A man kicks a door down, scoops up the woman he loves and holds her tight. The woman, previously distressed, visibly relaxes and kisses him. Fade to black. While it has some of the hallmarks of a romcom, you’d be a fool to call the finale of HBO’s Girls a happy ending.
While Hannah’s accidental FaceTime and Adam’s shirtless sprint through the New York night to embrace her are worthy of a kooky boy-meets-girl schmaltz-fest, there’s just enough wrong with this picture to know it’s just not that simple. Similarly with Marnie and Charlie strolling arm in arm, we may well be seeing a couple reunited in love, but we’re also seeing a couple pushed and pulled back together through a combination of loneliness, desperation and self-sabotage.
The relationships in Girls are sticky and complicated and over the space of two short seasons we have seen each and every relationship – both romantic and platonic – fall apart at the seams. What last night’s finale did was sneakily stitch back together the two central romantic entanglements and though we are yet to see what the third season will bring, it isn’t far-fetched to assume that these stitches are weaker, messier and altogether wonkier than they were even during the first season.
Adam and Hannah started off season one in a relationship that was almost wholly awful. Hannah rejected Adam when he realised he loved her and she realised that sometimes you get what you want, and it’s not what you imagined (a key theme throughout Girls). In the intervening episodes they both realise their relationship was unhealthy but end up pushed back together by the resurgence of their separate issues, the resurfacing of Hannah’s OCD and Adam’s rage issues and alcoholism, and a mutual desperation.
Have they both gotten what they wanted? Yes and no. Yes because they don’t want to be alone and no because they can’t be happy. We know from Hannah’s emotional exchange with an older man in a previous episode that she longs for happiness.
Charlie and Marnie were presented to us as the perfect couple and then we watched as their relationship quickly fell apart. Though hardly as toxic as the relationship between Hannah and Adam, theirs is one that stunts the emotional development of both parties. In the hiatus in their relationship, Marnie began to flail but with the exception of a decidedly dodgy Kanye-oke at Charlie’s party, appeared to be getting herself figured out for the first time in her life. It wasn’t in keeping with the Stepford Marnie we first met but it felt genuine and she seemed more conscious in her life. Charlie used his heartbreak as a catalyst to make a business decision that made him rich and somehow developed bags of charm and confidence, rendering him almost unrecognisable from the overgrown child who appeared in the first season.
Considering the destructive, self-sabotaging tendencies of Adam and Hannah, and the co-dependency of Marnie and Charlie, how could a reunion of either of these couples, in the long term, anything but a mistake? So yes, there is romance in the spectacle of a man running shirtless through New York to embrace his beloved, and the comforting sight of a woman smiling, fulfilled at the man she thought she’d lost. But it isn’t a happy ending because at the grand old age of early-twenty-something, there is no ending yet.
The absurdity last night with which we greeted Marnie’s claim that she and Charlie had “settled down” and that they were “old fogies” is proof enough of that. The third season, when it comes, will bring more uncertainty, sadness, longing and disappointment and maybe when it ends everyone will still have ended up where they started out but still be so far from any ending, happy or otherwise. Isn’t that just what they call ‘growing up’?