“We'll be one of those artist couples…”
The above statement doesn’t work as idealistically as it may insist. It sounds fun and nice enough, but the reality is that two creative people need their own space to grow as an artist before they can reconvene and “be”. The season finale of Girls Season 3 leaves us on a bitter, bittersweet note than one might have foreseen. But it is perhaps the season’s most important statement and in hindsight it is a statement that has been carefully alluded to along the way. We all have friends we want to grow up with--constantly be by their side and watch them get married, gain successes, win accolades and have children. It’s a youthful idealistic foolishness that allows one to truly believe that the friends we have during our time of self-discovery will be our friends by the time we finally find ourselves. From twenty to thirty, the lovely people we have in our life are great, but they are indeed stepping stones that we leave behind at some point. We can still love someone even if we cross the street to avoid them. That doesn’t mean they weren’t a valuable person in your life. But that’s just it--it’s your life, your time to grow into the person you are meant to be. One can’t leave that up to the fate of friends or even romantic relationships. “Two Plane Rides” sees the casual separation of friends, lovers and acquaintances while pushing each character to realize their own passions and selves. There is no more room for validation. Girls wants these girls to grow the hell up already and this is the push they need to do it…maybe (hopefully).
Hannah gets two big shockers in the opening of the finale: First, Caroline makes a return. Or maybe she’s been there this whole time, shacking up with Laird. What a pair. And they are with child. Surprise indeed! Two people who don’t bask in the need for validation through others have found each other. Could this be Girls’ true hidden power couple? I like to think so. Right under everyone’s nose is a little blessing from two minor characters no one has thought about up until now. These are two people who are thriving despite the lack of endorsement from friends and family. Caroline and Laird will be happy in their own little universe. Can the same be said for everyone else outside of it? Hannah’s world at the moment has her feeling like a shell, which leads to the second surprise she receives: She’s been accepted into one of the country’s best graduate programs for creative writers, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (I’m jealous). Of course this prompts a multitude of feelings. What does this mean for Hannah and Adam’s already unstable relationship? Marnie and Hannah’s parents are determined to see Hannah venture off and secure her dream but Hannah is still holding onto the idea that her relationship is giving her more purpose than it actually is.
It’s very interesting from the perspective of Adam. Hannah has allowed Adam to thrive--she’s been reluctant and anxious of what the outcome of their momentary separation might be but in the end Hannah is proud of her lover for chasing after something he’s passionate about. Adam did the same for her during the beginning of the season and then it was Hannah’s turn. The scene where Hannah tells Adam about how proud she is of him and how inspiring his focus has been to her is one of the show's most heartwrenching moments, even if Hannah does make Adam's success about her in a small way as she tells Adam about getting into the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Now Hannah has another opportunity to thrive. But can two thriving artists concentrate on their passion and their love at the same time without the subjugation of one‘s art? For Adam the answer is no. Hannah remains idealistic about this new chance to engage with her passion and somehow get her relationship back on the right track now that they are on the same level, creatively-wise. However, Adam’s work requires more out of him--it requires everything, which means pushing Hannah away from him more and more until she’s finally gone and he can thrive to his full potential. He’s not wrong for wanting to flourish.
Both partners are coming to the realization that while they love one another, they have personal passions that conflict with their intimacy. They can’t change that, nor should they have to. It is unfortunate when young relationships run into these walls, but the healthy thing at this point is for them to is separate, thrive and reunite when they’ve finally found peace and happiness within themselves, by themselves and for themselves. Before, Hannah and Adam were two unstable people holding each other up. Now they have two stable legs to stand on. They don’t particularly need each other for a purpose anymore because they've grown to appreciate themselves and the work they create. Both Hannah and Adam’s journeys have been engaging to watch this season; painful, complicated and somehow clumsily poetic. Adam is blooming and Hannah is a proud girlfriend, but that’s all she can be for him at the moment. But life is calling on Hannah to be something else. It’s an opportunity that she would be remiss to pass up. While I consider myself to be a Hannah and Adam ship sailor, this isn’t about head canons or cute relationships that last a lifetime--this isn't about happy endings. This is about the importance of personal growth and above all else self-love and appreciation. Hannah deserves this, doesn't she?
Meanwhile, Marnie remains the biggest mess of the season. In terms of her aspirations…they’re all over the place and once again only become things she’s passionate about when she is authenticated through other people’s praises. But at the same time we see a weird growth in Marnie. She is more honest and approachable--even if her intentions don’t match up with her new ability to be a more authentic person. She’s authentically herself at all the wrong moments in the season finale which is why she ends up stagnant and heartbroken again. Marnie has interloped into two separate relationships, first Ray and Shoshanna's then Desi and Clementine's, and trampled all over the emotional property of other people’s lives. And she’s smiling about it. Elijah is right, I don’t see this ending well for Marnie. And her journey of self-discovery is still underway because she hasn’t found her real passion--right now it seems to be chasing after unavailable men which leads to uncomfortable situations for everyone.
Clementine confronts Marnie about her inappropriate conquest and it is very reminiscent of the confrontation Natalia has with Hannah and Adam in the season premiere, which is befitting, given the fact that Marnie is in a familiar position--one that emulates Hannah's at the end of Season 2 as she devoted herself fully to the love of another person: validating herself by way of love. But this isn't love for Marnie--she's deluding herself by devoting her energy into Desi. When Charlie left Marnie, did he take all of her passion and purpose with him? It is like she’s not aware of her despicable behavior because what she’s focused on is the idea of a perfect relationship down the line. This idea of perfection is what makes Marnie such a tragic heroine and I root for her to be better, but what does that even mean for a character like her? She can’t be alone because then she’s not able to be validated and her insecurities dissolve her like acid. Desi is a distraction that Marnie needs to get rid of and fast. So either way, Marnie will end up heartbroken, but will she learn something from it this time or once again delude herself with false personal growth and empowerment?
Jessa has been dealt a heavy hand this season. Her struggle with addiction has sent her through hell and back and of course Jessa reacts to all of the traumatic motions in true Jessa form. Morally, Jessa is on a totally different playing field and that’s exactly what she does--she plays with the world, but now that the reality of her addiction has caught up with her, she’s realizing just how much danger she was in. Her story with Beadie in the finale highlights the disaster that could have been her if she weren’t so lucky. As it would turn out, Beadie chose Jessa for the organizing job just to trap her into a very outré request: Assisted suicide. Jessa being who she is--a young woman mystified by the world and an enigma within herself, she is understanding of Beadie’s decision--she doesn’t like it, but she understand it. If Beadie had recruited Marnie for this sort of deal, she’d have fled immediately.
Jessa could have faced death in a real way during her latest drug binge and here she is helping an desperate older woman swallow a mouthful of pills, allowing her a quiet goodbye. It is definitely a cathartic event standing in Jessa’s shoes. The last minute decision Beadie makes, insisting she doesn’t want to die seems to invoke a reaction in Jessa’s own experience--she chose not to die from her addiction and now she’s been thrown into a life-changing position with this new friend of hers. This is Jessa receiving some sort of validation through another, which unlike the other girls is a good thing because Jessa never receives validation from others. She goes her own way. And look at what it has led her to. Jessa's life is worth it, but where it goes from here...no one is sure, least of all Jessa herself.
The episode continues to reveal, as the season has, that these are all people who need time apart to grow--Ray is an astute example of this. He’s thrived in his own solitary--he has a nice apartment, a nice job that is respected and that he respects. Most of all he respects himself. This isn’t to say that he and Shoshanna can never reunite at some point, but Ray is on a totally different level than Shoshanna is right now because her year of freedom turned out to be something that stunted her personal growth rather than enhance it. Apparently, throughout this entire season Shoshanna felt as though it would be ideal to compartmentalize her life in a way that doesn’t match up to adulthood and the consequence of her deluding herself into personal growth is that she is pushed three steps back. The way this affects Shoshanna is pretty engrossing. She reacts by throwing a masterful temper-tantrum and her quip valley girl temperament is totally deflated as she sinks into self-disappointment.
The confrontation between Shoshanna and Marnie is especially nerving as it is hilarious. We’ve never seen Shoshanna like this before--there has been no point up until now where Shoshanna has been this desperate or faced with this much personal turbulence. Add on Ray’s complete rejection of her false feelings toward him--feelings that develop out of desperation and disappointment in herself and you’ve got one hell of a mess left for her to clean up. Ray isn’t willing to be the validator anymore. He’s learned well from his interactions with Marnie and chooses to respect himself above all else, which is more than what one can say for many of the other characters at this point. All of this sudden strife is excellent though because it brings so much more depth to Shoshanna’s character and as far as I’m concerned, she is the girl I most want to catch up with next season.
The entirety of Season 3 has been about personal growth: the lack of it, the delusion of it, the look of it, the rewards of it and the consequences of it. The most observed consequence is shedding a few relationships that are essentially holding one back from observing themselves. In the harsh real world, we are lucky to come across one or two people that compliment us on our way to becoming the people we want to be. Everyone else sadly falls by the wayside. We see this reflected in nearly every episode of the season. However, none hinted on this truth more than my favorite episode of the season, “Beach House”. Yes, the episode where the big fight between all four girls happened and they seemingly made up. Sure, they may have forgiven and not forgotten, but that doesn’t erase the truth that these women are holding each other back from being the people they could be if they all stopped validating and sanctioning one another through their own reprehensible behaviors. Being in a relationship doesn’t fix everything. Having friends doesn’t fix everything. Sure it helps to have people there but usually those people are in the midst of their own self-discovery as well. In the end, one’s personal happiness and direction comes from a personal will to thrive, love themselves and decide that they deserve to be happy.
This season has seen Hannah accumulating all the reasons not to thrive--not to accept the invite to the Iowa Writers Workshop. In the penultimate episode, she inadvertently let many of those things go while other things became uprooted on their own accord. This is opportunity calling. At the end of last season, Hannah clung onto Adam for purpose. At the end of this season, Hannah clings to the love of herself-- her own passions and needs and wants. She gets to be selfish in this venture and so does Adam in his creative endeavors and the same goes for Marnie and Shoshanna and Jessa and Ray. Girls had been developing a season-long arc all along this season and we just didn’t notice it until the end, proving the third chapter in these girls’ lives to be a packaged deal only fully realized in the end no matter how tragically bittersweet that end is. The end statement is very clear and a very powerful statement for young people, but especially for young women: Happily ever after doesn’t exist without you standing on your own two feet and finding that happiness on your own terms. From this point on, it all comes down to how the girls go about getting their happy ending. Because this isn’t it. Not yet. “Two Plane Rides” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
The fourth season of Girls will be in production pretty soon and returning to the small screen in January 2015. Only on HBO!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2014