I want to tell you why the season finale of the second season of Girls was an exquisite and brave half hour of television. I was so moved that I googled reviews of the episode, expecting rhapsodies of insight. Instead I read a lot of reviews that really I thought missed the point. They critiqued the show as a RomCom where the men save the women.
I don't think that was the point. The point was there on Hanna's screen, the topic sentence of the book she was about to write - that relationships between women who go to school together can be more intense and important than other relationships we have in our lives. The "Together" title of the Episode doesn't refer to Shoshana with Ray or Marnie with Charlie or Adam with Hannah. The Together of together was the women, who are lost and alone without each other, and therefore fall into what the culture has told them to want, what each has told the other is worthwhile.
Shoshana breaks up with Ray basically out of admiration for Jessa. She loves Ray, quirks and all, and would quickly admire his efforts to become a coffee house manager of some repute. She breaks up with him because she has incontrovertible evidence that he hates kittens and is grumpy all the time, and she knows this is something the other girls would not want her to countenance. Especially her sacred cousin, the enlightened and kind Jessa. Shoshana is such an interesting character but she has turned into a pile of nondescript mush. Because a lot of women when they are with a boyfriend rely on that for a lot of their identity. Not the best articulation of an enlightened human spirit, but there you go. What I see in Shoshona now is an inablity to even identify what she wants herself, rather she has imposed her friends' view of the relationship on Ray. Hence her randomly making out with some self-absorbed finance guy in the last scene. What was jarring about that last scene is that it is completely normal for a woman in her 20's to have a little fun in a bar like that, Shoshana is not normal, she aspires to greatness, and the normality of that make-out scene was almost an affront to Shoshana.
Meanwhile, Marnie. Marnie can't jettison her fledgling singing career fast enough to get back together with Charlie. His wealth and declarations of love are really exactly what she needs right now. Seduced with the quick fix that will probably last an uneasy lifetime. I feel like women collectively had really let Marnie down at that point, like she didn't have enough stories of women who didn't go Rich Husband, who lived to greatness.
And Hanna. Hanna was suffering - the boring parts, the terrible haircut, the utter self-sabotage of listlessly googling her ailments - I know people think of her as unforgivably narcissistic but I just saw someone suffering. I don't know how much the element of choice and free will came into Hanna's inability to write the book. The reviewers I read all thought she should just get down to it. And of course she should. And a person with a broken leg should bike his kids to school. He can't. She can't. That is what it is like to have bipolar or unipolar depression, to have OCD or schizophrenia or an eating disorder or anxiety or panic attacks. She can't write that book right now. In fact she is probably sitting on that bed working to fight the impulse to even greater forms of self-mutilation.
Marnie comes over to check on Hanna, yet Marnie is too intimate to help. Hanna hides behind the bed when Marnie comes to help. Our friends from college are also our competitors, and we cannot bear to be humiliated in front of them. Especially by something as demeaning and shameful as mental illness. And worse, a very bad self-inflicted haircut. (Although I have to admit to vengefully trimming my own bangs very unsuccessfully recently)
So Hanna calls Adam, her psycho ex-boyfriend, she knows full well she is at rock bottom and she is just looking for love wherever she can find it, she just needs attention. J. M. Barrie knew a thing or two when he wrote Tinkerbell's near demise, for truly some people need the clapping to survive. Hanna calls iPhone to iPhone, so the call is on face time. He sees some OCD rituals on her part and when she says she feels she is unraveling, he says he is coming to her. And like Superman, like some old shirtless Greek God, he kicks past his wooden sculpture and runs through the street to catch the subway. He excels at being the hero and she excels at needing one, just at this one completely fucked up moment in their lives. He makes it to her apartment. She won't let him in. She is hiding under the duvet and she won't get up.
He breaks down the door and then clears the detrius littering Hanna's apartment in a single bound ("leap tall buildings in a single bound"). He pulls the covers off Hanna's head. And he loves her enough to break down all the barriers she has put up against Adam, against everyone, all the barriers she has put in place to hide what is wrong with her. And he gathers her into his arms and holds her like a child. I have probably watched that scene five times in the last 24 hours. There is something about it.
I think that Adam straining to get to Hanna, his complete acceptance and love of her the way she was just then, was both a display of his dysfunctional objectification of women and a great act of love, probably the only thing that will really help Hanna. That kind of uncritical love. That kind of uncritical love that somehow people with mental illness can never quite give themselves. And you can see this on Hanna's face, how she almost can't forgive herself for him doing this, for letting the drama unfold, yet she can't quite stop herself.
Forgive me for this nutty talk but this was post-modern, right? Because as much as Adam was like Superman or Shrek in Shrek 2, as much as Marnie embodied the happy ending that people like Kim Kardashian and Arianna Huffington have lived, something came off as creepy, as not quite right, as unsettled. The tropes were subverted. They were each horribly alone in their choices, none more than Jessa, they were not in any sense Together.