About fifteen minutes into watching the series finale of “Girls,” I felt a sinking feeling of disappointment. The episode, set five months after Hannah has given birth and moved to upstate New York, is much like past “Girls” bottle episodes. Existing in a strange, surreal, almost suffocating space, the storyline is shot in one location and cut down to one or two main characters. “Girls” has almost always been successful when it dipped into contained storytelling, and in a few cases, like Hannah’s afternoon with the writer accused of sexual assault, it has made for exceptionally thought-provoking, powerful television.
But the last episode of “Girls” is not a time for a bottle episode. It’s a space to celebrate seven characters who we have spent six seasons getting to know, caring about and occasionally wanting to shake silly out of irritation. Which, perhaps, is why it was so frustrating to spend thirty minutes exclusively with Hannah, and occasionally Marnie, as the two characters pretty much spend the entire episode dealing with the challenges of a newborn baby. Not that it isn’t an important storyline, and not that it isn’t a critical full-circle moment, watching Hannah, an often selfish, erratic 20-something, have to enter a new stage in her life.
The problem is, this show isn’t about Hannah.
It has always been just as much about Marnie, Jessa, Shoshanna, Ray, Elijah and Adam. It’s an enormous tribute to Lena Dunham’s writing and directing that those six characters felt equally as important to the story, and that they were just as painfully real, full of color, humor and depth. To end “Girls” without all of them there felt unnatural, and almost swept their importance to the show under the rug. This was Hannah’s story all along, it seemed to say.
The argument, perhaps, for ending “Girls” the way that they did, so completely, almost disorientingly, removed from the dressings of Hannah’s 20-something life, is that the show never did stick with convention. Plus, it had been gently guiding Hannah away from New York for some time, an idea that I thought was smart and, as a lifelong New Yorker, something I deeply understood.
But there were other ways to stay true to the show’s tone, and deliver Hannah into this new chapter in her life. The second to last episode of the series did just that. It showed four friends having something of a break-up, but coming to an understanding. All of the characters were moving in new directions, and the final five minutes of the series tied in all the emotions a good series finale should. There was a feeling of finality, hope, and a chance to see the whole group of characters together — perhaps for the last time.
I didn’t need to spend a half-hour watching Hannah figure out her new life in upstate New York — and this is coming from someone who always really liked Hannah. The show was about four women, and occasionally three men, finding their way in New York City, and that’s exactly where I would have liked to have said goodbye to them.
It calls to mind some of the best season finales from “Girls”: when Hannah gets into Iowa and holds that letter in her hand, when she runs across the Brooklyn Bridge after performing at The Moth for the first time, when Adam comes to her house and picks her up after everything that happened between them. Those were all euphoric moments, small moments, tinged with sadness, and leaving lots and lots of questions behind.
So yes, I think that last shot, from the previous episode, when all four girls are dancing in Shoshanna’s apartment, is completely fitting for a “Girls” series finale. And that’s exactly how I will choose to say goodbye to them.