There’s a thing that happens a lot in independent, mumblecore-type movies where at the end of the main character’s struggle in their dysfunctional, sometimes abusive relationship (or another type of toxic relationship, with whatever), just when you think they’ve maybe escaped it, the character goes back to their significant other (or whatever) in what sometimes ends up being an overly cutesy scene. And then the movie ends. Hannah Takes the Stairs is a movie like that, ending with the main character and one of the men she’s been in-and-out of a bad relationship with playing saxophone in a bathtub, nude. (Greta Gerwig is too infrequently credited for being Lena Dunham before Lena was.) The explanation for disappointing endings like this is, I would guess, that this is often how reality is — a number of cycles we can’t break out of, even though any “viewer” would see that we desperately need to do just that. This is fine and appreciated, to a point. But there are times, including in the Girls season two finale (and including Hannah Takes the Stairs, not that it matters), when this struggle/surrender cycle seems less like a realistic cautionary tale and more like a glorification of beautiful, youthful drama. “This is what love is, this is what life is,” it seems to say. “Beautiful pain in the name of dysfunctional, human love.” Ugh. It was a disappointing end, for me. For a show that has done a lot for women — young, successful female creator and writer, normal bodies on television, etc. — its female characters are impossibly weak, manipulative, and dependent on (as well as overly focused on) their male partners. Isn’t there one well-adjusted female among them? Is Shoshana, whose well-warranted breakup speech itself wasn’t taken seriously enough by the writers, our only tiny hope? F’REAL? Are we really supposed to swoon when Adam runs back into the arms of the person who has manipulated and destroyed him and away from the only well-adjusted female character we’ve seen all season? (Who we’re now supposed to dislike because…why? Too specific during sex?) Are we supposed to be OK that Hannah isn’t left to pull herself up from her e-book related spiral? Would it not have been reasonable for Charlie to let Marnie walk away, haven’t we gone back and forth in that storyline enough times by now? Couldn’t “almost kind of getting it together” been more than an unfulfilled, forgotten promise?!?! Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. The season overall was mixed, but I certainly enjoyed and appreciated a fair amount of it. Ultimately, though, it has left me feeling exhausted. And I am always so tired anyway!! HOW ABOUT YOU, THOUGH?!

Comments (48)
  1. I did not even have to see that screencap to know that Lena Dunham would use Apple products.

  2. I just can’t wait for Boys: aka Breaking Bad to start up again.

    I would say something about Girls but I have never seen the show. At this juncture I will make way for more relevant, on-topic comments by thoughtful monsters who tuned in for the Girls finale.

  3. I would say a woman writing about a group of flawed women can be equally as empowering as a woman writing about well-adjusted women. This is “Girls”! It’s about a bunch of young f-ups! We can always watch Leslie Knope, or Mary Tyler Moore, or whatever. “Girls” is a comedy about not-well-adjusted people.

    • What would a show entirely about well-adjusted characters even be?! That sounds boring and terrible!

    • I absolutely agree that women — and men! — are not at all barred from portraying women with flaws, or poking fun at The Way Women Are, and that it is damaging to act like they are. But it’s hard to champion the portrayal of flaws when you don’t have anything within the characters to compare the flaws against, and it’s hard to champion the portrayal of flaws when ex-boyfriends seem to be their saving grace.

      • I guess I’m not entirely sure that we were meant to view these reunions as truly happy endings? Like, in a weird way, Hannah eating cake on the beach last season felt vaguely more hopeful than last night’s “storybook” conclusion. It was really sappy and kind of disorienting, but also good? I don’t even know.

        • Agreed. I kind of thought it was supposed to be a surreal feeling, where as a viewer, you’re rooting for shirtless Adam as he runs to Hannah, and you get all tingly because this is what you’re taught to champion (the rescue!) but once it’s over, you feel weird and icky and sad and you’re like, “Why was I rooting for that?” (“We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!” -Tyra Banks) So not to be one of THOSE people, but I think a lot of the criticisms I’ve read seemed to think about it at the top level, like “This is portraying girls dependent on boys” when it seemed to actually be trying to make us question that instead.

  4. i agree with all of what you said! These female characters SHOULD be better, at least one of them is probably stronger than that. I get that at that age (ugh, I wish I had a nickel for every time I dismissed my own criticism of the show as a result of the age of the characters) there’s a lot of focus on relationships, but ugh barf barf barf the music when Adam is running. “Everything’s gonna be fine as long as you have your man!” Also, to reiterate, at least one of these women would kind of have her act together or at least wouldn’t be interested in men (or a relationship) and I’m guessing that’s maybe Jessa, but she gets not enough screen time.

    • Watching the show last night I started to formulate a hypothesis about how it’s a rewriting of/critique of Sex and the City, but more realistic/more hipstery/grosser. Like Hannah is Carrie but instead of just rattling off a column each episode she struggles with writer’s block, anxiety, etc. and has real body issues rather than just curly hair. Jessa is the Samantha/free spirit type but damaged and not doing well rather than just someone who sleeps around a lot. Shoshanna is Charlotte (very self-consciously so). But it falls apart when you get to Marnie/Miranda, precisely because there isn’t a character who has her act together.

    • I’m not sure the message of that scene was “everything will be fine as long as you have your man”. I mean, I think that’s what the characters maybe think, but in reality, Hannah and Adam are probably both much worse off with each other than without. Adam is probably leaving someone who may have actually taught him to be a bit more mature, even though it definitely not going to be easy for him. Hannah, instead of figuring out how to get her shit together, is getting back together with someone who definitely isn’t very good for her, and someone she really doesn’t care about outside of how his affection makes her feel. At first watch I thought that scene was ridiculous as well, but in retrospect, I think it’s just the opposite.

  5. I was definitely a little confused as to why there was not one, but two scenes of emotional reunions with old flames. They were well done, but also not all that true to the way the show has ever gone. Then I found out Judd Apatow co-wrote the episode and it made a bit more sense. I’m not going to pretend the scene with Adam wasn’t well done, or even exciting to watch, but it just didn’t make all that much sense.

    I also think in general, the show just tries to pack to much into each episode, so that when the season ends, so many story arcs feel unresolved, or resolved in a very unsatisfying way.

    But it was still enjoyable enough this season. Hopefully with 12 episodes and the advantage of hindsight, next season will be a little tighter.

  6. I’ve half-watched Girls for it’s entire run because my girlfriend loves it, but I feel like the show it’s not made for me so I’m not qualified to comment. It’s kind of like when my boss and my black work friends discuss Madea. I guess what I’m saying is Lena Dunham is the white, rich girl version of Tyler Perry. Yup, that’s it.

  7. MY thoughts:

    What was the line about Marnie saying “I want to have our brown babies”? That was super weird since he’s not brown. He’s oh so hot though.

    Hannah’s spiral into her mental OCD disorder seems forced to me. It came out of nowhere and now seems entirely ridiculous. I did laugh when she said “I must look anorexic to you”.

    Everyone knows you can’t face time without a wi-fi connection. At least he “lost” her during the subway ride.

    Overall a good show though. I”m having fun with it and all its faults.

    • Since I’ve only watched the 1st episode of season 1, this is the only contribution I can make to this thread:

      iPhone 4S and 5 have 3G/4G FaceTime capabilities on Verizon and Sprint, maybe AT&T. 8)

    • I thought the finale was really rushed and weird, but mostly I just left the finale feeling confused about that brown babies line.

    • I wanna second the OCD subplot being out of place. I was discussing this with a friend and it just seemed so far fetched. Hannah’s back story is the clearest and most detailed, and it just seemed far fetched that suddenly we learn she has a really terrible history of OCD. I might have been sold on it if it happened to Jessa, or maybe even Shoshana because she’s neurotic. But Hanna? It just seemed lazy.

  8. I feel like every action any character takes is shoehorned in. No character acts in any kind of consistant way and that is what makes me the most frustrated.

    I don’t believe that Hannah’s dad (or mom) would just be so angry and cavalier about Hannah’s obviously disturbed behaviour. I understand that he wouldn’t lend her money, but when she’s in NYC poking holes in her ear drums and telling him she’s about to be sued for not working, I’m pretty sure he would not just yell at her to get her act together. Not considering he is set up to be this loving and weak parent.

    Last week Adam’s girlfriend is delightful and well-adjusted. This week we are supposed to dislike her because… she is clear on what she wants during sex (as Kelly said)? I don’t even understand why she is still with him after seeing Adam’s creepy apartment and the very disturbing rape/rape-rape? last week.

    I don’t feel like any of the characters is well developed enough and therefore behave only according to whatever the scene or storyline needs. It’s really infuriating to me because otherwise I do enjoy many aspects of the show.

    • I think Hannah’s dad blew up because we can assume that this may be the 1,000th time Hannah has created a medical/emotional crisis. Not that he shouldn’t have shown compassion, but parents are people.

  9. “I was Lena Dunham before Lena was.” -Something I Guarantee Some Annoying Person Has Uttered in a Bushwick Bar

    • Has Bushwick replaced Williamsburg as the go-to standard neighborhood when insulting hipsters? SoBro, I think your turn is next!


    • No one talks enough about Hannah’s parents. I’ve enjoyed how Girls has kept track of their angst, the desire to transition from full-time parents to a more adult relationship.

      But Hannah keeps pulling them back into a much more adolescent-level rescue mode. Of course a parent’s job never ends, but it should evolve.

      I just imagine how her mother and father must want to start their lives as more independent adults and focus on their own problems and dreams, but their daughter has drawn out their intensive responsibilities.

      That said, we could of course all speculate on the degree to which Hannah’s parents created this monster that is Hannah.

    • This season was far superior to season 1. It wasn’t so much a series as a run of short films. Not everything worked, but I think she and Louie CK have learned that having discrete stories isn’t a problem for a series.

      I found myself looking forward to seeing what each week’s show would be. Certain elements were aggravating, but overall I felt at least engaged.

      I think the big problem Dunham has in common with Judd Apatow is the presumptuous naming of her project. Just like This is 40 is not most people’s experience of 40 or life in general, Girls certainly isn’t about girls. It’s about Some Girls (great record, BTW).

    • Adam running to Hannah was a bummer. God forbid he should stick it out with a woman who refuses to reject him and actually makes an effort to breach the layer of dysfunction and actually connect like equals without violence or disgust.

      More like Sadam.


  11. I will one day isolate the genome in this show’s DNA strain that causes everyone who watches it to transform into Roland Barthes. *Rushes back to laboratory*

  12. Perhaps this television program should be retitled Daughters of Peeve. Am I right?

  13. Small correction, at the end of Hannah Takes the Stairs, the characters are playing trumpets in the bathtub, not saxophones. Also…… that was no guy, that was me! King Curtis!

  14. Late to the party, nobody will see this, but here goes:

    Looking back, I liked the finale a lot more now that I think about it. I hated the ending at first, but looking back I think it is supposed to be stupid. Like it is so incredibly on the nose about how Adam will fix everything thank you very much that I think it had to be intentional, like the show was saying that Hannah is flawed for thinking having your man will make everything better. I think this is actually strengthened by Marnie getting back with her ex when Marnie is more or less portrayed to be a huge piece of shit, so the show isn’t quite saying her reunion wth her ex is her only saving grace or something to strive for. Marnie is a terrible person. She steals that candle holder from Hannah when she thinks Hannah isn’t home.

    I think Adam’s girlfriend (it bothers me we don’t know her name, or maybe she is given a name and I can’t remember it) was cast aside BECAUSE Adam is not supposed to be this well adjusted guy. I felt like last episode was showing how him and his girlfriend actually liked the idea of each other more than actually each other, and part of that is because Adam has issues and a really dark side to him. They didn’t seem terribly compatible, and Adam seemed extremely out of place around her friends. She was perfectly well adjusted and there wasn’t anything wrong with her, she just wasn’t someone Adam would be with.

    Shoshanna dumping Ray made sense, and that break up scene was very well done.

    But what the FUCK happened to Hannah’s book/potentially getting sued? That was never addressed. Which is bullshit. Because it was set up at the beginning of the episode and was the main dramatic arc of the entire fucking episode with Hannah, so why was it just ignored at the end? Maybe this actually strengthens my point from before about the ending. The OCD, which is pretty forced to begin with, I will give a pass for not being resolved because at least Dunham isn’t whisking it away as arbitrarily as she introduced it.

    • I read this far and I am glad I did. All great points, most of which I agree. You hit it on the head with Adam and Marnie. Particularly Adam, I think you are exactly right – sometimes people are just f’d up and cannot function in normal, mature relationships. At least not yet. And to suggest, as others have, that this girl was somehow “good” for Adam because she was helping him mature ignores the most significant development in their relationship: he went back to DRINKING to try to fit in with her and her friends and to be comfortable around her. This is not a good thing, and it never happened when he was allowed to be his f’d up, but sober, self with Hannah.

      Regarding the book issue – I believe we are witnessing one day in the life. The day hasn’t concluded and her boss hasn’t had a chance to react to her failure to deliver the pages. I suspect we will begin season 3 from this point.

  15. Apropros of nothing, if Greta Gerwig did not exist, Lena Dunham would be compelled to invent that name.

    Hannah Horvath
    Marnie Michaels
    Shoshanna Shapiro
    Jessa Johansson
    Greta Gerwig

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