Top 10 Girls Episodes

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Love it or hate it, Girls‘s space in the TV-sphere for the last six years left a mark. Great shows like Broad CityLooking, and Search Party owe a lot to Lena Dunham’s series, divisive as it was. Yet, even after its spectacular inaugural season, Girls continued to churn out at least one great episode per season. It’s a happy accident that there’s an episode from every season on this list, but these are truly the best ever for Girls.

 

 

10. “Vagina Panic” (Season 1, Episode 2)

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The first few episodes of Girls are a pitch-perfect exercise in world- and character-building. The second ever episode helps define the newly formed foursome’s dynamic while also giving voice to a young generation of woman who were experiencing things in society that no generation before them had. As the girls argue about feminism and freak out about abortions and STDs, they’re trying to be there for each other even though they don’t quite know how to be there for themselves yet. Oddly enough, this might be Girls at its most relevant to everyday life, a feat it would spend the rest of the series sporadically hitting and dodging.

 

9. “Sit-In” (Season 4, Episode 5)

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Season four is unquestionably the show’s worst season, but it at least gave us “Sit-In.” The rare episode that features just about every character imaginable, this entry shows the fallout of Hannah and Adam’s breakup (which went very poorly for Hannah). In flow her friends and support systems, each resembling a different stage of grief, while also encapsulating the specific relationships Hannah shares with the others. But beyond that, “Sit-In” delivers perhaps the most significant exchange between Hannah and Marnie in the show’s entire run. Hannah’s whining about Adam not being her creative love story pushes Marnie to position their volatile friendship as the truly successful love story. Two friends who deal with each other’s bullshit and still support each other in their mad world.

 

8. “American Bitch” (Season 6, Episode 3)

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As you’ll see from the rest of this list, a lot of Girls‘ best episodes are the self-contained stories that strive to develop a single character as they work through a single situation. “American Bitch” plays like a bizarre dream, one where Hannah willingly went to an accused sexual assailant’s house and talked to him about being just that. The discussion Hannah and guest star Matthew Rhys go on to have is fascinating, showing that the face behind this crime is a face like any other, with thoughts and desires that don’t all point to wanting to take advantage of women. But the razor thin balance the episode strikes is hugely important in its success, humanizing this man without going easy on him. The show is deservingly harsh on people who do what this man is accused of doing, but it also isn’t naive enough to turn them into a one-note villain.

 

7. “Latching” (Season 6 Episode 10)

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Girls‘ series finale is something of a miracle. In the show’s final entry, it recaptured something the show had failed to for five seasons. Most of the episodes on this list after season one, while great, don’t match the initial premise Lena Dunham set out with. Slowly maneuvering itself there in the previous two episodes, “Latching” is a masterpiece of a series finale, ambitious in how low-key it is but also managing to define Hannah and Marnie and finally let them move past their biggest character defects. In the end, these two, the true love story of the show, set themselves up for a future where they’ll be better suited to help themselves and each other.

 

6. “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident” (Season 1, Episode 7)

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For a show about a bunch of modern 20-somethings living in Brooklyn, we really don’t see the characters going out and partying all that often. However, this alarmingly true to life portrayal of Brooklyn nightlife is the best example of the opposite in all six seasons, making for the most fun episode of the show’s entire run. All of the core four have a trial to get through here: Hannah has to navigate seeing the guy she’s sleeping with (Adam) in public, Marnie has to see her ex for the first time after the breakup, Jessa has to deal with the consequences of her carefree personality, and Shoshanna accidentally smokes crack. Set to the backdrop of some fun circa 2011 Top 40 remixes, this episode boasts a certain energy the show would never recapture.

 

5. “The Panic in Central Park” (Season 5, Episode 6)

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All of Girls‘ singular character episodes focus on Hannah save for this season five dive into Marnie’s psyche. At this point in the show’s run, the writers just really had no idea what to do with Marnie. Married to Desi, the show’s worst ever character, the writers put her in the shadow of her terrible decisions and never really tried to get her out. But taking the time to show us who Marnie really is, with the help of Christopher Abbott’s surprise return as Charlie, showed us a woman who needed to find the strength in herself to figure it all out. By the end of the episode, she does, and she delivers a powerful blow to the husband who takes advantage of her at every corner.

 

4. “The Return” (Season 1, Episode 6)

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One of the highlights of Girls‘s triumphant inaugural season is the relationship between Hannah and her parents. But “The Return” takes Hannah out of New York for the first time to showcase a trivial visit to her hometown after the hustle and bustle norm of the city. Bickering with her parents about texting during a movie and other microscopic issues, Hannah then goes out into the small world she left long ago to pursue her dreams. She experiences the cultural disconnect between people who left their hometown and people who are still there, a divide that, once there, is nearly impossible to tear down. At its very best, Girls captured specific and minute cultural details, which may have not ever been on display better than here.

 

3. “Beach House” (Season 3, Episode 7)

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Even if this episode hadn’t been critical in establishing the dynamic that the show would ultimately choose to end on, it would still be a classic. Not only is “Beach House” a ton of fun, it also strikes to the core of each character and 20-something friendships in general. After skinny dipping and dance routines, a huge fight breaks out in the core four, resulting in characters saying things to each other that the audience had been thinking since we met them. The harsh honesty, proof that these ladies are done giving a shit about each others’ feelings, makes for some of the best acting a writing the show would ever deliver.

 

2. “All Adventurous Women Do” (Season 1, Episode 3)

Before delivering Girls‘ all-time best, and likely still most iconic scene, “All Adventurous Women Do” was a great episode all by itself. First off, this is the entry that introduces us to Elijah, in a hilarious scene where Hannah accuses him of giving her an STD, finds out he’s gay, and is eventually harassed about her father’s sexuality. On Marnie’s end, she meets Boothe Jonathan, who seems capable of giving her everything Charlie hasn’t been able to, leaving her to rush to the bathroom to touch herself, something still so un-Marnie-like after six seasons that it resonates even more powerfully now. But then, after their respectively bizarre days, Marnie comes home to Hannah dancing alone to Robyn’s “Dancin’ On My Own.” Hannah quickly recounts her ridiculous day to her best friend, they share a therapeutic laugh, and Marnie throws her purse down and joins her for a dance. The episode ends in the pair sharing a loving embrace as the music blares. The most true argument for long-lasting friendships the show would ever make, in this moment, Girls was universal.

 

1. “One Man’s Trash” (Season 2, Episode 5)

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What does a perfect life for Hannah Horvath look like? “One Man’s Trash” shows her, as she follows a very good looking doctor, Joshua (Patrick Wilson, the show’s best guest star) home to apologize for throwing Grumpies’ trash into his trash cans. He invites her in and they kind of just start having sex in a way that had a lot of fans questioning whether the episode actually happened or was in fact a fever dream (a debate season six would thankfully put to rest when Joshua cameoed in “Painful Evacuation”). What follows is a short few days where Hannah is spoon-fed everything she didn’t know she wanted. There’s a startlingly handsome and successful man in front of her that wants her, who shows her a few days where no one has to go to work and they can just fool around and have sex. It all leads to Hannah’s breakdown, where she admits to herself that she wants the same boring happiness that everyone else wants, rather than the experiences of a troubled artist. And in this moment, Joshua sees just how young Hannah really is, and the fantasy is immediately over, despite having to have a few awkward moments together to get through the night. Even if, for Joshua, this is a fairly routine affair, for Hannah, the events of “One Man’s Trash” are life-altering, pushing her in a direction where warm complacency is attainable if only she lets life happen rather than trying to make it happen.

 

Some Other Favorites: “Pilot,” “Leave Me Alone,” “It’s a Shame About Ray,” “Video Games,” “Free Snacks,” “Love Stories,” “I Love You Baby,” “What Will We Do This Time Abut Adam?,” and “Goodbye Tour.”

 

What are your favorite episodes of Girls? Sound off in the comments below!

By Matt Dougherty

 

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