Nothing has really changed as Girls enters final season
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.