Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls is never without its ups-and-downs. Be it narratively, through its characters or in terms of quality, the show is never consistent. And when it comes time now to finish up season four with this week’s “Home Birth,” its bumpiest string of episodes to date, it is of course on a vibrating wavelength.
With Dunham finally back in the director’s chair for this finale, “Home Birth” thankfully brings back Girls down-played attention to detail and makes its understated-yet-insult-laced humor feel naturally at ease in terms of pacing. It also, as it jumps between various characters and their multiple storylines, feels a bit uneven and perhaps a tad too skippy for its own good, even though Dunham and her co-writers Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow do a fine job to make sure everyone interacts with someone else connected to the main story.
Hannah (Dunham) still feels in a rut, as always, and begins to have a possible panic attack as her work and home struggles combat in her psyche. If these stresses weren’t enough, she has to help her neighbors Laird (Jon Glaser) and Caroline (Gaby Hoffmann), her ex-boyfriend Adam’s (Adam Driver) sister, through their home birth. It’s a lot of screaming, crying and life mediation this week, and this isn’t even getting to Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and all their personal problems.
While Ray, as we saw last week, got his political position, he struggles with his feelings for Marnie after she announces at his celebration party her engagement to her bandmate Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). And while their musical duo gets the attention of the likes Pitchfork and other big names thanks to a high-profile record producer (guest star and Her director Spike Jonze) she’s not as confident in herself as her peers are in her. Shosh, meanwhile, inspired by all her successful hard work with Ray’s campaign, goes back into the job market and finds some success through the company Abigail. They want to hire her for a fantastic position, but it’s in Tokyo—which would obviously mean she’d leave her New York friends and new boyfriend behind
It’s a lot of drama for a 32 minute episode, and the showrunners knows it. Dunham keeps the jokes coming this week, but this is primarily a drama-heavy finale, as our characters still try to find themselves out after four years and lots of anger, confusion and fist-shaking. It almost feels like Dunham has too much to say and address, and “Home Birth” does feel rushed or condensed in some places. Plot points are often hastily resolved or given only a limited amount of their attention, while even some high-profile characters this season, i.e. Mimi-Rose (Gillian Jacobs), don’t show up to say bye.
Dunham continues to give great care and consideration to her characters, and their still enduring quirks and charms ultimately make the less-than-stellar plotting at times work. Even though you’ll roll your eyes when you hear Jessa (Jemima Kirke) say she’ll be a therapist now or Adam and Hannah talk about their relationship for the 1384 time, it comes from a still inspired, heartfelt piece of work. Plus Hoffmann’s loud and very naked—literally and figuratively—performance this week, in a storyline based on her own recent home birth one has to assume, makes for some frantically entertaining shenanigans and madness in “Home Birth.”
Dunham makes some odd to even downright baffling creative choices, like a completely unnecessary six-month jump at the tail-end of “Home Birth,” Girls is still here to prove it has a pulse and a desire to please. Every season, I say to myself and others how Girls should wrap up if it knows whats best for it, and it does seem like its confirmed fifth season would be a logical place to give Girls a proper goodbye.
I mean, how much longer can these characters ask themselves about the state of their lives over and over again without it completely losing steam? If this finale is an indicator, it’s to prove how Dunham’s show still has stride and wit, but the merry-go-round has slowed down. With season four officially in the bag and ultimately left with mostly good marks, it seems right to have a great last season next year to wave our hipster New York friends goodbye for good.
Thanks for reading everyone. To read more of my weekly TV recaps, check out my reviews of The Last Man on Earth and Better Call Saul on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
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