Noth­ing has re­ally changed as Girls en­ters fi­nal sea­son

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Pop Culture - Michael Fraiman

In pretty much ev­ery way, the fi­nal sea­son pre­miere of Girls was more of the same.

When HBO launched this mil­len­nial flag­ship series in 2012, it was hailed as dar­ing, bold, fem­i­nist and rel­e­vant. It’s fiz­zled a bit since then – plot­lines didn’t go any­where, char­ac­ters didn’t evolve, and there’s enough other bold, fem­i­nist tele­vi­sion out there that’s frankly bet­ter than Lena Dun­ham’s show about bored, self-de­struc­tive, nar­cis­sis­tic women who make the same mis­takes for their en­tire 20s. For some rea­son, I still love watch­ing it. This pre­miere episode fo­cused mostly on Dun­ham’s char­ac­ter, Han­nah, a Michi­gan-born, Brook­lyn-liv­ing wannabe writer who can’t es­cape her own ego to write about the real world. Last we saw, she was get­ting her life to­gether, rock­ing a per­for­mance at famed sto­ry­telling venue The Moth and pen­ning a Mod­ern Love sub­mis­sion for the New York Times.

But now there are some ex­pec­ta­tions in her life. Han­nah’s lat­est dilemma is es­pe­cially frus­trat­ing for jour­nal­ists. She’s as­signed a per­fect story – to crash a yup­pie ladies’ surf week­end – by a con­fi­dent edi­tor played by Chelsea Peretti, who loves Han­nah’s style but seems to be­come slightly less enamoured with her over the course of their first face-to-face in­ter­view. All Han­nah has to do is be her anx­ious New Yorker self in Mon­tauk, sur­rounded by up­per-class women who pine for sex­ual val­i­da­tion from their surf in­struc­tors.

The story could be great – it’s a per­fect fit for her – but Han­nah can’t get over how much she hates it, and in­stead of see­ing the big­ger pic­ture, she ends up bing­ing on slushy blue al­co­hol, grind­ing on the dance floor, hook­ing up with surf in­struc­tor Paul-louis (played won­der­fully by ris­ing tal­ent Riz Ahmed) and charg­ing it all to her magazine.

“I don’t re­mem­ber much about last night, but I don’t feel vi­o­lated in any way,” she says the next morn­ing.

Paul-louis, the epit­ome of chill, re­sponds: “Nice.”

Dun­ham seems par­tic­u­larly in­sis­tent on find­ing mo­ments to bare her breasts in this episode: in a wet­suit, in a bunk bed, on the beach, wher­ever else she wants. It’s ex­ces­sively in­dul­gent, but that proud meta-nar­cis­sism has al­ways de­fined Girls, and if you’re still watch­ing the show, you know what to ex­pect.

Ul­ti­mately, I think, that’s the take­away from this episode. These women are ob­nox­ious, dif­fi­cult, hor­ri­ble de­ci­sion-mak­ers and com­pletely un­pleas­ant to­ward vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one they meet. If you’re still watch­ing the show af­ter six years, for what­ever rea­son, you’re fine with that.

Paul-louis, for ex­am­ple, doesn’t seem to mind at all. He’s vaguely in­con­sid­er­ate, but too clue­less to blame, com­ment­ing on how much pu­bic hair she has – not as a dig, but out of gen­uine awe – and stay­ing calm when Han­nah gets an­gry. He’s cooler and calmer than her other ex-boyfriends, and less neu­rotic than any­one else she’s met in Brook­lyn.

He preaches love, not hate – a con­cept so novel to Han­nah that she has trou­ble grasp­ing it be­fore ask­ing him if he’s Bud­dhist while they sit to­gether on the beach, star­ing out at the ocean. Paul-louis thinks for a mo­ment, then says, “I don’t think so.”

Han­nah’s Ju­daism doesn’t fea­ture much in the show – she and Shoshana are the most ob­vi­ously Jewish char­ac­ters, which mostly comes across in their neu­roti­cism, though sev­eral main cast mem­bers are Jewish in real life – but this mo­ment of beach­side cul­ture-clash­ing un­der­scores her Ju­daism more than any overt ref­er­ence she’s writ­ten. Jews kvetch; this quasi-bud­dhist dude does not. He ac­cepts. She can’t re­ally be­lieve it.

“I don’t know what any of my friends like,” she says. “I only know what they don’t like.”

In short, Paul-louis is a per­fect match for Han­nah, of­fer­ing some much-needed equi­lib­rium, but this, too, turns out to be a fan­tasy she can’t re­ally live in.

The girls of Girls have gone through a lot of cos­metic changes since the show’s first sea­son – dif­fer­ent jobs, lovers and looks. But re­ally, noth­ing has changed in their lives. All this rep­e­ti­tion makes us won­der if any­thing ever will.

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