The 'Girls' Finale Was Unconventional and Unsatisfying—but That's What Made It Perfect

Recapping the finale that wasn't.

Girls came to an end last night with a time jump, some long-awaited change, and loads of unanswered questions.

When we last saw Hannah, she had accepted the end of her time in New York City (and, along with it, many of her friendships), and moved upstate to become a professor of internet writing (as you do, in the Girls world at least). In many ways, the series' penultimate episode, "The Goodbye Tour," felt like a finale itself.

Series creator and star Lena Dunham said as much in a recent interview with Rolling Stone about the end of the show.

"We did it a little bit of a different way."

"We were obsessed with our finale and we talked a lot about other shows that we thought did it right, but we actually sort of purposely didn't model ours on anyone else's," she said. "The ninth episode of the season is sort of the more traditional finale, and then the 10th is almost like a short-film epilogue. We did it a little bit of a different way."

Dunham's assessment is spot on: The Girls finale feels very much like an epilogue. It opens with Hannah and Marnie in bed together—as it turns out, Marnie has broken into Hannah's new home because she's decided to help her raise the baby, because apparently everyone in Hannah's life wants to help raise the baby.

Marnie's reasons? She was living in her mom's home gym and her band is broken up and she's Hannah's best friend—or, at the very least, the best at being Hannah's friend, which she takes to be the same thing.

Marnie is desperate for meaning and purpose in her life. She feels like she's failed at everything (keeping an apartment, maintaining her bad, her marriage, her friendships), so she decides that Hannah and her baby will be that purpose. The shaky argument works on Hannah, who agrees, a little apathetically, to let Marnie stay and coparent her unborn child.

Cut to five months later: Hannah is a mom. Her son, Grover, could not be cuter. And Marnie is actually there for the ride and very much a hands-on presence in Grover's life. Hannah and Marnie bicker like coparents too, with Marnie gently admonishing Hannah's inability to breastfeed and Hannah overreacting to Marnie's innocuously annoying quirks like singing in the car.

She's Hannah's best friend—or, at the very least, the best at being Hannah's friend, which she takes to be the same thing.

Like always, the girls of Girls are playing at being grownups, like aliens acting out a play called Adulting. Hannah is overwrought and volatile and Marnie is reading All the Books and doing All the Things. But as annoyed as Hannah sometimes appears to be by Marnie's help, she lashes out when Marnie tries to have a life outside of their strange domestic bubble. When Marnie wants to go to a jazz trio and wine tasting (sure), Hannah can't deal.

So Marnie does exactly what you'd expect: She calls in an adultier adult for support. Hannah's mom arrives and tries to help, but her presence only pushes Hannah back into her role as the angry daughter. She complains that Grover's refusal to latch is proof that he hates her and when her mom tries to deliver some real talk, she melts down, striking as many verbal low blows as she can before storming out of the house to sulk.

During her walk, Hannah runs into a young girl who is fleeing, pantsless and shoeless, down the road. She seems like someone fleeing trauma and so Hannah, in her own very Hannah-esque way, tries to help. She has no phone on her, but offers to let the girl come to her house to call for help. She gives the girl her shoes and her jeans. She listens to her story.

And the story is not what Hannah guessed. The girl is running from her mother, who committed the unthinkable crime of asking her to finish her homework before going to hang out with her boyfriend. Hannah—growth moment—sides with the girl's mother and lectures her about how much her mom is sacrificing to make sure she has a good life. She demands that the girl return her pants. The girl does not return her pants. Hannah may not have gotten through to the angsty pantsless teen, but she gets through to herself: Being a mom is about sacrifice and putting your child first and then hugging them after they say they hate you.

Hannah may not have gotten through to the angsty pantsless teen, but she gets through to herself: Being a mom is about putting your child first and then hugging them after they say they hate you.

She walks home, followed most of the way by a friendly, concerned cop. He offers Hannah a ride and, when she refuses, he follows behind in his squad car because she is a woman walking alone at night without shoes or pants and making sure she gets home safely seems like the right thing to do. Fair enough, nameless cop. Fair enough.

Meanwhile, at home, Marnie and Hannah's mom talk about Marnie's future. She realizes it's time for her to move on with her actual life. Her top choice: Go to law school, not because she cares about the law, but because she loves "all the rules" it entails. This so perfectly sums up Marnie as a character that I wouldn't mind if that's what she went on to do (not that we'll ever know for sure unless Dunham and co. get the band back together for a Netflix reunion in 10 years—or a movie in the meantime).

Finally, Hannah makes it home safe with her unsolicited police escort. Now she's the pantsless and shoeless one, but that's so Hannah that Marnie and her mom don't even press the issue.

Almost as soon as Hannah sits down on the front porch, Grover cries and Marnie and Hannah's mom both jump to check on him, but Hannah tells them no, she's got it. She goes upstairs and tries, yet again, to breastfeed—and this time, Grover latches. Fade to black.

The implication is clear enough: Hannah has finally learned to put someone else above herself. She's growing up, changing from a girl into a woman—which, if this show has taught us anything, is not a biological shift but a mental one.

As for the future, there are still so many questions left unanswered. Some are intentional—what will Marnie do with her life? Is Hannah really ready to put Grover's wellbeing first? How will she handle being a truly single mom when Marnie and her mom leave?

Other lingering questions feel less intentional, the most glaring of which being how Hannah will approach raising a child of color, which is never acknowledged, let alone adequately addressed.

Girls has never been a show concerned with traditionally happy endings or tying up loose ends in a neat bow, and its finale is certainly no different. In a way, by being unconventional and not wholly satisfying, it's totally true to form.

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Weekend Editor at Cosmopolitan

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years of professional experience covering entertainment of all genres, from new movie and TV releases to nostalgia, and celebrity news. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.