‘Girls’ Season 4 Finale Recap: “Home Birth”

We did it, people! We hit the Feminist Thinkpiece Singularity, in which Lena Dunham invoked the only name more reviled by a certain contingent than her own, and survived (mostly) unscathed. The phrase “this is your Lean In moment” was uttered on an episode of Girls and the universe did not implode. Also, a bunch of other stuff happened and Dunham ended a season on a different, and higher, note than the series’ first three outings, but that felt like an important place to start.

Going into the finale, it wasn’t clear what tensions the show needed to resolve before going on hiatus. Last week’s Mimi-Rose fiasco knocked out two birds with one stone, tying up both Jessa and Adam’s recent antics; Marnie made a disastrous life decision, although that’s basically an average Tuesday in Girls-ville; even grouchy Ray got some payoff in the form of a seat on Brooklyn’s prestigious Community Board 8. There didn’t seem to be much further to go, but as the saying goes, when we are in need, Gaby Hoffmann provides. Usually in the form of nudity.

And so we get a home birth, which Hannah diplomatically describes as “crazy” and Adam correctly deems “the dumbest idea that’s ever happened.” Caroline and Laird have always been weird and gross but somehow still sweet, a dynamic I’d thought would peak with their attempted three-way makeout with Hannah—until Hoffmann screams “EAT SHIT, BITCH!!!” to a sobbing (Jewish, 135-pound) Glaser. Jessa also shows up, for some reason, and discovers that her tone-deaf bitchiness has a real-world use after all: she’s perfect for snapping people out of delusions like “an at-home birth without training is a great idea!,” coaching Laird to man up and Caroline out of the damn bathtub.

Jessa is certainly better-suited to the task than Hannah, who’s still reeling from her father’s coming out and not especially thrilled to be there in the first place, and Adam, who’s freaking out in a very Adam way. (It’s not clear why Hannah is there in the first place, either; did she hear Caroline yelling and check in to see what’s going on? Was she just dropping by on an ill-timed social call? Did Laird reach out to her first, for some reason?) And so Caroline names the baby after her, and Hannah, and bluebells, and poems, giving Jessa a) adequate compensation for sticking her head into a tub and looking at Caroline’s mid-birth vagina and b) an actual, grown-up ambition.

It’s one of several genuine moments of character growth in the finale, something that is typically in very short supply on Girls. Take Shoshanna, for instance, who manages to land a job offer from Aidy Bryant, make a major life decision without Ray, and realize, albeit with some help from Colin Quinn, that Jason Ritter’s “don’t take that job” was exactly the wrong reaction. Moving to Japan is a radical move for Shoshanna and, like Hannah, she’ll doubtless be back before long, but it feels good for someone to fill the “fully functioning adult” void Marnie created somewhere around season two.

And oh, man, Marnie. “Home Birth” is a great episode for no other reason than allowing a good ol’ fashioned Ray Ploshansky Smackdown of her sentient neckbeard fiancé. It’s a work of art, complete with strong opener (“You’re not gonna get that assurance from me…because I fucking hate you”) and working its way down from the easy targets (eyeliner, apparent douchiness, being to other people what Imagine Dragons are to him) to the brutal truth (he treats Marnie like crap, and an engagement ring won’t fix that). It’s cold, but so is meeting with Spike Jonze the record executive in Ray’s coffee shop.

Rather than take Ray’s criticism to heart, of course, Desi simply proves him right by bailing on his and Marnie’s label showcase. The best part of this is that Desi’s awfulness is so well-established we don’t even need to hear his self-justification to know what it was: he’s doing Marnie a favor, she’s better off without him, monogamy is for suckers anyway… Granted, we can also see Marnie adding “I’m pretty good, too” to the romantic comedy reel in her head even as she’s saying it, and however awful Marnie and Desi were, at least they deserved each other. Ray, on the other hand—well, let’s just say that when he told Desi that he underestimates Marnie every day, I just shook my head and wrote “no, dude, you OVERestimate her every day” in my notes.

And so we work our way back to Hannah, who hears everything she wanted to from Adam and says no anyway. It’s a great moment, one where Hannah refuses to walk back on the progress she made in “Sit-In” and “Asking My Name” but clearly doesn’t take any pleasure in it. And a quiet exchange where Hannah is, for once, in full possession of herself feels like a much more satisfying, not to mention final, goodbye to Hannah and Adam than the panicked blow-ups of seasons past.

Fast forward six months, and for the first time ever, it’s winter on Girls. Fran has come around to Hannah’s charms, and…that’s all we know. It’ll be ten months before we find out if the Horvaths decided to split (sure looks like it), how bicontinentalism is treating Shoshanna, and whether Pitchfork threw Marnie a BNT. Most importantly, though, we want to know the answers to those questions, because “Home Birth” is that rare Girls finale: one that brings its characters to a happier place, with hints of more to come.