Girls season finale: The Greek chorus speaks, but Hannah’s hubris goes unpunished

He said, she said: talking points on season 2 of the hit HBO show

He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)

Episode summary: In the season finale, Hannah finds herself unable to meet her ebook deadline and reaches out to her father for help. But he suspects she’s up to her old shenanigans and being manipulative. Marnie confronts Charlie about being in love with him and Charlie admits that he still loves her.  Ray accepts a promotion to manage a new location of the Grumpy Cafe to try and impress Shosh. But it’s not enough and Shosh breaks up with Ray. Hannah, who is in the middle of an OCD spell, calls Adam, who is trashing the boat he is building in the middle of his apartment. He races to her apartment in the middle of the night, shirtless. 

She said: Well, if we can start with the end first, I feel like a lot of people are going to have trouble with the fact that Adam literally comes to rescue Hannah. I wonder if there will be people who suggest that they just lost all sorts of credibility by suggesting that in the end, all we want is to be rescued. But I have to admit, I did not take that scene as a man rescuing a woman. For me, it was an intimiate scene of friendship, and I didn’t find it to be sexualized. He’s odd. She’s odd. And their reunion had nothing to do with gender. Or maybe it did. Maybe I’m so brainwashed by the establishment that I can’t even see it. You know the recent cover story of Maclean’s about the CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and her new book? I was talking with the story’s writer and I said something like, ‘I have never in my life even aspired to be the CEO of a company.’ And she said that was the very premise of Sandberg’s book: I’ve been brainwashed to think that it’s not even a possibility for me, as a woman. And at first I thought, Yeah, maybe. But after considering the idea, well, no, I don’t think so. And the most important people in my life, they don’t aspire to be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company either. I don’t know those people, and I’m not sure that I’d want to. I’m really getting off topic here.

He said: This is what I thought when everyone was so disappointed with Marissa Meyer, the CEO of Yahoo, who sparked a lot of this debate for taking just two weeks of maternity leave. I’m sorry, maybe I’m just being naive or a little blindly leftist but there’s something in me that thinks, if you end up being the CEO of a huge American corporation, you are f–ked. Male or female. You don’t get there because you’re normal. You literally end up at the top of that world because you’re a f–king crazy person. Because you’re probably not a good person. So for me, it was like–and I don’t want to sound like a real sexist prick–but what did women coming into this very volatile disgusting world that they’ve fought tooth and nail to get into, expect? That they’re going to take six months mat leave? No, I’m sorry. If you want to be at the top of a world like, you’re nuts to begin with. People end up being CEOs, being incredibly rich and successful–not all of the time–but most people with that kind of drive are crazy and they shouldn’t be exemplary of male, female, or humans. It’s rare when they are. We happen to live in a world where the two biggest guys–Warren Buffet and Bill Gates–happen to be two great people, who are really against the mould. But most of the people at the top of that world get there because they have actively f–ked people all the way up. So why would you expect that a man or woman who ends up in that position is going to be someone exemplary? They’re not. It’s a huge fallacy and it’s crazy to me.

She said: I agree. But it feels like we’re really off-topic here, even though I think this is all so topical and must have something to do with the  Girls finale, but I want to talk about the appearance of Colin Quinn in this episode, as Ray’s boss, who we recently saw in an episode of Larry Sanders, which we just finished watching. And afterwards we had a conversation about that show really being the touchstone for future comedies where all the humour is derived from people behaving poorly. And you get shows like Seinfeld–

He said: Seinfeld was contemporaneous. And I don’t think Seinfeld  is in the same school. The Seinfeldian sort of lack of moral chutzpah is a different thing than Larry Sanders.

She said: Okay, but shows like 30 Rock, for instance, or The Office–

He said: The Office for sure.

She said: It’s a show based on people behaving badly. And all the humour stems from that. And that’s what we’ve been talking about this whole season of Girls. It’s been people behaving badly, even deplorably. Yet they’re still likeable.

He said: Not in Girls.

She said: No? For me, there’s still sympathy even at the end of it. Oh god I just remembered the scene with the downstairs former addict neighbour. Don’t you think he functioned like the Greek chorus in this episode? For the whole season, in fact. He said everything that’s been on the audience’s mind about Hannah–about her being horrible and selfish.

He said: It’s very dark.

She said: But I have to admit I felt sympathy for every character at the end, except Marnie. And I was frustrated that she was the one that got what she wanted. She gets Charlie back. She’s the only character that gets what she wants.

He said: Do you really think she’s the only one?

She said: Well, I guess Hannah gets what she wants.

He said: Yeah, of course she does. Or she gets redeemed in a very easy way. I guess why I feel like it’s cheap and second-rate is because you don’t want to see this whole season–Hannah’s whole arc there–I hate to come back to it, but being like Carrie and Big: Where you have this arc of a character that really has nothing to do with external relationships because all of Hannah’s conflicts should be about herself and so to see them wrapped up-maybe neatly, maybe not neatly–because there’s still some lingering stuff at the end of this episode, but to see them sort of resolved by the appearance of a male exterior character, it doesn’t answer any of the questions. It doesn’t address her poor behaviour, her absolutely vile self-obsession, her total disregard for all the people in her life she should be caring about. For example, Marnie, whether you like her or not, Shosh, or Jessa.

She said: She even acknowledges on the phone when she leaves Jessa a voicemail that she’s cut them all out of her life. But at the same time, she also acknowledges to Jessa, Do you really think that Shosh or Marnie could possibly be capable of being there for me, for getting me? Like Jessa is the only one.

He said: I also want to note a funny, recurring motif: two times in two different episodes, they’ve imagined Jessa on this adventure, and they try to imagine what she’s wearing. Shosh wonders if she’s in something linen. And Hannah wonders if she’s wearing a crop top.

She said: And I know when Hannah cuts her hair that it’s supposed to be dark, like in a Girl Interrupted sort of way, but holy smokes, I was laughing so hard. It’s the perfect “funny” haircut, really–like a Dumb and Dumber haircut, but with a touch of Dorothy Hamill body.

He said: I’m trying to think back and remember why I found Season 1 to be so compulsively watchable. I watched the whole thing in one day.But this seemed just seemed gruesome.

She said: What about on Hannah’s computer screen? She was writing that line about girlfriends from college have more meaningful relationships with each other than anybody else.

He said: But that’s a load of bulls–t. That’s not what the show is about! The show is about men being the easy way out. And I’m not taking this from an International Women’s Day post-feminist perspective but I’m just talking about having conclusions in drama that live up to the expectations of the opening. And I feel like they didn’t do that. They haven’t been good friends to each other.

She said: Maybe that was the whole point of that line she was writing, though. That’s what Hannah ultimately desires. To be better?

He said: I don’t know. Maybe. Do you think Marnie is back with Charlie because of the money?

She said: Yes and I think that’s a load of bulls–t. The only impetus for her being remotely interested in him again was finding out that he achieved some success. Why was she with Booth Jonathan, besides being attracted to his success? And listen, that’s not that uncommon. Think of a t-shirt you bring to a clothing swap. As soon as you see other people gather around that t-shirt going on about how cool or neat it is, you think, “wait a second, why did I give up that t-shirt. That t-shirt was mine.” And you want it back, as soon as you see it being coveted by others. Maybe Marnie not’s so bad. All of sudden, Charlie was desired by others and that made him very attractive to her again. [Pause] So did you even like this episode or what?

He said: I just feel like it’s a real failure: if you’re going to take a character to depths of that level and drag the audience with you into that blackness, you can’t just resolve it by having this unhinged guy, who, to be honest, you don’t quite understand what their connection is–other than he can have sex with her in these really aggressive ways and she pretends to, or actually, enjoys it, whereas this other girl doesn’t–it just doesn’t resolve any of the problems. It doesn’t answer anything about Hannah’s bad behaviour, which I think you might expect, or feel owed after spending 10 episodes with her absolute vileness. Maybe I’ve used that word too much. It just feels cheap. And maybe there is something about me–the classical Greek in me–that wants to see her punished for her own poor behaviour. In ways that are adequate or representative of her own failings.

She said: Wow. Maybe Girls is like a Greek tragedy.

He said: Well, it’s not because everything just wraps up so nicely and blood is not repaid with blood.

She said: There are no consequences. And hubris is not answered. Wait, what did you think about Ray?

He said: I thought it was sad.

She said: But at the same time, Shosh had a point. He doesn’t like children laughing, ribbons or pillows.

He said: And I guess there’s something familiar too. What does he say? ‘I guess you don’t understand the difference between being negative and critical thinking.’ [Pause] I like jazz a lot. Anywhere, there is a lot of extraneous stuff floating around. It just feels like right now–because it was International Women’s Day and I read that piece in the New York Times about female characters stepping out of the stereotype shadow on TV, but I do think there’s a level at which that’s it’s an easy out at the end there.

She said: And to think, I really liked the ending. Maybe I am brainwashed.

He said: Well, it was sweet, it was well done, but immediately, I just rolled my eyes and thought, That’s it? That’s the resolution?

She said: I rolled my eyes and cried at the same time.