Girls began its second season by promising that its characters were "almost kind of getting it together" — but coming at the end of a strange, uneven sophomore season for the HBO dramedy, tonight's "Together" feels like an episode of a show that's beginning to fall apart.
There's a lot I didn't like about "Together" — and very little that I did — but it's particularly disappointing for a season finale, and an ending that sets a very strange course for the show's third season when it premieres next year. It's safe to say that last week's quasi-nightmarish "On All Fours" was a polarizing episode of Girls, but at least it had a unique (and arguably courageous) story to tell. By contrast, "Together" felt like it came together the same way Hannah intended to finish her book: Quickly and sloppily, in a desperate attempt to wallpaper over the narrative problems that have plagued the show all season.
If you're feeling very generous, "Together" can almost be read as a subversive take on conventional romantic comedy tropes. The corny, overwritten exchange between Marnie and Charlie sounded like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but in reality, it's not sweet when Charlie says something like "I try to keep getting away" before confessing that he still loves Marnie — it's pathetic. And Adam's shirtless run through New York City could have come from a particularly hacky rom-com, right down to the moment when he kicks the door down and sweeps Hannah into his arms — but then again, those are almost exactly the same things he did when Hannah called the police on him earlier this season, so it's all about context.
But Girls usually invites us to roll our eyes at our heroes' unhealthy behavior, and "Together" never gives us any indication that we're supposed to be disturbed by the episode's regressive turn of events. Adam's attempt to "save" Hannah is presented as unambiguously heroic, even though — O.C.D. aside — her problems are essentially self-created, and can only be solved if she tries to save herself. And I guess we're supposed to be happy that Adam decides to cheat on Natalia, the girlfriend who actually expects him to be a better person, with Hannah. And Marnie continues to be horrible to Charlie, grilling him about the sex he had when they weren't even dating, before it implicitly endorses the "endpoint" of their relationship. Only Shoshanna escapes her dysfunctional relationship, breaking up with Ray in the episode's best scene — but the next time we see her, it's mid-hookup with yet another guy.
Even as Girls disappoints by implicitly endorsing the utterly toxic relationships of Hannah/Adam and Marnie/Charlie, it does something even more disappointing by putting so much emphasis on romantic relationships at all. Remember when Girls was about more than boys? What this episode lacks — and, on reflection, this season has lacked — is an emphasis on the relationships between the central four women. The episode doesn't come close to passing the Bechdel Test, because the women don't talk to each other at all, and it's frustrating to watch Girls push the characters' romantic entanglements to the forefront while it pushes the rest of their lives aside. Hannah's crippling O.C.D. made it impossible for her to finish the book that would represent the culmination of her personal and professional dreams — but that's okay, because Adam is there to scoop her into his arms! Marnie and Charlie have reached their "endpoint," even though neither of them mentions her budding singing career — but that's okay, because Charlie's making enough money for both of them! And Shoshanna... what does Shoshanna do again? College student? Maybe we should actually find out what she's studying sometime.
To be fair to Girls, we do get one small glimmer of what these characters are like when they're not spending all their time on relationships. Hannah's oft-mentioned, never-seen book finally makes an appearance at the end of "Together," and the single sentence she's written sounds like the episode I had hoped "Together" would be:
"A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance..."
If that's really the case, Girls needs to reexamine its priorities, because it's spending all its time in the wrong place — and I hope that sentence is a hint about the future of Girls, because it sounds like a much better show than the one we've been watching.
Read more Girls recaps:
* Girls recap: A disastrous trip outside Brooklyn
* Girls recap: A night out with the boys
* Girls recap: 'One Man's Trash'
* Girls recap: 'It's a Shame About Ray'
* Girls recap: Hannah the antihero
* HBO's Girls season 2 premiere: Almost getting it kind of together