“Girls” ended Sunday night with a pitch perfect half-hour, one that, with a small plot and a minimum of characters, spoke to some of the deepest themes of the six-season HBO series.
In the episode, we saw Hannah, the quintessential selfish child, turn a corner. Finally, after a bratty fit in which she once again acted out her misery and victimhood on Marnie and her own mother, she found her legs and began to walk. By the end, after she’d lectured a spoiled girl about the meaning of a mother’s love, she’d relaxed enough to bond with her infant son, Grover. The transition from girl to woman, brewing for the past season or two, finally took.
Grover latched onto her breast, and she latched onto adulthood.
Hannah had made the choice to have the baby, whom she named at the absent father’s request, and in the series finale she made the choice to grow up and parent the child. (Of course, we’ll never know how closely she’ll hew to that second choice in the years ahead; on “Girls,” steps forward often led to a step or two backward.)
The most interesting twist wasn’t that Hannah wound up with a brown baby after the show had been criticized for years for its lack of diversity — although that was a bold gesture by Lena Dunham to her detractors. The big twist, for me, was that “Girls” left us with a message conspicuously unromantic and notably different from most TV comedies — that friends are not the answer.
While comparable shows such as “Sex and the City” and “Friends” have leaned hard on the redeeming importance of friendship at the end of the day, “Girls” went out on a note of millennial self-empowerment. Not even the closest of friends can give you personal responsibility and peace, no matter how loyal and willing they are. We saw how the romantic notion that Hannah and Marnie could raise Grover together devolved into a nightmare of codependency and parallel loneliness. And the penultimate episode had also made that clear, as the bonds between the show’s four central female characters fell apart in a very unpretty way. The idea that friendships are more constant and less fraught than lovers and parents was not the show’s big answer.
In a way, the finale appeared to be a kind of epilogue to the penultimate episode, which behaved a little more like the traditional resolution of a series. But despite its intense focus, the finale was a bold statement in its own right, that the show wasn’t ultimately about the gang of four — Marnie, Hannah, Shoshanna, and Jessa. The finale was a brooding portrait of a transitional moment in one person’s life, the coming of age that had been in the works since the day we first met the whiny, self-absorbed, sloppy Hannah Horvath.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.