'Girls' Ends With the Best Kind of Real-Life Drama -- Motherhood

girls finale latching
Mark Schafer/HBO

The day has come -- Girls is over. And it ended in a way perhaps no one could have predicted: The finale, perfectly titled "Latching," shows us Hannah (Lena Dunham) facing her most dramatic role yet, with her most challenging "partner" -- single motherhood -- and the journey she is taking with her son, perfectly named Grover. [Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

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It was a beautiful ending. And when the camera focused solely on Hannah's face at the end (like it had done for many episodes), tears rolled down my face. She was doing it -- facing her fears, overcoming her frustrations, being in the moment. To see the true beauty of the episode, you must really look at the moments within.

As much as I would have loved to see Hannah with Adam (Adam Driver), that relationship was wrong for her. How often do we all fantasize about getting back with an ex, only to have it happen and quickly remind us why that relationship ended in the first place? Hannah was able to only dabble with that scenario, before she realized that the new chapter in her life was beyond all that she had grown comfortable with. As our bodies change in pregnancy, so do our minds. Thoughts expand, possibilities seem endless, life feels so entirely different and more intense than ever before. This was all happening to Hannah.

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Being someone who lived in Brooklyn for most of my life (I was even born there), I fully understand the allure of moving "upstate" after having a baby. I did just that. Even moved to a college town. I can also attest that the job Hannah got teaching students how to write for the Internet does exist, and while the pay isn't often great, the cost of living upstate is quite lower than it is in NYC. The only discrepancy I had with the last few episodes is that it was always summertime, even when we flash-forwarded five months to Grover's arrival. But whatever. I'd read that was on purpose, to show the world Hannah -- all of her, and her beautifully real body. Lena Dunham, you are incredible.

So Hannah ends up in a sweet little house in the woods with Marnie (Allison Williams), her supposed true best friend, a moment that Marnie soaks up as a victory, since Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and also Elijah (Andrew Rannells) are left in the New York City they think they'll never abandon. (You always think that until you actually leave ... even Shosh comes back after her job in Japan.)

Marnie becomes the sort of practical co-parent (though her vaping in the pediatrician's office was way off and gave us a glimmer of Marnie potentially cracking). Her FaceTime sex with Delvin P., a personal trainer from Weehawken, was totally fine though -- and I loved her chat about it with Loreen (Becky Ann Baker). Always take time to yourself! Marnie is also all about Hannah and Grover; she is reading all the books, is a whiz at swaddling, and tries to encourage Hannah to keep at breastfeeding and to not be negative because that energy will be rubbed off on the baby. It's a fantastic coupling, Marnie and Hannah; they become this sexless couple raising a baby together. Not far from some people's reality post-baby. 

The name Grover is perfect. His name is the one that Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed) suggests when Hannah has her awkward phone call with him to tell him she's pregnant as a result of their tryst at surf camp. Hannah, of course, would never name a child something from the top baby names list.

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But "Latching" wasn't just about getting Grover to latch; it was also about Hannah needing to latch on to motherhood. It takes time. Practice. It's a never-ending ebb and flow of emotions and struggles. Those moments of Hannah struggling to breastfeed were so on point -- that was a real look at the early days of motherhood. It's not easy. Before becoming a mother, we all have this view of what we think it would be like, but it's never fully understood until it happens, and that understanding is a slow reveal, one that deepens with each month, each milestone, each year of your baby's life. Hannah's mom said it best when she let Hannah know that she can't take this back, her son isn't a temp job, he's forever. Hannah knows this deep down. She's just struggling to understand it all, to really feel it all.

Hannah realizes she needs a break, so she leaves the house in a very Hannah way. She's in a big zip-up sweatshirt and ill-fitting loose jeans and sneakers. And she walks and walks, giving herself pause, and some time away from the stress she's feeling at home from her mom, Marnie, and Grover. And that's okay.

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And that's when she runs into a whiny teenage girl who is pant-less and shoeless and is in an "emergency incident." The girl is much like any of the girls from Girls in seasons past. She's crying, super emotional over something, and all her sentences seem to end in question marks, voice rising higher and higher. Hannah fears something terrible has happened to her, and in trying to help, Hannah gives the girl her jeans to wear, and her shoes -- leaving Hannah the one pant-less and shoeless. As they talk more, Hannah learns the girl is upset with her mom for making her do her homework before seeing her boyfriend Justin. It becomes a moment of clarity for Hannah -- this girl is just like she was before she had her baby, self-absorbed and young and upset about things that should slide more easily. Hannah, whom the girl calls "ma'am" in the beginning, goes on to give her a perfect speech, shouting that her mom loves her more than anything in the world and will take care of her forever even if it means endless, endless pain! She says, as the girl runs away, that "life is going to chase you with problems you can't imagine."

Hannah literally gave the girl her mom jeans -- and the characters both had a moment saying how they were too big on both of them. These pants -- mom jeans -- were too big to fill. Those jeans -- those shoes -- are big ones to fill. It's a brilliant metaphor. It takes time. And Hannah apparently has that epiphany when telling the girl to just go and do her homework -- and then also telling her to just go and screw her boyfriend. The girl needs to do her thing, figure it out on her own. Just like Hannah did when she was younger -- and just like she has to do now. Hannah needs to just go home and do her own thing, be with her baby, try breastfeeding again with a calm mind. She sees the largeness of motherhood, and the journey to fit into those jeans, those shoes, that role. And it worked.  

But she walks home, cop following her to safety, without shoes, without pants. That to me was the moment that Hannah recognizes she's passed the baton of youth to that young girl, moving on to her new self, her new beginning in life.

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This is the most grown-up thing that Girls could imagine -- being a mom. And having Hannah, with her all dysfunction, become a mom is an ultimate lesson in growing up. The ending was bright and beautiful -- it was Hannah in a victory of getting Grover to latch. That smile on her face is her "latching" on to motherhood. It's Hannah feeling that bond, those incredible oxytocin hormones flowing through her, giving her that boost she needs to know she can do it. It's her big epiphany that everything will be okay, that's it's hard as hell, but she can do it and she and Grover are going to be just fine. 

Hannah's face in that last shot is everything. It's her facing her new life, her new role, her new beginning, a brilliant shot, a perfect ending. We don't need words here -- we see it all on her face. It's her coming to terms with how it's really hard sometimes, but she will survive it, even thrive, just like Grover will. And then hearing the sweet sounds of Grover nursing, Hannah's encouragement, the hope in her voice, and her gentle and whispering rendering of the song "Fast Car," the same song she told Marnie to stop singing in the car, is her moment acknowledging it will get easier, and that's it all going to be okay. "I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone ...."

Thank you. This was exactly the kind of beautiful ending Girls deserved. 

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