As Lena Dunham’s fantastic ‘Girls’ series premieres its final series tonight, Chapter W recall their five favourite episodes of past seasons, and talk about what makes the show so great in the first place…
Episode one’s first scene of Girls had my jaw on the floor. Hannah getting cut off financially by her parents as she desperately tries to defend her unpaid internship hit me right where it hurt. At that time, I was in my final year of university, scraping the barrel of my overdraft as I worked unpaid at publishing houses, calling my parents begging them for another £20 just so I could afford to get the tube. It felt like finally, a show about me was here.
A show that didn’t have pretences. It didn’t blur over the horrible realities of being in your twenties in the 21st Century, and it didn’t put the female protagonists on a pedestal. The characters were hugely flawed, with most episodes showing them to have almost no redeeming features. But that’s what made it so perfect, as we could all see ourselves in them. Whether it was Hannah’s self obsession, Marnie’s desperation, Jessa’s constant battle with herself, or Shoshanna’s confusion of where she fits in the world after college, Girls was a TV revolution.
Here at Chapter W, we will be quietly mourning the loss of our favourite TV sisters as the final series begins later today, but to celebrate what they have given us, we have listed our top five episodes from all the series. And believe us, this was a tricky task…SPOILERS AHEAD…
1 – The Panic In Central Park, Series 5 Episode 6
Possibly one of the most beautiful half hours of television ever created. Almost an interlude in series five focussing just on Alison Williams’ character Marnie, who is at a stage in her life that she can’t quite understand. She’s a completely different woman to the one we met in that first episode, now living with her musician husband in a tiny flat, wondering how it all got to this. She walks, she walks and walks, and bumps into her first love, Charlie. Except he’s no longer Charlie.
The audience are aware pretty early on that Charlie is up to something fairly dodgy, but Marnie’s whirlwind day leaves her naively ignoring the warning signs and allowing herself to fall right back into the past. The past that was good to her, when she was in control, when she knew what she wanted. She allows herself to fall straight into Charlie’s arms and enjoy a night in New York City that you only see in the movies. It’s heartbreaking, tender and emotional, and when the cold light of day rises and Marnie faces the reality of the man she once loved, it’s painful to see her plans fall apart so quickly.
The redeeming factor of this brilliant episode for Marnie is her walk back to her flat, dressed in a ball gown, and finally admitting out loud that she’d made a mistake. The strong, confident Marnie is back, and you almost forgive her for her dreadful folk songs. (almost).
2 – Beach House, Series 3 Episode 7
So you pretty much KNOW that an episode is going to be fantastic when Judd Apatow directs it, which is exactly the case for The Beach House. All four girls head to the beach for a rekindling friendship holiday, with controlling Marnie rearing her ugly head as she attempts to bring them back together, forgetting the events of the past and just being friends again. Simple? You’d think…
Marnie is so set on an Instagram perfect weekend that she forgets that these girls don’t do perfect. Whether it’s Jessa’s free spirit ruining the picture-perfect setting, or Hannah’s unwanted invitation to Elijah (a welcome return), the weekend is a complete disaster. But what is so telling about this episode is the need and desperation to cling onto friendships that are just falling apart. Isn’t it true that a friendship break up can be 10x worse than a romantic one? Aren’t we all a little bit Marnie, trying to keep a grasp on the one thing we understand?
The fantastic use of ‘You’re Breaking My Heart’ by Harry Nilsson is a welcomed musical break in this tense episode, although ironically it is the cause of the huge argument that is at the heart of the piece. Shoshanna finally rips free of the chains of her ‘quirky’ character, calling out all the girls on their flaws, which is a refreshing change of her quippy one liners. The argument is so raw that it felt it could almost be one I’ve had myself. A perfect episode.
3 – She Said OK, Series 3 Episode 3
Again, an episode based on Marnie’s desperate need to cling onto the past. Marnie organises Hannah’s 25th birthday party, and we are introduced to Adam’s eccentric sister, played by the insanely brilliant Gaby Hoffmann.
Firstly, can we talk about the brilliant chemistry between Adam Driver and Gaby Hoffmann? Both play the troubled characters with intense passion that you can feel almost like you’re intruding, and it was brilliant to see into Adam’s past. Hannah’s trouble with admitting that he had a life before her is so clear in this episode, and it’s troubling to relate as you think of all the times you’ve been somewhat smarmy with a blast from the past that your partner introduces. Their chemistry and lines alone make this one of my favourites.
But again, the cringe inducing duet Marnie insists on at the party is something that, I openly admit, I do a lot when I’m drunk. Insisting on making my friends sing songs that we sang when we were 13, or trying to recreate a moment that happened once 7 years ago. It’s this strange need to grip onto the past that makes Marnie so relatable, but also so tragically sad as the other girls don’t share her passion to live in nostalgia. And this is where I make my admission that yes, I am probably a Marnie. Sigh.
4 – Pilot, Series 1 Episode 1
We couldn’t have a top five list without the episode that started it all. From the get go, this was gripping television. I remember rewinding the first scene so many times, calling in my mum and dad to show them that LOOK THIS IS REAL LIFE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE SPONGING OFF THEIR PARENTS TRYING TO FORGE SOME SORT OF PATH IN THE WORLD. It’s a stark reminder to the world that women in their twenties living in New York don’t actually survive on glamorous PR parties, cosmopolitans, and sleeping with rich, successful men. They’re struggling in a city that doesn’t even want them here, forcing themselves to be heard.
The introduction to each character is perfect, and you find yourself drawn to each of the girls in their own special ways. It’s a crash course in character development, as you’re left wanting more from each of them by the end of the 30 minutes. You relate to all of them (maybe not Jessa as much, as let’s face it, none of us are that adventurous…but god damn we try) and desperately want to find out what’s next, as you subconsciously hope it’s good news – perhaps to feed your own worries of failure in a world post-university. Thank GOD for these Girls.
5 – I Love You Baby, Series 5 Episode 10
Which takes us to where we last saw the girls. Jessa and Adam in a naked ball on the floor. Shoshanna finding her path in the career world, Marnie with a sincere smile on her face, and Hannah running away from the crap she has finally let go of. It felt like all of the girls had made a significant step in the direction of maturity, accepting their realities finally and taking control of their futures.
Jessa and Adam’s turbulent relationship is the subject of Hannah’s emotional monologue, with her admitting to the heartbreak they’ve caused her, but also realising that this world they’ve created for themselves is no longer of her concern. The freedom this brings the character, you can literally see a weight being lifted off her shoulders, as she stands confidently to tell her story. A real story. No longer the dramatic hyperbole she desperately tries to create in order to be adored and respected. She is finally allowing herself to feel FEELINGS, and realise her own story is one of worth.
So this brings us to today. February 12th. The day the final series starts airing. I don’t know which direction Dunham has chosen to take the characters, but all I know is that I trust her profusely.