Girls: “I Love You Baby” Season 5 Finale Review

For as uneven as it was, these final two episodes may have solidified a full-blown comeback season for Girls. Building on the outstanding “Love Stories,” “I Love You Baby” is the show’s best finale and a perfect sendoff before we return to these characters for one final batch of episodes. For the first time in this penultimate season, Girls makes it feel like its coming a close and that it’ll actually be worth missing once it’s over.

The episode starts with Hannah running. Remember in season one when she gave up on a job with Adam and sat in the street? This is a Hannah who’s ready to better herself, albeit slowly. She’s really only running up and down her block, pausing to stretch every few strides, and adding it up to about a mile. Visually, it’s hilarious. But hey, progress is progress.

With her parents on her doorstep, Hannah has to entertain a whole new batch of smaller issues. She’s started writing again in hopes of getting to read a story at a prestigious contest held in a bookstore. The theme of the night is jealousy, prompting Hannah to read a poignant anecdote about Adam and Jessa. The writers smartly acknowledge that this isn’t the only thing Hannah went through in season five. The broad message of Hannah’s piece touches many of the season’s themes and brings Hannah to a new level of self-awareness. After quitting teaching, the writing world is once again where she so clearly belongs, despite her failure in Iowa. Hannah gets by not only being funny, but tapping into essential pieces of the human condition and presenting them in relatable ways. This is the most Hannah has ever seemed like Lena Dunham herself, which is perhaps what Girls is working toward.

The season ends on a beautiful shot of Hannah again running toward the camera, this time having just crossed a bridge. It’s cheesy and on-the-nose to be sure, but it feels earned. Hannah’s story may be near completion, but her life isn’t. Girls‘ purpose is to give her the tools to deal with everything that comes after its over. Season five did more work for that than any season before it, so Girls gets to have this victory.

Marnie got that victory in “Love Stories” when she couldn’t get Ray out of her head and they kissed. The short time jump in “I Love You Baby” smarty just puts Marnie and Ray what feels like a few weeks into their relationship. It’s the honeymoon phase, but something feels right about it. I doubt Girls always intended for these two to end up together, and who knows if it’ll last, but for now, it’s great to have Marnie making smart decisions about her love life. Though it appears they’ll be dealing with Desi for a while longer yet, but now she also has someone who knows how to treat her in Ray.

Lacking a victory are Jessa and Adam, who devolve into an epic fight once the former brings up Hannah once more. Beautifully shot and over-the-top, this scene unfortunately does a lot of work to make Adam unlikable again. I wish he didn’t get so close to hurting Jessa so many times in this very uncomfortable scene that seemed to intentionally pose him as Jack Torrence from The Shining. But all of Jessa’s dialogue here was superb. Her guilt toward losing Hannah and her hope that her friend will forgive her blew up violently. If two characters on Girls were ever going to wreck an apartment without putting a scratch on each other, it would be Adam and Jessa. The fact that it all might have been avoided by Hannah’s acceptance and forgiveness in the form of a fruit basket was a brilliant facet to this whole fight, one that we smartly didn’t learn until after the fact.

And so ends Girls‘ fifth season. This rollercoaster of a season managed to end on a high note, pushing Hannah forward in such a meaningful way while putting the others in places for their final stretch of growth. This episode and all the great episodes from season five prove that this show still has some juice and a lot to say when it wants to. With the final season due in a year, Girls still has time return to the cultural importance it started back in 2012. Finale Grade: A- / Season Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • After the lackluster season four, Girls started season five with one of its worst episodes. But a lot of what came after was really intelligent television. Sure, there were slip ups throughout (Shoshanna’s whole arc and “Homeward Bound” come to mind), but this is the season that fixed Marnie and brought back some deep emotion rooted in these characters’ friendships. I wasn’t excited for this season before it started, but I’m very excited for the sixth and final season. Girls definitely needs to end, but if the better episodes of this season are any indication, it has a chance to do so gracefully.
  • Shoshanna is the only character I feel the finale didn’t give me a satisfying end for. Sure, she’s found a niche marketing job at Ray’s coffee shop, but that doesn’t fix the drawn out, unfulfilling end to her Japan arc.
  • Elijah and I handle breakups similarly. I loved all his interactions with Hannah’s parents here.
  • Thanks for reading, folks! We’ll be back next year with reviews of season six.

By Matt Dougherty

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