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The End of an Era

On ‘Girls,’ Hannah prepares to leave behind her life in New York City

Miranda Cooper
April 10, 2017
Mark Schafer
Mark Schafer
Mark Schafer
Mark Schafer

On the penultimate episode of Girls, more change is afoot for Hannah. As the episode opens, we see her walking through a picturesque campus. Turns out it’s a college upstate, where she’s applying for a job teaching students to write “for the Internet,” as part of the department’s attempt to remain edgy and relevant. We can cross off a few more squares of this season’s Jewish Writer Bingo in this episode: The department head who interviews Hannah recounts an anecdote about the time that Norman Mailer…uh, Norman Mailer’s friend Jeff… hit on her. And later in the episode, Hannah has a flirtatious subway encounter with an attractive man reading Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. She asks if it’s good, and he replies that it’s OK. But when they arrive at their shared stop and she stands up, revealing her growing belly, and their spark is immediately extinguished (he calls her “ma’am,” and she calls him out), I wasn’t too disappointed. Hannah deserves a guy who realizes that Chabon’s debut novel is wonderful, not just OK.

Hannah gets the professor job, leaving us all wondering how exactly she’s qualified for such a thing. So Hannah is leaving New York, and thus sets out on her “Goodbye Tour” of the city she’s called home for the entire series. It makes sense: For Hannah, New York is synonymous with unproductivity and anxiety and youthful indiscretion and floundering. She’ll soon have a child to raise, and it’s time to move on.

Elijah, who has finally gotten the role in the White Men Can’t Jump musical, mourns Hannah’s departure, and we are privy to an improbably touching moment as they lie in bed in their separate rooms and Elijah sings her a Demi Lovato song. Elijah and Hannah’s friendship was surprisingly free of angst and ugliness, and Hannah will surely miss having him around.

Not so for Hannah’s relationship with the show’s other three “girls.” Hannah has been trying to get in touch with Marnie for advice about whether to move upstate, but Marnie keeps ignoring her calls. After leaving her several voicemails, Hannah tries Shoshanna, who won’t pick up, either. For a moment, I wondered if she’d call Jessa next—perhaps Hannah thought about it too.

Soon enough, though, they’re all together again. Hannah, desperate for advice from her female friends, shows up at Shoshanna’s apartment, and inadvertently stumbles upon the reason no one has been answering her calls: Shoshanna is having a party, to which Hannah wasn’t invited, and Marnie didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so she avoided her altogether. It’s not just any party, either—it’s Shoshanna’s engagement party, celebrating her union with Byron Long, whom she met at a Sprinkles cupcake ATM. Shoshanna is moving forward with her life, and Hannah has no part in it; all the more reason for her to leave New York.

At Marnie’s insistence, the four girls gather in the bathroom in the middle of the party: it’s time to discuss the State of the Friendship, and it’s the first time they’ve all appeared onscreen together this season. Shoshanna’s indictment of the friendship—that they’re all poisonous for each other—is ruthless, but not too far off base. The answer to what happened to their friendship and whether it can be salvaged is all too apparent in the way they attempt to salvage it: each prioritizes her own grievances. Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and even Shoshanna encourage narcissism in one another.

Yet among the four girls, it is the pairing with the most painful history—Hannah and Jessa—that is destined to find some redemption. Following the ill-fated bathroom meeting, the two share a heartfelt apology. Hannah concedes that she’s not even sure who needs to be apologizing at this point, and that it doesn’t really matter. They decide to enjoy the rest of the party together. It’s a moment of maturity and selflessness that in some ways is a response to Shoshanna’s conclusion in the bathroom.

There is something bittersweet in Hannah and Jessa’s rapprochement. It’s not that their reconciliation is impermanent; it’s just that Hannah is moving on from New York and from all of this. Her decision to start a new chapter in her life has been vindicated by the realization that the dynamic between herself, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa is not sustainable for an adult life. Perhaps she and Jessa missed out on a friendship that could have had some happiness left in it, but it’s likely too late for that now.

As I watched Hannah move into her new upstate house, where she will raise her son, I had a moment of deja vu. The image of the bright, spacious new living space is reminiscent of when she moved to Iowa for the Writers’ Workshop in Season 4. Once again, she’s leaving New York in the hopes of pursuing something other than her frenzied freelance lifestyle, in a place where the fresh air is plentiful and the rent is cheap. But unlike with that move, there’s a sense that now, it’s for good—and good for Hannah. Hannah’s friendships have run their course; she is content being single; she’s ready to leave Brooklyn behind. She has, it seems, grown up. How else could Girls end?

Miranda Cooper is an editorial intern at Tablet. Follow her on Twitter here.