Up until the last five minutes of the Season 2 finale, Girls‘ polarizing second run has been a mentally and emotionally stimulating ride. It hasn’t always been a pleasant experience (Hannah’s “sex” with a teenager in the woods in Upstate New York and Adam’s forceful sexual encounter with Natalia come to mind), but every episode this season gave us the satisfaction of deeply exploring the forbidden nooks and crannies of the twentysomething (and in Ray’s case, the early thirysomething) psyche. It’s been dark, it’s been more brutally honest than we’ve liked, and yet it’s been a worthwhile experience that drove our thoughts inward — not in the way that Sex and the City drove us to figure out which of our best friends was the Samantha, but in a wholistic, almost therapeutic sense. Girls, while eschewing the traditional (and Season 1-tested) trajectory of a comedy/drama storyline that moves along a traceable path, was giving us intimate, robust musings on life. Where one circumstance stretched our ability to suspend our disbelief, reality would follow with a drop so resolute that the balance was set back in place. But in the last five minutes of the Season 2 finale, Girls upset the balance and it’s got me feeling wildly off-kilter.
While some skeptics may disagree, as a twentysomething woman living in (go ahead and groan) Brooklyn, I can attest the the reality of Girls’ first season was so uncanny it actually scared me and the four friends with whom I shared each episode. Yes, many of the occurences in Hannah’s Season 1 sex life didn’t venture into the daily routine of my life or my immediate friends’ lives, but the psychology behind Hannah’s reactions to and acceptance of such actions wasn’t unfamiliar. Even when Jessa wound up ridiculously married to Chris O’Dowd’s oafish finance guy at the end of Season 1, her friends’ reactions (annoyed, indignant, unperturbed by Jessa’s latest of a long string of “surprising” stunts) made it work. But Season 2’s big surprise ending didn’t come with nearly the same packaging.
After wallowing around in her apartment all day, her anxiety heightened by the pressure of having to write her (e)book in a single day on pain of a potential lawsuit to take back her advance (and the slap in the face from her father, who refused to lend her money and bail her out should she not turn into a miracle worker in a mere 24 hours), Hannah truly begins to break down like the body whose fate she so furiously Googled just hours before. (No, the Q-tip incident was not the true mark of a breakdown in the world of Hannah Horvath.) She hops on the phone to call Jessa and berate her for leaving her alone with no friends (including “anorexic” Marnie, who just took the time to come to Hannah’s apartment to check on her simply because she hadn’t heard from her in a few days, and who knows Hannah well enough to know she was hiding from Marnie somewhere in her Greenpoint abode).
Hannah’s grating, screeching whine serves as a manifestation of her real problem: her inability to accept adulthood. As we watch her wrongfully tell her neighbor Laird that he should back off because she doesn’t have the strength to fight him off “like last time” (you know, the time she used the recovering drug addict to get her cocaine and then threw herself at him and told him it was only “for work”), her overwhelming narcissism and victim complex is looming so heavily overhead it’s stifling. Suddenly, the unrealistic appearance of this magical book deal had purpose: this downward spiral is her wake-up call to come back to reality where she’s an adult who’s responsible for the direction of her life, the strength of her friendships, and whether or not her book is turned into the publisher on time. This is her rock bottom. Last season, we left her sitting on a beach alone eating her only worldly possession (day-old wedding cake after her purse was stolen on the F train) and letting Adam’s words about her selfishness and her self-imposed helplessness wash over her, and this season, surely we’d find in her an even lower ditch to dig herself out of. But that’s not what happened.
She selfishly called Adam, her lovesick lapdog who was driven off the wagon by a mere chance encounter with a pantsless Hannah just last week. Adam, who uncharacteristically and suddenly has an iPhone (no doubt the work of Natalia, who is somehow still around and has since decided to keep Adam’s sexual habits on a severe leash) receives an “accidental” Facetime call from Hannah, which facilitates the moment when he witnesses her OCD symptoms acting up. She needs him, and he immediately runs out of his apartment like the hero at the end of a romantic comedy, keeping the Facetime call running the whole time (sorry, reality-checkers, if Adam has an iPhone 5 on AT&T, this is actually possible) but forgetting to put on a shirt before sprinting to the subway to Hannah’s apartment. Once there, he breaks down her door, sweeps in, pulls her out from under the covers, lifts her up like a knight in shirtless armor and passionately kisses her seconds after we watch Marnie in settled bliss with her future “brown babies”-daddy Charlie, and moments after Shoshanna excercises her newfound emancipation from Ray by making out with a stranger in a dive bar. It was an ending straight out of Sex and the City, not Girls.
Yet, we’re believers. We’re certain this picture-perfect ending, which felt like a series finale in which Hannah’s book deal no longer matters, has a purpose, and maybe when we reach the Season 3 premiere, it will all become clear. But there’s still one glaring issue with this ending: reality. We can accept one improbable circumstance begetting a series of realistic circumstances, like the fallout at Jessa’s surprise wedding. (Say what you will, but I’ve witnessed versions of almost everything in the final moments of that episode.) But just as unlikely as it was that Hannah, Adam, Marnie, and Shoshanna would all implode on the same fateful night as the characters did in Season 2’s penultimate episode “On All Fours,” it’s far more unlikely that just a week later, against all odds (and logic and conceptions of reality) the pieces would all come back together, like the two-episode version of a child’s collapsing finger puppet. Last week, they pushed the bottom in, and all the characters fell down; this week, the button was released everyone snapped back into their colorful, happy spots, like the colorful beads of a wooden giraffe’s legs. It doesn’t feel right, and that’s greatly because the emotional tone of the episode was crafted to feel incandescently cheery. If I wasn’t so confused, I may have been won over by the emotional satisfaction of Adam’s romantic lift.
But the fact of the matter is that we bought into Girls on the promise of brutal reality. We came here for something imperfect and at times ugly. And even if these last five minutes exist to make a point and as a way of entrusting viewers enough to know that something is amiss in the lives of Hannah and her friends, the point is made at the high cost of every single shred of the series’ requisite layer of reality, and I can only hope that when we return to Hannah’s Brooklyn next season, it will have been worth the sacrifice.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: HBO]