Television

TV Critic’s Corner

On ‘Girls,’ Baker brought wisdom and laughs

Becky Ann Baker as Hannah’s mother, Loreen, on “Girls.”

Mark Schafer

Becky Ann Baker as Hannah’s mother, Loreen, on “Girls.”

The series finale of “Girls” was ultimately a way to cap Hannah Horvath’s long, slow coming of age. With the tone of an epilogue, it reminded us that the series hasn’t been about friendship so much as the growth process of one particularly self-absorbed young woman. And in the finale, it was clear that Lena Dunham has also come of age as an actress, able to convey important transformations with but a look.

But I wanted to give kudos here to another fine actress on the show, one who totally took charge of the finale: Becky Ann Baker, who played Loreen, Hannah’s mother. Loreen has been a great force of nature in Hannah’s life, and Baker has been a great source of dark humor for the show’s viewers — think of the “Gummies” episode, for example, when she gets too high and, before puking, tells Hannah, “I just want you to know, every time I look at your baby, I will see my own death.”

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She was also the gruff voice of wisdom. In the finale, Loreen tries to get Hannah to snap out of her depression in an exchange that I will always hold dear. Hannah: “I don’t understand why you’re yelling at me when I’m in emotional pain.” Loreen: “Yeah, well you know who else is in emotional pain?” Hannah: “Who?” Loreen: “[Expletive] everyone! For their whole lives!”

Loreen had her own story arc across the series, first as she tried to let go of Hannah and steer her simultaneously, and later as she coped with learning that her husband, Tad, was gay. Baker was particularly affecting portraying Loreen’s process regarding Tad, as her comfortable life fell apart unexpectedly. At one point, she said she’d stay with Tad anyway, delivering this pathos-filled justification to Hannah: “I like our house, and your father’s very nice, and he makes me laugh when he does that Chris Rock. And he plays Scrabble really well. These things count for a lot.” Later though, her anger surfaced, and so did her terror. Baker hit all the right notes throughout.

I’ve been a fan of Baker since I first saw her in another Judd Apatow series, “Freaks and Geeks.” Watching her naive character pretend to play an accordion while she and her husband debated whether the Who’s “Squeeze Box” is sexual — it was such sweet comedy. She has also appeared in countless TV shows, movies, and plays. I’m eagerly awaiting her next choice.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.
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