In Defense Of 'Girls' Flawed Series Finale

Mark Schafer/HBO

In many ways, Girls' penultimate episode felt like the perfect ending. After six seasons spent trying to force together the fragments of a friendship that had long been broken, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shosh finally agreed to go their separate ways, to be their own women, to untangle themselves from the toxic mess they call friendship and embrace adulthood head on. So, when the Girls series finale rolled around, it was difficult to imagine a more satisfying send-off. For some, "Latching" may have felt gratuitous, a de facto victory lap in the shadow of an episode as narratively fulfilling as "Goodbye Tour." But, while there are plenty of complaints to be waged about Girls' conclusion, there's a lot of good in there, too.

Hannah's mom gives her a frank but painfully overdue speech in line with what fans have been screaming at their televisions for years, and Marnie, who is perhaps the most self-involved (and hated) in all of Girls' exasperatingly narcissistic cast, puts someone's else's happiness before her own. Hannah, half-drowning in the immensity and chaos of motherhood, doesn't cower or quit in the face of what is almost certainly the most difficult hurdle she's yet to confront, and, later, after some more wise nudging from Hannah's mom, Marnie takes ownership of what happens in her life and begins weighing what's next for her.

Their progress, however minimal, is proof that the growing we've seen these characters do throughout their final onscreen stretch was not a fluke.

Mark Schafer/HBO

At their core, they are still the stubborn, entitled, vainglorious Brooklynites that we met back in 2012, because anything else wouldn't be honest. But "Latching" shows them as better, somewhat happier people. They're still buckling under the weight of life, but now, at least, they have some semblance of purpose and meaning and maturity. And, for characters that have stumbled into adulthood so gradually and ungracefully, it feels bracingly authentic.

Whereas "Goodbye Tour" felt too clean, too sentimental for a show that has so often spurned convention, "Latching" was all the things Girls has always been: smart, funny, unflinchingly honest. It was traditional, in a sense, but not overtly so. Using a child to force someone to grow up is not an unfamiliar narrative, but Girls does well to leave its loose ends messy.

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.

It's fitting, then, that the Girls series finale is far from perfect: it's just as flawed, confounding, and contentious as the women who led the show.