."

Throughout the past six seasons, my view on the show didn't waver despite the fact that many have equally praised or bitched about the four titular heroines who populated the coming-of-age dramedy. (I admit: those two middle seasons weren't my favorites.) I accepted that the show, like its protagonists, was Messy and Awkward. Those were two of its "brand pillars," as marketers would say. Girls did its job in making me look back at my own 20s, regardless of my gender, and acknowledge it as a time when I stubbornly held onto my assumptions, made mistakes, and thought I knew what I wanted when I actually didn't know jack.

But as the show soldiered on, and as the characters headed deeper into those 20s, realizations were made and lessons weren't just learned -- they were ignored and learned again in subtle, beautiful moments when least expected. In other words, they matured. Two must-watch standouts that reflect this were Season 5's devastating "The Panic in Central Park" and Season 6's Emmy-worthy "American Bitch."

The final episode of Girls was another reminder that life is never neatly wrapped up in a big bow. And that's what made it satisfying in its own funky way. Lena Dunham's Hannah trades in the big city for some upstate greenery to accept a cushy job and raise her fatherless child in a picturesque house, and Marnie (Allison Williams) accepts the role of Hannah's non-lesbian domestic partner as a way to distract her from her own directionless life. (FYI, the previous episode had already bid adieu to Shoshanna and Jessa in an appropriate non-finale.) But not all is well. Suburban ennui sets in, and Hannah realizes motherhood is not what she expected. In one fun scene, after having a breakdown with her mom, she storms off and has a run-in with a teenaged girl who can't deal with her own parental situation at home. It's one generation attempting to console the next -- and if you thought Millennials were a handful, this glimpse into GenZ problems can't warrant enough eye rolls.

We live in a television era in which neat and tidy endings are expected. Neat and tidy is what showrunners attempt to sell as an endgame to their series. But guess what? Depending on the genre you’re playing with, neat and tidy is starting to become derivative. When you’re dealing with a show like Girls, a show that closely observes relationships in 2010s New York City, there is no perfect way to put a cap on it. There shouldn’t be a perfect way to put a cap on it. 

The final season of Girls reminded us that friends don’t always stay friends. Your parents can be just as messed up as you; they just deal with it differently. Your sex life is not what the CW and MTV told you it was going to be like. Your career is going to get sidetracked - several times. And you will eventually realize that you too can be a narcissistic asshole. (You can’t help it.)

All in all, having Girls end on an imperfect note was perfect in itself. Yes, it was one of those “life goes on” conclusions, but it was carefully executed in a sincere, non-capitalist way. Meaning, the purpose for leaving these lives open-ended wasn’t to leave room for a reunion movie. It was to portray life, regardless of one’s age, as forever-in-progress; you never know what will come, but maybe you can find some happiness in surrendering to that uncertainty. The poignant final shot, in which Hannah attempts to breastfeed her infant for the umpteenth time, conveys that.

As Bustle’s Dana Getz puts it: “Hannah’s happiness doesn’t hinge upon romantic or professional fulfillment, nor do her problems miraculously disappear because she’s passed some checkpoint that commonly delineates adulthood. Similarly, Marnie is hopeful but still lost. And Jessa and Shoshanna don’t really get resolutions at all; as their friendship with Hannah fades, so do they. It’s not a Hallmark ending, but it is a real one.”