It's hard to believe it's been nearly five years since Girls first graced screens, bringing with it a candid exploration of what it means to be flawed and female and aimless in your 20s. Since then, we've watched as its characters struggled to make sense of adulthood, taking one stride forward with every two steps back. If you follow the common conception that the series thus far has been a televised think-piece of sorts, then you can think of Girls Season 6, Episode 2, "Hostage Situation," as its thesis statement, because it basically epitomizes the show.
Though the episode is filled with Hannah and co.'s usual antics — Hannah, Marnie, and Desi go on a disastrous weekend trip while Elijah, Jessa, and Shosh attend an equally unfortunate networking event — its most symbolic moments aren't the loudest or the most dramatic. When Marnie and Hannah are comforting each other after a night of chaos, or when Shoshanna is reflecting on friendship after yet another fight — those are the scenes when we get to see what Girls is really about: Growing up.
In a particularly telling exchange, Hannah and Marnie are cleaning up the Poughkeepsie cabin they've been staying at after discovering that Desi has been secretly addicted to Oxycontin for a year. Hannah, who's been impressively self-aware since the season started, looks at Marnie and comes to a surprising revelation.
"It can be pretty hard to have observations about other people when you’re only thinking about yourself. I would know," she tells Marnie. "And I’m not judging you, OK? I promise I’m done with that. I’m done judging. I’m done being superior. I’m done acting like I know anything at all. None of us know f*cking anything.”
If you know Girls, then you know why that's such a momentous statement. The show has always been built around its characters not knowing anything about life or friendship or, really, themselves. They're lost and stubborn and narcissistic, but they've always been too painfully self-involved to admit it. So the fact that Hannah and Marnie are able to freely and unabashedly acknowledge that they don't actually know what the hell they're doing is a powerful testament to their progress.
Minutes later, another scene shows Elijah and Shosh on the brink of a similar realization. After a heated exchange, Jessa yells at them to grow up. Elijah screams back — rather defensively — that he is a grown up, and how dare she. But as his voice fades into the background, Shosh's face says it all: They're not grown-ups, they're just pretending to be.
Finally, we see these characters at the threshold of actual adulthood: Admitting their shortcomings, reflecting on their choices, learning from mistakes. It's something they've been inching toward since we first met them back in 2012. So if the last five seasons of Girls have been about pretending to be grown-ups, this season will be about meaning it.