“Every time you say nipple a fairy dies.”
If there is one overarching question that has underpinned the entire six-year run of Girls, it has to be: When do you finally grow up? And any real fan of the series had to have known that the final episode was never going to offer a neat, definitive answer. As divisive as it can be with its narrow representation of race and class, Girls has undoubtedly been an important show for young women, frankly discussing sexuality and showcasing female nudity outside of the male gaze. Being the age that Hannah was when the series first began, I feel like I have grown up with Girls, yet knowing that it is ending at the right time makes it much easier to say goodbye.
‘Latching’ opens with a shot of Marnie spooning Hannah, mirroring the opening shot of the pilot and every season premiere that followed – a perfect bookend for the final episode. Following Hannah’s move upstate, Marnie manages to successfully do what Adam couldn’t; pledge herself to Hannah and her baby. As Marnie points out, Elijah and Jessa aren’t anywhere in sight and Shoshanna has effectively severed ties with everyone, so who else is going to devote their life to her? Directing all of her energy on one person to avoid moving forward in her own life is a classic Marnie move, and Hannah doesn’t even try to fight her on it.
The episode then jumps ahead five months with Hannah and Marnie co-parenting Grover (a Muppets-inspired name that weirdly grew on me) and behaving like a sour, resentful couple. These two have always squabbled before, but Hannah’s resentment toward Marnie simmers underneath their every exchange, most notably when Marnie tries to dictate how Hannah should be breastfeeding. Hannah’s struggle to breastfeed is indicative of a larger issue – her feelings of inadequacy as a parent. Seeing Marnie navigate parenting Grover with such ease makes Hannah bitter toward Marnie, yet simultaneously more dependent on her. It’s Dunham’s small physical touches that sell it best; a scoff or the roll of her eyes when Marnie gives Grover a cutesy nickname and refers to herself as “Aunt Marnie”.
The final appearance of Becky Ann Baker as Loreen is a welcome reprieve from the well-trotted Hannah and Marnie tension. Hannah, who is predisposed to jump to the worst possible explanation, interprets Grover’s reluctance to breastfeed as her son hating her, reinforcing the idea that her kid would be better off with Aunt Marnie as his mother. Loreen aptly calls bullshit on Hannah’s dramatisation, reminding her that she can’t renege on her decision to have her baby; “Your son is not a temp job”. Hannah reacts by storming out of the house and leaving Marnie and her mother to take care of Grover while she roams the neighbourhood.
Keeping in conjunction with the overall tone of Girls, the series finale doesn’t offer any real resolution for Marnie. What she’s doing for Hannah is noble, sure, but Marnie declaring to Loreen that “It’s not my time” is further proof that she’s using Hannah and Grover as a placeholder until she finally figures out what to do with her life. Marnie’s storylines have often been the most frustrating of the series, as her character is most guilty of the ‘one step forward, three steps back’ manoeuvre, so it’s hard not to feel a little cheated as a viewer that she never truly found her place or became more self-aware. Yet, even with the frequent arguing and passive aggression, this final season has reassured us that Hannah and Marnie will always be in each other’s lives, so that’s something at least.
When Hannah takes to the streets to cool off she encounters a crying teenage girl, sans shoes and pants. Hannah tries to comfort her, even taking off her own pants and shoes for her to wear and offering her house for the girl to contact her boyfriend. However, she comes to immediately regret this act of surprisingly maternal kindness when the girl admits that she ran away from home because her mother wanted her to finish her homework. Hannah’s reaction is priceless and Lena Dunham gets one final chance to explode into a hilarious diatribe as she berates the girl for her insensitivity toward her mother, “She’ll take care of you forever, even if it means endless, endless pain.” It’s the exact role reversal that Hannah needs to acknowledge that a mother makes sacrifices because they love their kid; just as hers did and just as she will. Hannah trudges back home and joins Marnie and her mother on her front porch. Seeing Hannah flanked by the two women that have been her primary support system for years is a lovely, understated moment. The episode closes with a final shot of Hannah breastfeeding her son, closer to adulthood than ever before.
Hannah’s pregnancy propelled the final season of Girls and it makes sense that the last episode be stripped back and devoid of the larger cast of characters. ‘Goodbye Tour’ served as a more fitting end to the series and characters like Elijah, Jessa and Shoshanna, but ‘Latching’ is a lovely epilogue for Hannah. It isn’t a series best, but the episode is filled with some killer lines (“I don’t know when my vagina and my butthole are going to feel like two separate entities again, but I am really looking forward to it.”) and some great visual gags, like Hannah’s breastmilk-pumping crop-top – another brilliantly terrible sartorial choice that is sure to rank amongst her worst. Season five was a creative highpoint for Girls and season six never quite reached the same level of consistency and hilarity. That said, the writers and cast have churned out some truly stellar episodes like ‘American Bitch’ and ‘What Will We Do This Time About Adam?’ that will no doubt be remembered fondly as some of the series’ best. There have been so few television shows that have affected me quite the way Girls has and these six years have been a heartbreaking, infuriating, delightful ride.
Episode Rating: 7/10
Season 6 Rating: 7/10