March 23, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Girls”


In its 4th season, the geist of GIRLS no longer seemed to be hitting the zeit the way it used to.  Ratings were down, and so was the sense of buzz.  Some of that was simply the fact that shows of the moment don’t stay that way forever, and HBO didn’t help by giving the series no significant lead-in this time around.  There was also the possibility that auteur Lena Dunham, now author of a bestselling book and a recent guest star on Scandal, may have reached media saturation (Amy Schumer may be in the process of becoming the new take-me-as-I-am comedy It Girl, not coincidentally with the assistance of Girls Executive Producer Judd Apatow), and then there was Allison Williams’ ill-fated attempt to branch out as a live, musical Peter Pan.

However, this was also a different kind of season for Girls creatively.  There were hardly any scenes, let alone episodes, that let the major characters simply hang out together, and instead there were much more conventional story arcs for Hannah Horvath (Dunham) and her cohorts Marnie (Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).  Because of the emphasis on plotting, this season felt contrived in a more sit-commy way than previous stanzas.  The season began with the arc of Hannah Goes To Iowa, a move that didn’t work out well for the character or the show, as Hannah’s monstrous narcissism felt far more oppressive away from New York, a fact that the show was certainly aware of (it didn’t take long before Hannah was all but driven out of town by her fellow graduate writing students), but that it couldn’t make fun to watch.  After that, there was Adam Has A New Girlfriend, Marnie Gets Engaged, Hannah Becomes a Substitute Teacher, Ray Runs For Office, and not least, Hannah’s Father Is Gay.  Most of these events were ill-motivated, and they felt like ideas generated in a writers room, rather than arising from the characters.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Dunham, Apatow and co-showrunner Jenni Konner, and directed by Dunham, was equally plot-driven, if more balanced between the characters than the usual Hannah-centric episode.  It featured you-go-girl, Growing Up storylines that wouldn’t have been out of place on a broadcast network series, although Girls certainly gave them its own kind of spin.  There were a lot of familiar gags in the major story, in which Hannah was brought together with Adam (Adam Driver) and Jessa at the premature labor of Adam’s sister (and Hannah’s neighbor) Caroline (played with no shortage of candor by the genuinely very pregnant Gaby Hoffman), and by the time baby Jessa-Hannah had been safely delivered–in the hospital, at Jessa’s insistence over Caroline’s objections–the experience had given Jessa the inspiration to become a therapist, while Hannah found the strength to move on from Adam after he appealed to her to give them another chance.  In a “6 Months Later” epilogue that featured none of the other characters, we saw that Hannah was now in a relationship with her extremely level-headed fellow teacher Fran (Jake Lacy).  Meanwhile, Shoshanna passed on her (surprisingly) committed boyfriend Scott (Jason Ritter) to take a job in Japan, and Marnie, with some encouragement from Ray (Alex Karpovsky) got past her desertion by Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to sing solo at a showcase.

Much of this was abrupt and not terribly convincing, but it was enjoyable enough to watch.  Along with the general snap of the writing and the fine performances of the leads, Girls has always been a magnet for stellar guest stars, and this episode featured not just Hoffman, Ritter and Lacy, but Aidy Bryant from SNL, Colin Quinn, Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker, and Spike Jonze (as the head of Marnie and Desi’s record label), in a season that had also included Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Quinto, Marin Ireland, Mark Maron, Natalie Morales, and Natasha Lyonne, among others.  Girls may have been smoother this season than ever before, but it also lacked some of its previous soul.  Unlike its Sunday night HBO partners Togetherness and Looking, it felt concerned with hitting its marks rather than behavioral detail.

Girls has already been renewed for next season, and one wonders where it’s planning to go.  Since the epilogue already moved the action forward by 6 months, a time gap seems to be coming, with the possibility that all of the main characters will be in different places when we meet them again.  So may the series itself, and the question will be whether it will settle into its own predictable sort of TV dramedy or return to its rougher roots.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."