This blog post is for people who have been watching Season 5 of ‘Girls’ – it contains spoilers, obv.
It was fitting that Hannah found her creative spark at a club called The Moth, for this was a finale of transformations, or rather reversions back to a past self. For much of this fantastic season of ‘Girls’, Hannah has been cocooned: stagnating in a ‘normal’ job with a ‘normal’ boyfriend, and increasingly losing touch with the friends and passions that make her tick. So, for Hannah, now it is time to follow the glare of the light in an attempt at personal re-discovery.
Curiously, the episode begins and ends with Hannah running. In truth, the opening sequence is a little obvious, a horrible attempt at ’empowerment’, ‘thinspiration’ and other vom-inducing Zeitgeist-speak, painfully soundtracked by an unsubtle banger about being ‘on a mission’. For a show so wonderful in its ambiguity, this scene’s head-patting optimism was a misstep, and unfortunately it seeped into further scenes. As a finale, there is an unfortunate pressure to end on a high, but considering this season has all been about failure and being directionless, it did rather jar tonally.
The arrival of Hannah’s parents is always welcome, but they served solely to intravenously deliver the ‘feem’ of their daughter’s reinvention. Echoing Elijah’s solution to his problems from the last episode, Loreen and Tad take Hannah shopping for an outfit for her appearance at The Moth. Despite this heavy-handed approach, it was quite sweet watching both Mom and Dad nish-nish Hannah’s style choices (the latter has new-found fashion sense since his coming out).
Tad and Loreen are, of course, going through a transition of their own, and there was some lovely role-reversal stuff here as the older generation reclaimed their youth. I have often wondered about the significance of parental guidance (or lack of it) in ‘Girls’, and it was nice to see some solid parenting skillz from Tad in particular. When Elijah drunkenly turns up at Hannah’s apartment, shouting about washing his ass before finding her father, I thought we were in for an awkward fumble. What followed was touching: Elijah nestled in Tad’s chest like a surrogate son, bemoaning his bad fortune and concluding that he felt like ‘giving up’. Tad’s response, although self-involved (he is Hannah’s father, after all) was full of hopeful vigour: ‘I’m just getting started’. Similarly, later in the episode Elijah shares a beverage with Loreen, and she even admits (albeit jokingly) that Elijah would be her type, although perhaps deep down she’d prefer a gay son to a gay husband.
The Horvaths aren’t the only characters playing mommies and daddies here, as Adam and Jessa continue their rewiring job on baby Sample. Despite having watched two YouTube videos on motherhood, Jessa is unsurprisingly no natural, and Adam once again shows a brooding maturity that has seen him almost overtake Ray in my ‘Top Males of Girls’ mental list. This maturity is even more marked when compared to Jessa’s childish and calculated references to Hannah, which clearly irk Adam and form the foundation of the most explosive fight in the show so far. Here we don’t have so much of a transformation as a regression to aggression as, post the adulthood of babysitting Sample, Adam reminds us of the physical rage that we knew and loved (and feared) in earlier seasons.
Incidentally, ‘The Moth’ was a working title for ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, and in Adam’s tantrum he fully channels Stanley Kowalski in both his volume and desire to smash things. The fight is superbly directed by Jenni Konner, as the camera swings between Adam and Jessa as if we are a silent and awkward spectator to the chaos. Initially, Jessa’s ‘big arse and good hair’ (I’m pleased someone finally noted the buns, hun) aren’t enough to sooth The Incredible Sulk, who cannot comprehend the differences in male and female relationships. For Adam, Hannah can be cut off like any other ex-girlfriend (Mimi-Rose, or that alcoholic who got ejaculate on her back), but for Jessa ‘she will always come first’. This misunderstanding of emotional connection turns Adam into a pseudo-Jack Torrance figure, punching holes through doors while his partner hides in the bathroom. If the violence in this scene is shocking, then it is intensified by the language. Initially, Adam controls his expression, poetically describing Hannah as a ‘lazy, entitled, myopic narcissist’, but in anger our language becomes truly primal, and in the end Adam settles for something slightly more below-the-line, while simultaneously echoing the sentiments of the average ‘Girls’ viewer: ‘Hannah is a fucking bitch and a cunt’. Well, quite.
This is a frightening exchange full of base, carnal energy, but it is not without wit and beauty. In one scene, Ray confronts Desi about coming with him and Marnie on tour, noting that it shouldn’t be awkward because ‘we’re all adults’. We then cut to Adam turning his apartment upside down and destroying things like the Tasmanian Devil. Later in the episode, we see the aftermath of the fight, shot from overhead so that the true extent of the damage can be realised. Surrounded by mess and broken detritus, Adam and Jessa lie naked on the floor in a post-coital haze, wearied from their battle of words and eventually genitals. Evidently, Adam calmed down, bellowed ‘Jessss-aaaaaaaahhhhh!’ for the whole block to hear, and sunk to his knees, subservient once more to the drug that is dat ass, though.
It’s a stunning performance from both Adam Driver and Jemima Kirke, and its power makes the rather twee, fist-bumping climax somewhat pathetic. Of course, Hannah gets her storytelling moment at the Moth, tells a few bad jokes which liberal-types laugh at through a crushing fear of silence, and reveals that she overheard Adam and Jessa’s fight, realising at that point that she had to leave them out of her life. It’s a nice little twist, but Hannah’s final, supposedly uplifting epiphany seems to ignore that fact that this season she has been, well, a bit of a bitch and a cunt.
That said, through Konner’s unmoving camera, we can’t take our eyes off of Hannah, which is all very neat as Frankie Valli’s ‘I Love You Baby’ bursts onto the score. We are so used to hearing whispered soft-rock from unknown artists in ‘Girls’ that it’s lovely to hear something old, even if it is used with a painful irony: the song layers the aforementioned make-up sex, as well as a scene where Desi uses his celebrity to get sucked off by an adoring fan. In the final moments of the series, Hannah is running again. It’s not clear where, but this is a symbol of motivation after her increasing languidness, and seems to suggest some happy ending will await in the concluding season. As the frame freezes and fades to black, I could not help thinking of another famous freeze/fade character: Rocky Balboa. Perhaps coincidentally, Rocky also spends a lot of time running around a city, but crucially, the end of the first ‘Rocky’ does not end with a win, despite the optimism that surrounds it. It is important to remember that over the soaring strings and declarations of love, Rocky never actually won his first fight against Apollo Creed, and thus the film ends with a kind of misplaced jubilance. Regardless of whether or not Konner was referencing ‘Rocky’ in her final shot, the same can be said of ‘Girls’, which seems to conclude here (to finally echo Mr Valli) with a situation that is ‘too good to be true’.