The controversy surrounding HBO’s Girls has been almost as entertaining as the show itself. First, there was the backlash. Then, there was the backlash against the backlash. And then there was the backlash against the backlash against the backlash. The controversy has spawned enough thinkpieces to fill an encyclopedia, ranging from this thoughtful piece about female body image by Alyssa Rosenberg to this ridiculous editorial about “masculine expectations of good TV” from Todd VanDerWerff. But let’s try to step back from all of that for a second and focus on what was actually on screen last night. The Girls season 1 finale, “She Did,” didn’t really do much in the way of resolving plot lines, but it allowed each of the four titular girls to reach a sort of milestone on their journeys.
Shoshanna finally lost her virginity, Jessa decided to settle down and get married, Marnie chose to do something spontaneous (with the help of alcohol), and Hannah realized just how devastating and self-destructive her self-absorption could be. I appreciated very much how “She Did” tied these various plot threads together, bringing each of the characters to the next logical step on their treks. However, I can’t say that any of this was very satisfying. Mechanically, I can appreciate what was done here, but there’s not much satisfaction to be had for me because I feel as if I know Adam, Ray, and Charlie better than I know Shoshanna, Jessa, or Marnie. I want to know what the next steps on the men’s journeys are too. Of course, the show being called Girls, we see it through the lens of its female characters, which makes it difficult for us to peer into the character arcs of its male ones. Perhaps this is a meta-commentary on the four main female characters, all of whom are self-absorbed to some degree. We see their journeys, but not those of the other characters. If it is indeed a meta-commentary, then it’s a self-defeating one, because it deliberately withholds from the audience information that might be interesting and that they want to know.
That being said, “She Did” worked well to bring Girls to a new equilibrium. It illustrated just how much more confident the show has become since its early episodes, which often felt like a mish-mash of tones, jokes, and dramatic moments that didn’t quite fit. The tonal shifts are still there, but they’re no longer so jarring, which to be fair, might be partly due to my becoming accustomed to the show’s modus operandi. In any case, the new equilibrium – Jessa married, Shoshanna deflowered, Marnie living with Shoshanna, and Hannah dealing with the apparent break-up of her relationship with Adam – seems to be as good a jumping-off point as any for next season. It’s familiar, yet different enough that one can see the progress made from the start of the series. We’ll see where this all picks up next summer. Until then, have fun searching the Internet for the latest “hating Girls makes you a sexist” or “watching Girls means you hate the poor” article!