Dearest Lili, Phil, and Evan,
Apologies for the long silence–my excuse for it isn’t sufficient, though it might seen rather appropriate. I’m currently moving out of the Greenpoint apartment I’ve been subletting these past two months. Early tomorrow morning I’ll be travelling by subway (hopefully in the right direction) to JFK, and then some.
Endings are by nature more difficult than beginnings, which, really, could start anywhere. Beginnings (like pilots) promise expansion, evolution, revision; they’re a glimpse into what is possible. The answers to what is possible—to what is even simply likely—falls upon endings. So. . .the finale to the first season of Girls happened. It did! As the episode title says, “She Did.” Jessa married Thomas-John. It might not have seemed likely—especially from the vantage of episode one—but it certainly doesn’t lie outside what is possible in the world of Hannah Horvath.
There’s a reason endings are so often spoken of in terms of consummation and satisfaction. Novelistic endings, as David Haglund points out, end with either a death or a marriage—and often both. Against the traditional marriage ending, however, Dunham’s show is again off-model. If Girls contends with what happens to youth after college, it’s now also engaging with what occurs after their weddings; two realms The Graduate approached, but never entered. As I’ve said before, Girls begins where that film ended. She did. Now what?
Marriages are normalizing acts—they civilize and socialize. As the most unconventional girl in Girls, Jessa has suddenly become the most traditional. As the most unpredictable, she has to some extent satisfied our first impressions from the pilot. Except, the classic marriage ending comes part and parcel with a marriage plot: an entire narrative that leads up to the “she did.” By the time she does, readers are supposed to understand why. Jessa’s entrance into the world of legal domestic companionship happens too fast and, more importantly, too soon for these girls. What one can sympathize with from this twist ending is how especially bizarre it must also seem to Hannah’s aspiring New York cohort. Shoshanna is rightly upset to watch this all fly, quite incomprehensibly, by her. Jessa’s wedding comes as a surprise—a “mystery party”—that leaves viewers with a sense of unease. Is this the ending we “deserve,” or expected? There are things to solve here, and I’m, at least, compelled to tune in next season to make sense of what we’ve been left with.
A mystery can turn horrific quite quickly, but as we’ve rehearsed here, things are never truly threatening—only elegiac at worst—in Girls. Hannah gets robbed on the subway home—which she gets on heading in the wrong direction. (The other Carrie I’m reminded of here is Dreiser’s, which also offers its own twist on the marriage ending.) Hannah herself, though, is left unharmed (still armed with cake!), ready to translate this mishap into worthy memoir material. Upon exiting the F, she doesn’t look for a map nor even so much as glance at a sign. Instead, she shouts to a group of girls: “Where am I?” Their response—“Heaven”—doesn’t satisfy, because this episode is not about to end with death. Hannah doesn’t want Heaven, and for the moment she doesn’t even yearn for home. Rather than retracing her steps by getting on the subway heading back, Hannah walks toward a beach.
Growing up no longer culminates in a wedding. More often, it happens quietly. Sometimes you’re by yourself. You might not be aware of growth as it occurs. You might even be eating.