Personal Growth Rankings: Girls 6×04 “Painful Evacuation”

Well, that was unexpected. Girls‘ final season just took a completely different direction in its fourth episode, courtesy of a huge reveal that was surprising by virtue of being entirely too conventional. All we need now is a wedding, a funeral, and a tearful going away party, and we’ll have the perfect ending to a very un-Girls-like 90s sitcom.

All right, let’s get to the personal growth rankings:

Hannah

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I’ll try to give Girls the benefit of the doubt going forward, but for now, I pretty much hate where this pregnancy reveal is going. It seems obvious that she’s going to keep the baby, which isn’t necessarily an anti-feminist choice on its own, except that the pregnancy is clearly supposed to be some sort of magic propeller into adulthood. And while some people genuinely do mature rapidly when they become parents, this narrative is incredibly tired, especially when it comes to women. Pregnancy isn’t a transcendent, transformative experience for every woman, and there’s not much evidence from previous character development that would indicate Hannah (even new-and-improved Hannah) would react to this with anything other than blind panic.

But as much as I hate the motherhood-as-redemption trope, its usage means that Hannah undergoes more personal growth than anyone else this episode. Yes, she procrastinates going to the doctor, and then leaves the hospital without her UTI medication after finding out she’s pregnant. However, she reacts with as much grace as possible when she runs into an old hookup in the most awkward of circumstances. She politely establishes her boundaries when said hookup gives her an inappropriate hug and weirdly assumes she’s getting an abortion. And her acknowledgment that Paul-Louis will likely not be a part of the baby’s life is the most realistic attitude she could have had at that moment (although he should probably at least pay for shit, girlfriend or no).

But most telling of all was her reaction to Jessa and Adam’s movie (ugh, more on that later). The old Hannah would have been both horrified and grossly flattered that she would be portrayed onscreen, anxiously insisting that she get a chance to read the script so she could ensure that she was painted as the idealized “one that got away” rather than “the one I’m glad I got away from.” But the new Hannah treats this movie as the asinine idea that it is, because she has bigger things to worry about.

(I would argue that this moment would have been even more powerful if those “bigger things” had simply been her burgeoning career and her adult life. It would have been a great coda to last season’s finale, when she started to realize that while Jessa and Adam might literally be “moving on” to a new relationship, she has actually matured past them far more than they have moved on from her. But instead, she’s just thinking about the new baby that Adam will probably dump Jessa to help care for. Oh, well.)

Ray

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Remember when I joked around about Girls using trite final season tropes like babies and funerals? We can check number two off the list. In this episode, Ray’s character growth is spurred by one of the oldest tricks in the book: the death of a recurring but expendable character.

Ray takes second place because his character generally seems to be on an upward trend towards trying to fulfill his potential, and because he’s coming to the very organic realization that his relationship with Marnie is dead in the water (his face while she was nattering on about whether she should Uber to her exercise class was both priceless and very sad). But seriously, Girls writers, you needed Ray to have an existential crisis, and you couldn’t come up with anything more subtle than the surprise death of a cranky but beloved mentor? And not only is it corny, but because the audience is barely attached to Hermie at this point, it’s like Walking Dead-level storytelling. Especially after that transcendent bottle episode last week, I expect better.

(Side note on Shosh, whom we barely saw this episode: I still don’t support her and Ray as endgame, but at this point they clearly are. And at least their interactions have been somewhat cute lately, which is more than I can say for Ray/Marnie.)

Marnie

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I’ve seen a lot of fans and critics doing the old Marnie-is-the-worst routine based on her behavior during Desi’s therapy session. But honestly, if there’s anyone in the world who can make Marnie look more sympathetic, it’s Desi. When he tells her that all she saw was “this dick, or this voice, or this record deal,” he’s absolutely right, but he saw even less in her. And if we’re supposed to feel for him when he says that he’s the only one who doesn’t look down on her, it doesn’t work. That is, at best, a classic neg, and a sign of emotional abuse at worst.

And while Marnie is of course narcissistic for not noticing that her husband was addicted to painkillers, she’s absolutely right that Desi can’t blame her for his addiction. Calling her his “worst enabler” is such a cop-out, and that therapist is incredibly irresponsible for letting Desi act like the center of the universe and blame his own problems on everyone else. Marnie may be a narcissist, but if Desi “loves her for who she is,” it’s only because he’s too self-centered to notice how self-centered she is.

But that being said, Marnie was still in fine, cartoonish form this episode. Her “Shakespearean” dirty talk with Ray that she was so proud of (“I want to die in the mouth of a lion with you”) was hilariously horrible. And although I maintain that Desi can’t blame her for his general awfulness, she obviously sounds like an idiot when she complains that she “has bruises all over my body from the two-hour massages I need to deal with the stress of your addiction.” (She should have just said she still has cuts on her hands from when he pulled a Jason Voorhees.) And worst of all, while I can justify pretty much anything Marnie does to Desi, she’s being truly terrible to poor Ray, who is by far the nicest person on the show, and deserves much better.

Jessa and Adam

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This episode displayed one of the worst versions of our tortured artistes, who are both way too convinced of the specialness of their lives. Adam starts off the episode on the set of an indie film, and it seems to be fucking terrible (it reminded me of that fake French movie in 500 Days of Summer, but at least that was in French). But still, for a struggling actor in New York, a gig is a gig, and instead of holding his nose and getting through it like a grown-up, he brattily argues with the director, throws a bona fide tantrum, and storms off the set. Instead of paying his dues like all actors do, he’s going to make his own autobiographical movie with all of his nonexistent funds and connections.

This brilliant idea comes from (who else?) Jessa, who actually is his worst enabler. She wants to make a movie about their little love triangle with Hannah, which sounds like a terrible idea. A few episodes ago, she found the whole subject too painful to read Hannah’s “Modern Love” piece, but now she wants to make an insufferable Sundance-lite film about it?

Jessa has always had a magnetism based on her “sexy bohemian mess” archetype, and Jemima Kirke is charismatic enough that she often lives up to it. But the show takes great pains to remind us that the charisma of a “free spirit” is mostly borne out of extreme selfishness and delusions of grandeur. Jessa’s relationship with fellow pretentious asshole Adam has validated her toxic behavior to the point that she’s even less self-aware than before; when she laughs to Adam that she had many signs of childhood sociopathy, but “thank God [she] grew out of it,” we see just how far gone she is.

This movie about Hannah, whom Jessa claims to love and miss, is just the logical end of her brand of narcissism. Jessa would totally think that she would be a fascinating character to watch, and that her life would make for great and important cinema. The assertion that artists “have to mine our lives for the truth, even if it fucking hurts” is true enough, I guess, but any benefit of the doubt went out the window when she and Adam said the movie about their barely-scandalous betrayal would be an allegory for everything from lost innocence to “religious conflict” (HA). I can’t wait to see how amazingly terrible this movie will be.

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