There was a time when it seemed like the most controversial thing to appear on television happened to be the latest episode of Girls. The series garnered plenty of acclaim to offset some of the other, let’s say, less positive reactions it garnered telling the ongoing story of Lena Dunham’s onscreen alter ego Hannah Horvath and her small group of friends, but for whatever reason, the series, and especially its creator, reliably garnered more than their fair share of the vitriol the internet has come to be a specialized dealer of.
The series seemed to get off on the wrong foot with a contingent of viewers who, perhaps understandably, felt the “I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at a voice of a generation” line used in the marketing of the show should have been the show, and not a joke or the ramblings of one of the most (comically) self-absorbed characters ever created on television. Despite its acclaim and just how frequently it approached greatness – with episodes like ‘One Man’s Trash’, ‘Panic in Central Park’ and ‘American Bitch‘ – there are a myriad of other reasons why viewers were turned off by the show. Over the course of its run, Girls directly and indirectly addressed the question of its characters’ likability, and it did so to great effect throughout the final season, handing out endings for the likes of Jessa, Shoshanna, Adam, Elijah, and Ray, without necessarily attempting to resolve their story or fix these flawed twentysomethings for the sake of a conventional ending. And while Girls made no qualms about letting go of its main characters one by one – often in emotionally fulfilling but unsentimental ways – there was a hint that, in the finale, the show’s creators still had something to say about that premiere.
‘Latched’ concerns Hannah’s rocky first steps toward becoming a single mother – albeit one with an aimless Marnie in tow. After a brief opening that establishes why Marnie is living with Hannah and helping raise her child, the episode takes a small leap forward in time, jumping well past the birth of Hannah’s son Grover to examine her life away from New York and all that she thought she knew and wanted. It’s a smart choice in a final episode that makes several of them, but mostly because Girls always seems to tell more memorable, personal stories when it gets away from New York City. But it also affords the finale a chance to focus the entirety of its energies on Hannah coming to terms with a very important relationship that has gotten off to a very rocky start.
Hannah is having a hard time getting Grover to breastfeed. Since the episode begins with Hannah as roughly the same Hannah she’s been throughout the entire series – the one who seems to move from failure to failure without really changing, or at least changes in extreme fits and starts – she naturally and hilariously takes this as a deep, personal rejection. And as such, the entire episode becomes about Hannah’s extreme narcissism and how, through a quick succession of encounters – either with Marnie or her mother Loreen (Becky Ann Baker) or a self-absorbed young girl fighting with her mother and running away from home without pants or shoes on – she comes to a silent realization that her behavioral instincts can no longer be her norm.
The episode is peppered with terrific moments that help underline (for the umpteenth time) who Hannah is and, despite coming into her own as a writer – at least well enough to land a teaching gig at a university that also earned the series some internet ire – how far it sometimes seems she is from becoming a successful adult. But because the series has successfully whittled down the stories the finale needs to tell to those of Hannah, Marnie, and Loreen – but really just Hannah – ‘Latched’ is free to nudge her into a successful adulthood at its own pace. That means there’s time for Marnie to get caught in the midst of some very specific role-play while having phone sex with a personal trainer, and for Loreen to convey to her daughter that nothing turns out the way you expected, much less hoped. More importantly, there’s also time for Loreen to have a one-on-one chat with Marnie, comparing her long and now-ended marriage to Hannahs’ father to the not-quite-working scenario going on in upstate New York between Hannah and Marnie.
Loreen and Marnie’s interaction helps round out both their stories in a way that also helps to bolster Hannah’s. So much of the episode is about Hannah coming to grips with the choice she’s made and about being okay with where she is at this point in her life – one that, unlike so many others she’s made throughout the course of the series, is irrevocable – that it’s impossible to think she would ever not take Marnie up on her offer. As the final season demonstrated, sooner or later it was just going to be Hannah and Grover. What’s nice about ‘Latched’ is that it finds a way to reach that conclusion with coming out and saying it, and without necessarily blowing up another pair of relationships in Hannah’s life in order to get her there. Hannah’s relationships with her mother and with Marnie will survive this latest outburst.
As important as Hannah’s last two remaining relationships are that’s only part of what ‘Latched’ is working toward. By the time Hannah comes home from her little excursion it’s clear she has already had her moment, she reached her turning point, and that it came as she chastised the young girl she’d mistakenly believed was the victim of some form of abuse. It’s not a complete transformation – Hannah does, after all, arrive home without pants and with a police escort – but her moment with Grover in the series’ final seconds feels like a conclusion the character ought to have, that it is of a piece with where not only the episode was headed but the series as a whole.
Girls got off on the wrong foot with some of its audience, which painted this funny, intimate coming-of-age story in an unusually divisive light for most of its six-season run. But in its depiction of Hannah erratically finding her way into adulthood, the series found a fitting way bring both stories to a close.
Girls seasons 1-6 are available on HBO Go and HBO Now.