The sixth premiere of “Girls” started off its final season on Sunday with a special 40 minute episode and guest appearance from Riz Ahmed. The episode reaffirms exactly what we’ve known for the past five seasons: that these characters are, well, girls. This first episode focuses mostly on Hannah’s story, and a little on Marnie’s—a continuation of a stylistic change we saw last season in which the friends spend most of their time away from each other.
Hannah starts off the episode with relative professional success, a Modern Love column resulting in a paid writing assignment from a magazine. She is expected to write about a surf camp in Montauk but she Hannahs the opportunity in about half a day by immediately hating the entire experience and functionally abandoning the project to hook up with the camp counselor and “find herself.” Again.
Marnie assures her steady boyfriend, Ray, that she loves spending time with him and wants to do it more. She just wants some of the time they spend together to be… apart. She is after all, she says, going through a divorce that she should focus on—an experience minimized by the unfathomably shallow marriage she started with and her unbeatable desire to dramatize everything that happens in the world ever. Plus, while she and Ray are having their apart time, she makes out with Desi, her soon-to-be ex husband.
Jessa and Adam are as they tend to be—naked, yelling, making others uncomfortable in a charming sort of way. And we don’t have much of Shosh’s story yet, but she’s at least back from Japan and comfortable with her ex boyfriend and now-friend, Ray, moving in with her. They brazenly joke over morning coffee about the uninventive quality of Paul Krugman’s New York Times columns. Aren’t they so cool and well-read?
It has been said that keeping the girls apart on screen somehow emulates the experience of growing older as they focus more on developing themselves into women. I could maybe get on board with this idea if the characters actually developed. Focusing on themselves has never been something with which they’ve struggled. And the more they do it, the less they seem to be capable of growing up.
In previous seasons we saw the girls be dramatic and self destructive over and over again in all kinds of new scenarios. In this season premiere we have more of the same and we even have it in previously-explored plot lines. We have already seen Hannah hook up with a camp counselor and feel free while dancing provocatively in a club. We have already seen Marnie cheat on her S.O. and give up something serious just as soon as it starts. We have already seen Ray and Shosh be buddy-buddy while Jessa and Adam are just naked-naked only for the sake of provocateur.
What’s also not new is Hannah’s self-awareness about all their insufferable qualities. She says in her interview with the magazine editor, “And the other thing about me is like, I give zero fucks about anything, yet I have a strong opinion about everything, even topics I’m not informed on.” And on the beach with her hot fling,
“Yeah but like, all my friends in New York define themselves by like what they hate. Like, I don’t even know what any of my friends like. I just know what they don’t like. God that’s so crazy, it’s like everyone’s so busy chasing success and like defining themselves, they can’t even experience pleasure.”
This is not new information—to Hannah or to the audience—though it is portrayed as some kind of monumental breakthrough. The continually frustrating world of “Girls” is one where the characters seem to know how awful they are but they don’t know how (or don’t want) to change, even as they are busy “developing” themselves.
Perhaps this is the beginning of why “Girls” perseveres as a show that is so easy to hate and yet impossible to ignore. As a white millennial female living in Brooklyn, I can affirm that these characters are at least true to their form. None of us want to admit how many times a day we, too, are Hannah-ing. We tend to be found defining ourselves by what we hate, never understanding how much we have, and mistaking benign self-awareness for some kind of redemptive progress. It’s not fun to watch on television and it’s even less fun to confront in oneself. “Girls” continues as an awfully revealing mirror that we can’t look away from.
Will the girls, again, in their final season, remain the same as they ever were? (Will we?) I sure hope not.
In the last scene of this episode, Hannah leans back against her temporary beau, beside a campfire, and loses herself in a moment of pure, peaceful bliss. But just before the credits, a look of stale comprehension washes over her: this is not reality. She has an article to write, she has bills to pay, she has a whole life in New York and a journey of self-development that she still needs to embark upon. So do we, Hannah. So do we.
For some hints about what to expect in the final season of “Girls,” visit here.
Stay tuned for future recaps of episodes in the final season.