Last week’s episode felt like a finale. There, we saw the titular girls gathered in a bathroom, fighting it out one last time. There, Jessa and Hannah — two characters who started out as loving best friends and became bitter enemies by the show’s sixth season — tearfully made up. There, they all ended up dancing, joyful and carefree and together. Later, Hannah moved to upstate New York, away from them but content in her new life. It was lovely, the kind of episode that makes you feel warm and sad and hopeful and scared all at once. Everything worked out, didn’t it?
Everything doesn’t work out, though, something Girls has been trying to show its viewers from the very beginning. So of course it didn’t end with that episode; of course it ended with one that felt fairly emotionless in comparison to the penultimate half-hour. Instead, it wrapped up Hannah’s story with a quiet episode filled with moments of realistic, mundane messiness, and, to balance it out, subtle triumphs — not the kind scored by soaring pop songs, but triumphs nonetheless.
It starts with Hannah waking up to Marnie spooning her. They’re in the same position they were six seasons ago, when this all began. As Marnie soon points out, she’s the one who’s still there. “I’m the best at being your friend,” she tells Hannah as she proposes moving in with her and helping her raise the baby. “I love you the most.” Despite the similarities between Marnie’s proposal and Adam’s, Hannah is sold. She knows she could use the help, so she takes it.
Five months later, she’s at the doctor with Baby Grover — yes, she took Paul-Louis’ name suggestion — talking about how he’s not latching. This becomes the episode’s central conflict: He refuses to breastfeed, and it’s making Hannah feel like he hates her. This results in some silly sequences, like when she has one-sided conversations with her little son about how he won’t latch (for example, she calls him unoriginal for rejecting her boobs) or when Marnie instructs her to fold her nipple like an envelope. But it’s also weighing heavily on Hannah — all of this is.
At first, Marnie seems to be loving her new role as Aunt Marnie. She’s constantly doting on Grover and giving Hannah optimism, even and especially when she doesn’t want it. Then one night, as the two are sitting in front of a TV playing Full House and eating microwaveable dinners, she floats the idea that she might go to a wine bar the next night, alone. Hannah’s not happy about the idea of staying home with her baby while Marnie goes out and has a drink and maybe even some fun, and she expresses this. They’ve become the prototypical, sitcom-style married couple. Except at least in that situation, they share vows and a baby. The only thing keeping Marnie here is her love for Hannah — and also the fact that she is lost herself (as she points out earlier, she was living in her mom’s home gym) and could use something to give her a purpose until she starts figuring out what to do next.
So, yes, Marnie’s decision to stay with Hannah isn’t all selfless. But it’s not like Marnie is on vacation right now: She’s helping her very grumpy, very difficult best friend raise a human child in a town she doesn’t know, away from all their friends and family. There are other alternatives to living in her mom’s home gym, and yet, she chose this one. She chose Hannah.
Even so, she’s struggling, so she calls Hannah’s mom to come help. Loreen shows up the next morning, armed with advice about post-pregnancy life. Hannah mopes about her vagina and butthole feeling like one, while Loreen promises that whatever comes next will be so much harder that Hannah will forget all about this seemingly tough stage of her life. Hannah, always one to hate the present, finds hope in this, though it’s not enough hope to keep her from lashing out at her poor mother: The two end up getting into a tiff that ends with Hannah scolding Loreen for staying with a gay man for so long and for therefore giving Hannah a skewed idea of what a “normal” family is like. It’s a terrible thing for Hannah to say, and she knows it.
Hannah leaves the house in a huff, going on what seems like a days-long hike through the neighborhood while Loreen and Marnie bond back at the house. Loreen walks in on Marnie masturbating as she video-chats a man from New Jersey, and afterward, the two talk about loneliness and happiness. Marnie insists that it’s not her time to be happy now; it’s Hannah’s, and because Hannah is her friend, she needs to be there for her. Loreen gets prioritizing others’ happiness over her own. After all, she was married to her best friend, a man who didn’t — couldn’t — love her the way she needed him to. “I hate my best friend now,” she tells Marnie, “and all because I didn’t know how to let him go.”
Letting go is hard, though. Marnie knows her relationship with Hannah isn’t exactly the healthy thing for herself right now, but she loves her, so isn’t that enough? That’s what so much pop culture tries to tell us, that it is enough — as long as you love someone, you can make anything work. Maybe that’s true sometimes. Then other times, you find out your husband you’ve been married to for three decades is gay, or you notice you just don’t get along with the person you once called your best friend or you realize the man who makes you happiest is also the man who breaks you the most. Love can’t fix those things. Letting go, however difficult, does.
While Marnie and Loreen are talking, Hannah’s out wandering. She encounters a screaming, pantsless girl who says she’s running from an incident. Hannah calmly gives her her own baggy jeans to wear and asks her what happened. Soon, she finds out this teenage girl ran away from home because her mom told her to do her homework. Suddenly, Hannah’s empathy is all out.
She yells at this girl, telling her that her mom is doing what she has to do, that she loves her. “She’ll take care of you forever,” Hannah says, “even if it means endless, endless pain.”
This bratty teenager is enough to make Hannah go home. She finds Marnie and Loreen on the porch, where they’re talking about the pros and cons of law school, and plops down between them. They don’t mention any of the arguments that happened earlier in the day. Instead, they sit peacefully until Grover starts crying.
Hannah goes to her room alone to quiet him. She unzips her hoodie and puts her breast near his mouth. Then, we just see her face. She’s smiling, tears in her eyes. He’s latching. And that’s the end.
Things aren’t going to be easy for Hannah, or for any of them, or for anyone. She’s going to yell at her mom again. She’s going to fight with Marnie again. She’s going to feel like her son hates her again. She’s going to encounter new challenges, new struggles that, as her mom vowed, will make everything before seem comparatively easy.
She’s also going to sit on the porch in a moment of peace with her best friend and her mom again. She’s going to hold her baby and feel pure, unbreakable love. She’s going to find new highs that, as her mom didn’t mention, will make everything before seem comparatively dull. She’s going to be okay — occasionally overwhelmed and confused and terrified, but okay.
Plenty of people aren’t going to be satisfied with this finale. It felt more like an epilogue, a glimpse at the completely different post-Girls world Hannah’s now living in as a new, young mom. It didn’t have the kind of intense, blatantly emotional moments series finales are known for having. As someone who loves finales for those kinds of moments, I felt disappointed at first by Girls‘ — I wanted to cry and feel the need to clutch my nearby roommates and, I don’t know, just feel something. Instead, I thought, “That’s it?”
Then, as the credits rolled, I heard the sounds of the country — crickets and birds and frogs — and Hannah singing “Fast Car” to her son, and I remembered how last week, she told Jessa, “We were all just doing our best.” She was unfair to her mom and mean to her best friend and ran away from them and her infant son for the day, but she came back. Although that tiny bit of progress doesn’t make me cry the way seeing her hug herself as Jessa, Marnie, and Shoshanna dance around her does, it does remind me why I’ve spent five years watching this show in the first place, why Hannah is someone I’ve cared for as a character even when she’s been at her most frustrating. She’s just doing her best. It might not be the same as my best or yours, but it’s hers. Because of that, this final tender moment between her and her baby isn’t just an ordinary breastfeeding session; it’s a victory. Hannah won — not forever, but for now. And that’s enough.