This season of Girls tested the limits of its viewership in a way no series before it has done. Lena Dunham placed her characters in strange, cringe-worthy, and straight up outrageous situations, then no doubt watched closely to see how we’d react. Jessa built off of her immature and premature marriage by unsurprisingly becoming a complete train wreck. Marnie embarrassed herself left and right with questionable boyfriend/artistic taste and choice of Kanye covers. Hannah’s career path actually started taking off, but she let her stress and selfish nature destroy any good she had created.
That leaves us with Shosh, who interestingly enough was the least annoying character out of the four female leads this season. Now, I say this in part because her relationship with Ray allowed for more Ray screen time, who is easily the best-written and best-acted character on the show. But more importantly, Shoshanna’s arc through the ups and downs of her first serious relationship ended in the finale as the most honest and real situation of all four girls.
This isn’t to say that Hannah’s binge-filled “experiences” (drugs, OCD, shirtlessness), Marnie’s identity crisis, and Jessa’s daddy issues weren’t genuine. I was actually shocked to realize that it wasn’t these choices the writers made that annoyed me. I was annoyed with the girls themselves. These very troubled, very irritating, yet very real girls.
In having these characters screw up so colossally and repetitively, and annoying viewers of the show in doing so, Dunham took a serious risk here. Usually when characters annoy the shit out of me (like everyone in The Walking Dead), I’m inclined to stop watching the show altogether. But here’s the thing: were these girls in my friend circles, I would have felt exactly the same way I do about fictional characters on a TV show. Which means the risk paid off.
When Hannah enlists the help of recovering addict/one night stand Laird to salvage her ill-advised haircut, she nearly passes out. Laird tries to help her, and she promptly utters a completely fucked up line that really captures exactly what guys can’t stand about girls sometimes:
“Laird, please be reasonable, okay? I don’t have the strength to fight you off this time.”
To which he responds:
“You know what, Hannah? You are the most self-involved, presumptuous person I have ever met. (Plus some on-point comments on the darkness going on inside her head).”
To this, Hannah spews something nonsensical about not viewing him as a person. Which although totally true, is less of an apology and more of an affirmation of the truth that Laird just laid down. This is exactly why, as a reasonable man (so I like to think), I’m able to enjoy and respect the show. Dunham can portray these girls as lost and destructive as she wants—as long as there’s something or someone that pushes back at their bullshit.
At the end of the finale, I was initially a little irritated by the storybook endings for Hannah/Adam and Marnie/Charlie. I thought that Shoshanna and Ray breaking up made for the only very real ending—a young woman finally ready to leave her innocence behind and experiment with tall, blonde, muscular Scandinavian men. When I let it sink in a little longer though, I realized that where all these characters landed as a whole is far more important, and actually way more real. Some people can’t resist what they know is bad for them. Some people end up together even though it feels like they shouldn’t. Some people can’t be together because it’s the wrong place and the wrong time.
And even if some people appear to be happy, you can sense it won’t last. That’s the young person’s human condition, both female and male, and Lena Dunham is really striking a chord within it.