Like Joan Didion fifty hears before her, Hannah Horvath said goodbye to all that. Goodbye to New York, to the friends that she’d invested in so heavily since college, and goodbye to the Big City dreams of a hopeful young writer. Goodbye to Girls.
“Latching,” tonight’s series finale of Lena Dunham’s groundbreaking (truly) HBO drama was a departure all around – in plot, of course (stop reading here if you don’t want to know who departed what, and how), in mood and tone, in setting, in focus. Girls, created by and starring Dunham, even departed from traditional finale convention: Last week’s episode was the real ending; tonight’s felt more like a beginning.
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In recent episodes, Girls wrapped up, or at least addressed in some closing manner, the series-spanning plots and character arcs. Pregnant and with no interest in a relationship with the father (a minor character she and we barely knew), Hannah had already decided to keep and raise the baby. She’d also made a final decision about the on-off relationship – with Adam Driver’s Adam – that formed the show’s chief romance (after a long separation and a brief, blissful reunion, she turned down his marriage proposal, wordlessly, in one of the season’s most remarkably acted scenes).
And last week, she reunited, physically if not always happily, with the three other friends who together gave the series its title. After a season of strains, feuds and absences, the four girls – Dunham’s Hannah, Allison Williams’ Marnie, Zosia Mamet’s Shoshanna and Jemima Kirke’s Jessa – came together for a final confrontation in a bathroom at a party. At the end of the episode, three – all but Shoshanna – had more or less come to some sense of reunification and friendship. Shoshanna, the youngest and most (formerly) idol-worshipping of the bunch, was over them all, and ready for a new life.
Tonight’s series finale picked up months later with Hannah and Marnie living in bucolic upstate New York, Marnie helping to raise baby Grover as Hannah prepares to begin her college teaching job. (Longtime viewers long ago made peace, or didn’t, with Girls‘ out-of-nowhere, credibility-defying job offers: Elijah (Andrew Rannells) recently landed a big musical, becoming the show’s second character – after Adam – to find Broadway success with remarkable ease and little planning. And remember Christopher Abbott’s drifty Charlie becoming an overnight tech gajillionaire?).
Plotwise, “Latching” wasn’t intricate. The two ex-Brooklynites, their friendship strained to the breaking point by isolation, stress, boredom and a screaming, hungry baby who won’t “latch” with Hannah, attempt to settle into a country house big enough to swallow any four of their Greenpoint apartments. Marnie, in particular, has made a bad decision, driven more by martyrdom than reason.
Enter Loreen, Hannah’s long-suffering mother (Becky Ann Baker) whose life was upended in recent seasons when husband Tad (Peter Scolari) came out of the closet. Deeply alone and lost, she joins Hannah and Marnie, and, we can assume, gives Marnie the chance to live her own life, elsewhere.
When last we see Hannah, she has finally succeeded in breastfeeding little Grover, humming a song that harkens back to an earlier moment, and maybe more carefree times, as if she has no intention of completely leaving behind the friends and loves of Brooklyn.
“Latching,” was written by three of the show’s executive producers – Lena Dunham, Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow – and directed by Konner.
Deadline asked Dunham and Konner to reflect on tonight’s episode, the series, what they might have done differently and how they steered Girls to its destination, out of Brooklyn.
DEADLINE: So first question, what kind of mood are you in today?
KONNER: Do you want us to be honest?
DUNHAM: We feel really weird. It’s a really weird moment in time. I talked to Jenni today and I was like it’s not that we don’t have things going on, but it’s just shifting your focus. It will be seven years this week since Jenni and I met and began work on this, and shifting your focus and the energy of your life, it’s got a real sadness to it.
KONNER: And desolation.
DEADLINE: Desolation? But doesn’t it feel like mission accomplished and now on to new things? Or are you still in the grief period?
KONNER: I feel a very big sense of relief. I never know what people are going to like and I was very happy that people seemed to like season five so much, but then of course it went immediately to the place where I was like well, people are just going to say you should have ended it at season five. Season six sucks. But people have been responding so positively, so that’s been a huge relief. There is pleasure, absolutely, in the positive response.
DUNHAM: Absolutely, and there’s also pleasure in just having finished something in a way that we feel really proud of and we got to do it our way and we got to do it authentically. And it’s not like it ended and our office is shut down. We’re really, really lucky to be working on a bunch of different stuff right now and thinking about what is going to be the most exciting thing for us to do as a duo next. You have to crack your creative brain open at some point, even if it’s not easy all the time. And I’m glad that I’m doing that with Jenni.
DEADLINE: It struck me as I was watching the last few Season 6 episodes that episode nine – the second to last – was really the end, that was the finale. Episode ten was a beginning of some sort, a beginning of something else. Had you intended that?
DUNHAM: We’re really glad that you got that sense because the goal was absolutely that. We did a bit of a more traditional ending in nine, and then approached (10) in a different way.
KONNER: I think it was Judd’s idea originally, wasn’t it, Lena? To be like, Let’s have a finale and then have the real end.
DUNHAM: Yeah, he was just like, let’s not do this the way it’s always been done, let’s crack our brains open. There have been a few things that our writer’s room have been really resistant to, not to throw them under the bus, but it was like we wrote that final episode, a version of it, and left it with them for notes and when we came back the note was basically like, what if this wasn’t the final episode and you…
KONNER: They were like, we don’t need an episode ten, that’s what they said.
DEADLINE: I would have been disappointed without episode ten.
KONNER: Okay, good.
DEADLINE: We want to see what happens next, what happens to Hannah after she says her goodbyes in episode nine.
DUNHAM: We always knew Jenni was writing episode ten, and we also knew she was directing it. So as we were writing, she had very strong ideas about what she wanted it to feel like visually, she was like, let’s make this like we have done with episodes in the past – but even more so – like it’s own little movie. And so having that allowed us to do something super, super, super specific. For episode nine, which was the episode that was wrapping up our more traditional storylines, we had Nisha Ganatra who’s an amazing director we had never worked with before, so she brought this very fresh perspective to an episode that was really tying up old stories. Then Jenni came in and really, really, really treated it like a film. So those two directorial styles I thought, was a really exciting contrast.
KONNER: And then we had to work with infants, so the whole plan went out the door.
DEADLINE: Hey, even the baby gave a great performance.
DUNHAM: I have to say, if any director can work with an infant it’s Jenni. She was incredible with the infant, and she’s probably one of the only directors you’ll see who made the choice to babysit the infant herself between takes.
DEADLINE: How long had it been in your heads that the girls, the core group, would go their own ways? And one – Shoshanna – is clearly really going her own way.
DUNHAM: The whole show from the beginning was leading up to this idea, that the central question from very early on was, are these people supposed to be friends?
KONNER: Right, the friends you were friends with in college just because they were in your dorm.
DUNHAM: So that question has to be answered. Ultimately the show didn’t end up being a feel good ‘yep, it’s the friend you’re stuck with, the friends you’ll have for life.’ It ended up being something a little different than that. But then also I hope that what you get at the end of 10 is the idea that the Marnie and Hannah relationship is going to evolve but it’s not going to be lost. They may not always have the kind of codependence that they’re currently trafficking in, but the friendship won’t be lost.
DEADLINE: My sense is that Hannah’s Mom takes Marnie’s place in the house. Marnie stays emotionally close but not there.
KONNER: Marnie can’t spend her whole life circling around Hannah, but I do think when Marnie’s like, “Yes, I did it,” she is so stoked that she’s stuck around long enough to be the closest friend.
DUNHAM: 100 percent. That’s Marnie’s metric for success, the idea that she’s won the good friend/good person contest, which is one of the easiest, fastest ways to be the least good friend and the most annoying person.
DEADLINE: Hannah’s mom had that great speech tonight about how she devoted 30 years to being someone’s best friend [her closeted gay husband] and ended up hating him, which ties her storyline to the storyline of the girls. How long had you been thinking that Loreen would be the truth teller?
DUNHAM: Jenni really spearheaded the Tad-Loreen breakup, and after that was written I remember Judd saying, this storyline has so much, and we can’t – just because they’re the adults, just because they’re not this sort of central focus of the show – we can’t say their concerns can’t be there. We have to see them through the end. We owe it to them now. We can’t break them apart and not understand what happened to them, and we cannot put them back together. And so closure for Loreen became as important to us as closure for everybody, and Hannah having this baby seemed like a really natural place for that to happen.
DEADLINE: At what point did you know that Hannah and Adam would not get back together?
KONNER: Honestly, we never thought they would. He was never our Mr. Big, you know? He was Hannah’s first real relationship and they had a lot of chemistry and a lot of fun, but we never thought they were in it for the long haul.
DUNHAM: Hannah was like 23 when they started seeing each other. The relationship didn’t start from a place of real authentic support, love and purity, so I think that as many strides as they were able to make, it wasn’t enough. And the fact is, you can get an incredible amount of pleasure from someone and learn a lot from them but you’re not supposed to raise a child or a family with them.
DEADLINE: Lena, you essentially convey all of that wordlessly in Episode 9’s diner scene with Adam. What made you decide to not have Hannah tell Adam her answer to his marriage proposal, but rather to show it in her face?
DUNHAM: Judd and I were writing the episode together, and I had written an outline that had a much more talky thing. He just said, like, what if it were to go down this way and he described exactly what you saw on screen. I thought that’s a really great scene, you should probably get an actress who can do that. I mean, that wasn’t my specialty – a wordless flight of emotion dancing across my face. But we just had to trust that once I was in the situation, and once I was with Adam and once we had sort of established the emotional center of the episode, that it would be possible. Until I saw the edit, I was like, are we going to have to go back in and ADR six or seven lines? But I was so happy it worked. I think that so many of the most important transitional moments in our lives happen between words.
DEADLINE: In either of your heads, were there any possible alternate endings? Not just with Adam but with any of the characters? Was this the ending you were always heading towards?
KONNER: Yeah. Lena really has been talking about it for a very long time.
DUNHAM: It always felt like a sort of non-traditional but very dear way to keep Hannah moving forward emotionally, and it felt like something that she would do. People say “left” and she goes right – she’s the exact person who would actually make the ornery choice of a having a child alone at 27. But until we were on set and it was happening, I had no sense about whether it would feel natural or whether it would feel like some crazy leap. There was one day where I was standing next to Jenni with a pregnant belly on and I was rubbing it, and Jenni was like, this is getting really creepy. And I realized that this felt very, very, very natural. So this situation, this moment for Hannah, felt very, very natural.
DEADLINE: Are there any storylines throughout the series that you wish you would have done differently? Not so much specific episodes but story arcs and character development.
DUNHAM: We had a few moments where we just felt like we hadn’t quite nailed things, especially the first seasons there were some moments where we felt like we hadn’t quite nailed things totally. We didn’t yet understand that Girls was a show where you don’t really do like a sassy one-episode arc, you really dig into something. We had a few moments like that where we thought we could have told a story and more accurately expressed it through the style of our show. But we’re not massive regret people, are we, Jenni?
KONNER: No. I think truly we just learn from everything, and anything that, like, I really regretted taught me the lesson not to do it again.
DUNHAM: Totally. Completely. And some of the things we regretted, you shall never see.
KONNER: That’s true. Some things we took care of in post.
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