‘Girls’ Recap: Champagne For My Real Friends
Is this the goodbye these guys deserved?
Neglected friendships are like Schrodinger’s cat: until you check in, they exist as both dead and alive. Then you run into the person on the street or call them for a work thing, and end up talking for hours; or you suddenly scroll through their wedding pictures on your feed or discover they were in town and didn’t even invite you to the obligatory group hang at the pub.
Or, if you’re Hannah, you go to see them when you’re feeling lost and indecisive and end up crashing their engagement party, to which you were not even invited.
This is a classic Hannah move, beautifully foreshadowed by her unsolicited advice to the students at the beginning to, ahem, not neglect your friendships. (Someone a little more self-aware would probably be horrified at herself for falling into the late-twenties trap of giving sanctimonious life tips to nonplussed 19-year-olds. Don’t do it. You’ll feel immediately middle-aged and they will make fun of you as you leave.) When she finds Shosh’s number isn’t working, she doesn’t think to herself “Hmmm, when was the last time I actually saw Shoshanna? Oh shit, I never actually called her up and said ‘Hey girl, I’m having a baby’!” She goes right over there and is crisply informed by the newly engaged Shosh that the cat of friendship is, in this case, definitely dead from neglect.
Sidebar: beyond the first season’s famous Twitter moment, does Hannah genuinely not do social media at all? It seems plausible, and the girls’ relationships with technology haven’t exactly been explored in the show (with the exception of Hannah Writing For The Internet;. Shosh and Marnie would definitely be committed Instagram users, Jessa probably never even bothered with Facebook at all. You have to be pretty detached from someone for their engagement not to even pop up on your news feed.
Even as we’ve been wondering where Shosh is, Girls was actually stealthily telling the story of Hannah’s own neglect of her former friend. Though again, how close were they ever really? She did, at least initially, just seem to be attracted to the idea of having cool friends in New York like in Sex and the City, rather than actually being intimately connected to these people.
It’s not outlined just how long Shosh and Byron have been together, but it can’t be more than a few months. Hannah is maybe seven months or so along, and if Shosh had a boyfriend at the women’s networking event she would have mentioned it; it was probably before she watched her ex connect with someone she introduced him to, but maybe that and the frustration from the WYMEN night combined into a renewed determination to go and get the life she always wanted. Also, it’s perfect for her to have met her fiancé at a cupcake vending machine: trendy, irritating, secretly kind of genius. A literal meet cute.
Another sidebar, because there’s so much to wrap up here: I didn’t mention the Ray and Abigail plotline from last week as I was focused on Adam and Hannah, but I am both pleased for Old Man Ray and deeply bemused at how Abigail went from the sociopathic accessories mogul we first met who fired someone for having mental illness to the beatific pixie dream girl who helped Ray unlock his inner urban documentarian. Full marks for that deeply awkward merry-go-round pash, half marks for consistency.
At any rate, this is the last time we’ll see Shoshanna, and what better way for her to go out than with one of her patented truth-bomb monologues? Referring to how her friends are pretty isn’t necessarily a jab at the other three or a shallow assessment of how picture-perfect her life is now — perhaps she just loves her new friends and thinks they are beautiful. But it’s telling that Marnie, who Shosh once sat on and screamed at in frustration, is there looking polished and dancing in a gaggle of handsome boys, and her awkward, cantankerous older ex and as far as we know, only real friend isn’t there at all.
Shosh and Marnie both have a tendency towards being slightly performative in their female friendships, because the idea of having Girlfriends is important to their self-image. It’s evident in Marnie’s picture-perfect beach getaway and even her call for a “group meeting” in this episode, as though that “group” is a thing at all. In fact, Lena Dunham told Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall the four have only been seen together 12 times in the whole series.
Also, it can simultaneously be true that the group’s dynamic is “exhausting and narcissistic and ultimately boring” and that Shosh — despite being smart and driven and valuing herself — is also shallow, in a totally forgivable way. If Shoshanna derives more fulfilment from having conventionally attractive friends with nice handbags and a tall, kind, milquetoast fiancé than from bagging Paul Krugman with Ray over coffee, that’s her jam. In her own way, she’s living her truth.
As is Jessa, who’s finally realised that maybe she shouldn’t be a psychologist, and seems chastened enough by her recent epiphanies that she’s willing to do some real work on herself. Jemima Kirke and Dunham do a beautiful job of making their reconciliation (of sorts) feel earned. Kirke has always given the impression that she’s playing a sort of darkest-timeline version of herself, but it works — especially in a scene like this, when both actors are likely drawing on their feelings about their long, real-life friendship and the end of the show.
And if this is the last time we’ll see Elijah, we probably couldn’t have asked for a more apt farewell than his haunting lullaby version of ‘Cool For The Summer’ and a glorious I’m-off-to-be-on-Broadway exit speech that ended with him gleefully calling the group meeting attendees “feckless whores”. It feels like it should be greeted by a studio audience whooping and applauding wildly.
It’s not the last we’ll see of Marnie, apparently, and next week’s finale is titled ‘Latching’ — presumably a reference to breastfeeding. With Hannah happily settled in her new house near her new job, all that’s left is for her son to be born. I could try and unpack the significance of the show’s choice of sex for the baby, but the more poignant note might be Jessa’s assumption — and Hannah’s — that she would be having a girl, as though the concept of a boy was totally alien or at least not as likely. It feels as though the reality of having and raising a child — a son, a boy, not just “a baby” — is still sinking in. (Not that the gender of a newborn defines who it’s going to be or anything, but it’s one more piece of information about this mystery entity that’s about to take over her life.)
The promos for the finale don’t give much away, being mostly flashbacks, but there’s a clip of Marnie’s line from several seasons ago: “I just want someone to tell me ‘this is what the rest of your life should look like’.” Having a child is both a clearly defined life phase and a terrifying journey into mystery, where you sort of know what your life is going to look like, and also have no idea at all. The only clips of the finale are of Hannah looking dejected and her mother reminding her she can’t take back her choice to have the kid, “and it’s forever”.
No doubt there are some stark, horrifying revelations about episiotomies in store for us, as Girls already has one hell of a birth episode to top. But at the moment, Hannah looks content to be starting a new life, having emotionally squared away her old one as well she could have hoped.
Girls is on Showcase at 8.30pm Wednesday nights and available to stream on Foxtel Play.