Three episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Through thick and thin, I’ve remained a fervent fan of HBO’s Girls. For the most part, at least. Multiple thinkpieces be damned, Lena Dunham’s intensely isolated, self-conscious, neurotic, fearless, daring and frequently self-aware, half-hour dramedy remains one of the most biting, confident, audacious and frequently infrequent programs to air on TV this decade.
As intentionally risky as it’s often delightfully/squeamishly/frustratingly uncomfortable, Dunham’s boundary-pushing television debut wasn’t necessarily the “voice of a generation” she once promised, but her intense commitment to sexual honesty, scathing social satire, typically aggravating protagonists and relentless nudity — usually from the actress/writer/director/creator herself — made Girls such an uncompromising, unforgettable triumph in bittersweet millennial mockery for our misguided, self-involved generation. Those muddled feelings come with a petty vengeance in this newest, final sixth season, which might become the boldest and bravest to date.
After years of bitter rejection, social embarrassment, job failures, unsuccessful scholarships, wrongheaded inhabitations, friendship dilemmas, family crises and relationship melodrama, amongst other misgivings, Hannah Horvath (Dunham) finally finds some success. Translating the painful revelation that her best friend Jessa (Jemima Kirke) began dating her long-term on-again/off-again boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) into a quirky op-ed piece, appropriately titled “Losing My Best Friend to My Ex-Boyfriend,” Hannah gets accepted into the New York Times, where her well-received printed words provides more writing opportunities. Among those golden privileges is an all expenses paid beach trip to an exclusive surf camp, where Hannah meets the dreamy, endlessly cool-headed surfer Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed). Sparks soon drunkenly fly during their ocean-side misadventures.
Meanwhile, in the big city, everyone’s miserable. Marnie (Allison Williams) continues sleeping with the pessimistic intellectual Ray (Alex Karpovsky) while her divorce gets finalized, but the earnest musician can’t resist the befuddled would-be charm of her egregiously self-righteous failed singer/songwriter former lover Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). They rekindle their relationship, though only in secret, but everyone knows, and they know it’s going to lead to more terribleness.
Elsewhere, the growingly-mindful Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) continues struggling to find her place in this messed-up little world, notably away from the comforts of Japan, and Elijah (Andrew Rannells) finds himself in the middle, providing all the gay sass and snappy remarks he can muster into each frame. Bless him dearly.
Smarter, stronger, more confident, more poised, more introspective and more brazened than before, Dunham’s final season promises an explosively dramatic, intelligently thematic conclusion. Never shying away from the show’s infamously casual sexuality, frank talk, weird fashion choices (when they wear clothes at all, of course), witty on-the-nose cultural commentary, tender feelings and ruthlessly insults, Girls doesn’t intend to end on a whimper. Oh no. Girls is going to end loud.
Indeed, this NYC-centered trendsetter, once under the unmistakable shadow of Sex and the City, continues to finds its own voice amidst endless controversy and thousands of cultural criticisms. Dunham’s ferociously steadfast vision and sparklingly independent voice are sharper, timelier, shrewder and more consistently inconsistent in their execution. If there were any doubts, Girls will end on its own terms. Whether it sticks the landing or fails miserably remains unclear, though.
The intentional messiness of Girls means Dunham and her team have their work cut out for them as they come up with a conclusion satisfying enough to end their unconventional series. Purposely (and effortlessly) more mature and honest with itself than ever, Dunham approaches her swan song season with a heavy heart and level-headed intelligence. These characters don’t necessarily deserve happy endings, but they don’t deserve to stay permanently disgruntled, either.
Their lives are unsteadily unanchored and typically chaotic, but most of them finally understand what they want in life. There’s plenty of drama to be found in constant shouting, bickering, fighting and attacking one another, and that darkness and moodiness will find some viewers more twitchy than before. No matter. Girls won’t end with anything close to resembling safe in its last round.
Hannah’s last hurrah gets more screen time than anyone else in this final season, and that might bother more than a few viewers. Though Dunham’s lead character was always the primary focus, she became a mere fraction of the ensemble as it competently, compassionately explored the lives surrounding her. Though the other guys and girls in Girls were just as troubled as Hannah, their conflicts would typically be pushed aside in favor of her woes, and that’s truer than ever with these first few episodes. But that’s not a bad thing. Not completely, at least. Episode three, for instance, is quite possibly one of Girls‘ finest half-hours, as the lead figurehead, once again, finds herself the sole focus, going tete-a-tete with Matthew Rhys’ marvelous guest star appearance.
This brave episode, titled “American Bitch,” is surely set to become the centerpiece of multiple upcoming thinkpieces, and without delving into spoilers, that only makes it better. Girls is anything but tepid in its lewd, crude and deeply unrestrained convictions. Similarly, Dunham is anything but fearful towards the public’s response. Moreso than ever before, Dunham doesn’t really give a fuck what her haters have to say. She’s doing it her way, and that’s all for the best by now.
As always, however, Girls is littered with problems. In Dunham’s attempt to bring closure to these varied characters, some supporting personalities regress back to their stereotypes for quick jokes or overly-cleaned subplots. That’s to be expected, though. Dunham needs closure, and while that’s certainly not going to come easily, it’s going to come all the same — in one way or another.
This is the end for Girls, whether we like it, love it or hate it. Expect drama. Expect painful revelations. Expect uncomfortable moments. Expect life lessons learned begrudgingly. They’re already found throughout these first three episodes, and they’ll surely be seen in the final seven. There are so many emotions laid bare here. Be prepared for it all, because it gets real.
It’s still too early to determine whether or not Dunham and her team justifiably find resolve and meaningful departure for these wayward characters, but these early episodes bring promise, faith, assurance, dependence and sometimes excellence. The characters in Girls are still figuring out their lives, but Dunham is more in control than ever. Here’s hoping they find an ending that’s endearingly messy enough to wrap up this much talked about series with a much-needed win.
Lena Dunham's continuously uncompromising HBO series, Girls, remains intelligent, character-focused, fearless, relentless, unwavering, knowingly aggravating and heavily emotional in its highly dramatic, sure to be controversial final season.