Lena Dunham’s Girls has remained one of the most prescient, and perhaps even the definitive, depiction of 21st century post-college life for straight white creative types, and it’s resonance grows stronger every day. But what if there was a curated playlist, if you will, of some of the best episodes that line up with very specific situational moods? Well now there is. Here are six of Girls’s best episodes, although there are many more great ones, that capture very specific temperaments of your twentysomething social existence…
This article contains spoilers for every season of Girls, including major plot revelations right up to the last episode. Avoid if you haven’t seen the show through to the end, and if you ever plan to, because you’ll absolutely ruin it for yourself.
The episode about realising that home is not an option
The Return (Season 1) sees Hannah return to her Michigan hometown and reevaluate the possibility of her living a comfortable and fruitful life away from the excitement of New York City. But then she attends a corny event with a corny local guy, who she proceeds to sleep with, and a call from Adam back in NYC shatters her nostalgia. The city might be scary, but it’s where the living happens.
The episode about running into that person in a new environment
In “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident” (Season 1), Hannah and friends head to a trendy warehouse party, and she runs into regular hookup/not-boyfriend Adam who, as far as we can tell, she’s only ever hung out with in his manky apartment. Suddenly their dynamic comes into public view as they dance to “Bang Bang” by Mark Ronson and Adam’s existence, as a functioning member of social society who Hannah’s friends can vouch for the realness of, becomes undeniable.
The episode about exposing your flaws too quickly
One Man’s Trash (Season 2) depicts an experience so specific and instantly, crushingly recognisable that it demands multiple viewings to fully appreciate. Hannah ends up in the home of a handsome stranger (this is not the familiar bit, don’t worry), played by Patrick Wilson, where she stays for somewhere between one and two days, inhabiting his mysterious life and seeking his care (he also, as it happens, is a doctor). But she gets too invested. And she opens herself up, and what’s inside is pretty unnerving for someone you’ve known a day. Hannah leaves clearly aware that she overstepped, but having been enveloped in a new person’s world for enough time that it has changed her radically. Wilson’s character is never spoken of again until he randomly pops up in a hospital towards the end of the show and provides Hannah with a some innocuous but crucial support, closing the book on their encounter.
The episode about reconnecting
Marnie runs into ex-boyfriend Charlie on a street corner in The Panic in Central Park (Season 5) and finds he’s transformed from a skinny musician into a charismatic swindler with a shaved head. They go on a series of misadventures around the city including stealing a boat, getting mugged and eventually heading back to his apartment, where they discuss the possibility of running away together before she finds a needle and runs out furious. It’s an incredible, compressed portrait of two people rekindling a connection put on pause for years in just one day, and Abbott’s physical transformation is key to demonstrating the strange uncanny valley effect of finding someone you love has changed so much.
The episode about manipulation
The single best episode of the show on an artistic level is American Bitch (Season 6) which sees Hannah visit the apartment of a successful author (Matthew Rhys) and discuss the exposé of him as a sexual predator she wrote, and let him “explain his version of events”. It’s a 30-minute masterclass in how people can twist things to suit a projection of their persona, and a great teleplay about #MeToo conversations. But it’s also, more generally, about how one can be starstruck, or invest too much in an idea of someone’s goodness, and let obvious red flags fall to the side. A really remarkable episode of TV.
The episode about letting the second chance go
Right before the show ends, and Hannah leaves New York to have her baby, she decides it’s time to give Adam another chance and let him be the man who raises her child with her. They meet and walk around the city, and eat, and sleep together, and it’s only when buying baby stuff that it hits Hannah that this isn’t going to work. It’s never even verbalised, but as they sit in a diner and he asks about her plans for the evening, an solemn but clear understanding develops between them and so ends one of the great romances on American television. It’s a totally truthful, quiet conclusion to Adam & Hannah that most shows wouldn’t dare, and it’s two episodes before the final, but there’s a beauty to how unvarnished it is and the extent to which it reflects how most mutual departures happen.