In this season’s first episode of “Girls,” Marnie adamantly insisted, “I go into the city to work every day at a job where I am respected. I have friends. I’m getting a new apartment. I‘ve already fixed everything.” Specifically, this was her way of letting a concerned parent know that she would soon be getting over her ex-boyfriend. Her mother just laughed. But the idea that adulthood and, presumably, happiness come as a result of a few simple factors falling into place was present in almost all of the principal characters’ story lines at the beginning of this year.
Shoshanna, by her own design, was splitting her time between an exhausting academic track and a very active social schedule. Hannah was reunited with Adam, taking appropriate medication, and soon to see her first book published. In her eyes, her life could not have been more ideal. When her therapist asked her about other problems, she replied, “Boring things, like money.” Even grumpy old Ray seemed relatively content running Grumpy’s. Only Jessa, bullied into rehab in order to be fixed, openly resisted the notion that such a thing could even be possible.
Now, of course, 11 episodes later, Jessa is a full-blown cocaine addict. Shoshanna is uncertain of her five-year plan and wildly disenchanted with her social circle. Marnie has put all chances of any type of career advancement on the back burner in pursuit of an unavailable man. (As a bonus, she defaults to screwing up Ray’s equilibrium.) As the main character, Hannah’s leveling is the most profound. Her relationship with Adam is shaky, she’s lost the rights to her book, experienced the death of a loved one, and – ironically – was, until recently, working at a soul-deadening job that paid too well for her to want to quit.
It is no coincidence that all this happened just after Hannah’s 25th birthday. Season 3 addressed the unpredictability of growing up. Sure, it seemed crazy at the time, but when her youngish editor up and died the night of her party, it was proof that a spoke can fly off the wheel at any moment and leave you stranded or drifting. Subsequently, her offices at GQ were filled with fellow writers who had been derailed by far less dramatic events. Whether Hanna spends season 4 doubling down on her decision to become a Capital W writer or stumbles upon some other more satisfying vocation, these walking, bitching cautionary tales certainly discouraged her from the path of least resistance.
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time – maybe too much – debating and discussing how likable Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are. To varying degrees, they all exhibit a sense of entitlement that can be galling to us actual adults who have been humbled by life. When Hannah did finally quit her job at GQ, she did so in the rudest, most inconsiderate, most childish manner imaginable. It looked and felt like a tantrum. But it was also the right decision – at least for her. However ugly the execution, she made the choice to take responsibility for her dreams. I suspect that an even higher standard of self-awareness and agency is where the girls of “Girls” are headed. And I’m pretty sure that is where I’ll be happy to leave them.
Although “Girls” has dealt extensively with death this season, it seems unlikely that the show’s most carefree soul will die from an overdose. So, look for Jessa to clamber down off the white horse and embark on a path of self-discovery next season that will, hopefully, be more genuine and less superficial than her behavior has been up to this point. For three seasons, Jessa was known — and lauded by some — for her confrontational nature. This season, that tough persona appeared hollow as we became aware that she was unable to rein herself in. Rehab didn’t work for her, but some sort of redemption seems in order — and soon.
Shoshanna is younger than the others and has the furthest to go toward maturity. Still, in the mid-season “Beach House” episode, her realization that her choice of friends might be at the root of her unhappiness was a true “out of the mouths of babes” moment. It would be wonderfully realistic if, next season, she left the group entirely as a way of being true to herself.
In the last episode, after hearing Marnie sing at an open mike, Shoshanna remarked that she was destined to be a famous pop star. Because of Shosh’s typically ridiculous delivery, the observation sounded like hyperbole. But in a group of semi-artistic, purely fictional New Yorkers, it is not so outlandish that one might have the potential to become a successful – whatever that means – recording artist. And so, Marnie’s inertia is perhaps the most frustrating. In addition to being traditionally beautiful, she is presented with opportunities on all sides, which she routinely overlooks for the chance to have her ego lightly stroked. There are plenty of folks who spend their lives without acquiring a greater sense of self worth, but who wants to watch that for more than one more season?
During a later scene in the season 3 premiere, Adam consoled still brokenhearted Marnie by telling her that maybe she never truly knew her ex. He explains in his usual forceful fashion that knowing someone is more than knowing their favorite record. “Really knowing someone is something else,” he insists, “It’s a completely different thing. And when it happens you won’t be able to miss it. You will be aware.” The advice could be about romantic love. But considering that he’s talking to Marnie, it may also be about knowing one’s self more intimately.
Adam is, after all, the show’s wise fool. For all his belligerence and quirky behavior, he is easily the character most true to himself. And as such, he often gives voice to “Girls’” highest ideals. Adam didn’t just discover his calling – he was an actor when the character was introduced. This season, however, he finally put aside his fears, shut out the distractions and dedicated himself to the possibility of actually succeeding. If not the definition of maturity, that is, at least, the essence of trying to grow up. How long before the others follow suit?