The looming finale of Girls has left me with a lot of emotions. Mostly ticked off that it’s actually ending and I can no longer use the excuse, “Well, if Hannah Horvath can do it, I can too,” but also because I love these women to bits. Saying goodbye sucks, so can you blame me if I want to hold onto these characters as long as possible?
Well, as luck would have it, I (well, all of us Girls viewers, really) have already said goodbye to a ton of the core Girls cast. When news broke earlier this week that both Jessa and Shoshanna wouldn’t return for the series finale, I was none too pleased. This couldn’t be the end of my time with them. No, it’s too soon. Then came the double-whammy came that the men of Girls — Adam, Ray and Elijah — had also wrapped up their storylines and wouldn’t return for the finale either.
So, what’s a girl to do with all these pent-up feelings about the end of a truly great television series? I am going to, according to my own true feelings about the various endings, rank how satisfying each Girls character’s ending truly was. It’s about to get very real up in here.
You always knew Ray was going to be OK. Arguably the most adult of the characters from Day 1, Ray was a coffee shop employee (and then a business owner) with a Seinfeld-esque brand of curmudgeonliness that made him weirdly endearing. He has had a strong moral compass (remember when he briefly toyed with local politics?) and a good heart. In his own way, he always tried to be kind, see the good in people and wasn’t afraid to give his friends the business if they got too out of hand. Sweet, wonderful Ray.
All things considered, Ray’s ending was safe, predictable and a bit “meh.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m legit happy he found love and that it was with someone we never expected (Shoshanna’s former boss, Abigail, played by SNL‘s Aidy Bryant). But honestly, would you have expected Ray to not be OK when all was said and done? No way.
In a similar vein, Shoshanna ended up right where she wanted to be. From Season 1 until now, Shoshanna has been the one person on Girls who has craved a fair amount of normalcy. We may have been prone to teasing her for being basic in the beginning (her love of Sex and the City and pink was just a lot to deal with), but now, that instinct for “basic” has transformed into something real and fulfilling for Shoshanna.
She may have met her fiancé in a way that continues in that “basic” pattern (she met him at a Sprinkles Cupcakes ATM), but she’s happily engaged to him. She’s working on her career; she’s choosing friends with, as she puts it, “purses and nice personalities.” It’s no surprise Shoshanna is going to end up balancing a life of happy domesticity with the professional life she always wanted, but it doesn’t mean it’s not totally sweet.
Elijah’s always been a hot mess, but he was our hot mess. Our self-centered, ambitious, horny, caring hot mess. I’m not ranking Elijah above Shoshanna and Ray because I think he’s suddenly transformed into a more likable person; I’m ranking him above them because I think that for a while it looked like Elijah wasn’t going to be OK in literally any way and then suddenly everything came together.
Elijah’s journey on Girls has been a messy one, but the final season has made a point to show that even when Elijah was a shitty person, he had enough self-awareness to try to atone for his actions. He is on track to become a huge Broadway star in White Men Can’t Jump, so don’t expect the ego to deflate anytime soon. He may or may not stay romantically involved with troubled politician Dill Harcourt. He may go back to his old ways. But right now, where we left Elijah, we know that he’s a markedly better, more tolerable human than he was at the beginning and that his dreams are finally coming true. I mean, that’s pretty damn fantastic.
Marnie will eternally be the most frustrating character on Girls, in my opinion. She’s not an actually bad person, but she’s given me more occasions to loathe her for her selfishness or self-centeredness than I care to have while watching a TV show. The only reason Marnie made it this far up the list is because we have yet to see her in the finale, so she may redeem herself, and she kinda isn’t the worst person ever as the entire finale winds down.
Marnie’s lost a lot in the final season of Girls. She lost Ray, the second good guy she dated who could have given her what she wanted (we can’t forget about Charlie) if she hadn’t used him mercilessly. She lost Desi, her bandmate and ex-husband, when she made his substance abuse and recovery about her. She lost a few of her friends at Shoshanna’s engagement party (jury’s still out on Hannah) when Shoshanna called it quits on the group.
But Marnie needed to be taken down several pegs in order to learn that she needs to stand on her own two feet. If one of the main points about Girls is that growing up is a tough thing to do, this was Marnie’s tough-love season. She grew up and stopped being co-dependent on others, hoping they’d give her a sense of identity or purpose. It was satisfying as hell to see her have that kind of reckoning with herself. Who knows if it will stick, though? She was last seen handing out her card to a group of guys and dancing with them all seductively. She may go back to her old ways soon enough.
Adam has woven a tangled web on Girls over the years. While he’s had to come to terms with the fact that he can be a totally shitty human, he’s also shown that he can actually show up for someone when the going gets tough. His relationship with Hannah proved that. He may have just started out as Hannah’s hook-up, but he became a real boyfriend who supported Hannah through some serious mental health issues. The humanizing of this Girls hunk is reason enough to earn him a top spot.
But Adam’s Girls ending is satisfying because the last time we saw him, he was just trying to do the right thing. Now, that’s all Adam appears to be interested in. He wanted to help Hannah raise her baby. He wanted to make sure he apologized for the way he treated her. Even when it became clear that the spark had gone from his relationship to Hannah, he tried to make it all OK. Going back to Jessa is where he needs to be right now, and that’s satisfying.
For what it’s worth, I will agree that it was a bit shady that Adam’s version of doing the right thing would be to break up with Jessa and raise a baby he had no biological or emotional connection to, but listen, I’m going to favor the nobility of it all over the shittiness of it all. Plus, I just really like Adam.
Talk about big comebacks! Saying goodbye to Jessa in “The Goodbye Tour” was beautiful. After a final season of feeling as if she would never reconcile with one of her oldest friends, Jessa was able to truly apologize for what she’d done to Hannah. Like Hannah admitted, they both said and did things that were wrong, and they’ll never be able to truly get over what happened between them when it comes to Adam. But they’re on their way.
Jessa has also had one of the biggest developments in her character during the final season of Girls. Despite no longer going to school to help fulfill a dream of counseling others, she’s now recognizing her destructive patterns of behavior. Jessa’s attempting to make a real and monogamous go of it with Adam. Making peace with Hannah is a cherry on top of Jessa’s finale. Like everyone else on Girls, Jessa isn’t going to be totally and perfectly fine or happy from here on out, but seeing her really grow and reconcile with everyone in the final season was so wonderful.
We have yet to see how it will all pan out for Hannah, but I can promise you right now that her ending is going to be the most satisfying of them all. In part, that’s because Girls has been primarily about Hannah; to not give the protagonist of our story some version of a satisfying or fitting ending (not necessarily happy) is to be expected.
In the penultimate episode, it’s actually shaping up to seem like Hannah might not get what she wanted, but she will get everything she needs. She’s happy and ready to become a mother. She’s going to be teaching in a university setting, which is an environment we saw her really embrace when she went to Iowa. Her writing career did launch into something substantial, and even though she doesn’t feel it’s true, I’d say she made her mark on New York.
As Girls winds down, Hannah isn’t just making choices for herself or eschewing the adult choice for the choice that would make her feel good in the moment. She’s looking ahead and planning. She’s ready for the unexpected. In that way, her ending will be the most satisfying of all.
All things considered, I’m still not ready to say goodbye, but saying goodbye under these circumstances is a fair compromise.