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Life—and death—comes at you fast in a momentous Girls

Andrew Rannells and Lena Dunham (Photo: HBO)
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Saying goodbye to Girls is difficult because it’s hard to imagine what the show’s finish line looks like. Hannah and the members of her social circle have certainly made strides toward finding lasting love, discovering their passions, and ironing out their personal wrinkles. Hannah has made the most dramatic progress, between her atypically carefree weekend with Paul-Louis and her newfound ability to accept her friends’ deepest flaws and most confounding missteps. But Girls is an abstract coming-of-age story, one with a devotion to authenticity that demands the characters follow circuitous paths. If “Painful Evacuation” is any indication, the final episodes of Girls will feel the proper ending, complete with all the surprises and upheavals that would be expected of a far more traditional television show than this one.


The episode’s title refers to Hannah’s infected urinary tract, which she says is the result of a devotion to wet underwear rather than a blockbuster sex life. She spends days complaining about her painful urination but is too stubborn to get it checked out, opting to tough it out and bum prescription painkillers whenever she can. Given Hannah’s tendency to assume all of her health issues are self-limiting, her willingness to break down and see a doctor is progress in itself. The universe should probably reward this very grown-up instinct, but instead, the doctor shows up and it’s none other than Joshua (Patrick Wilson), the handsome stranger she hooked up with in the instant classic “One Man’s Trash.” Their interaction is by the book and not all that awkward, all things considered, until Joshua casually mentions Hannah’s pregnant without realizing he was exposing her to new information.

The news of Hannah’s pregnancy is a bombshell that the script, written by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, treats with restraint and a refreshing lack of hysteria. She’s certain the baby is the result of her weekend romp with Paul-Louis, and she acknowledges that between his serious girlfriend and his hedonistic beach bum lifestyle, Paul-Louis is unlikely to become a fixture in her life. The only thing to decide now is whether to carry the baby to term, and Hannah is proud and defiant when Joshua offers to set her up with a doctor he trusts, assuming there’s no chance she’s ready to be a mother. She sounds spiteful, but there’s more to her reaction than ruffled feathers. Hannah seems truly conflicted about the decision ahead of her even as her career finally starts to fall into place. Just as Hannah was growing accustomed to this latest version of what her adult life could look like, here comes another version to complicate the choice.

Meanwhile, Ol’ Man Ray deals with a double dose of human mortality. This time, the first cut isn’t the deepest. Ray is forced to witness the death of Tommy, a regular at the coffee shop who Ray has to shoo away in the middle of Tommy’s yarn about Ed Koch and his mythical gays-only train. Ray takes Tommy’s death as hard as anyone would after an uncomfortable social interaction with the dearly departed. But he’s more unsettled by his argument with Hermie, a confrontation over Ray’s unused potential that grows unnecessarily heated. After talking to the ever-wise Shoshanna, Ray heads to Hermie’s place to make nice, but finds his boss and friend’s lifeless body instead. Alex Karpovsky acts the hell out of the scene, and the result is far more brutal than I would have anticipated. If the goal was to punch the audience in the gut with the death of a just-prominent-enough character, Hermie was a shrewd choice.

For all its shocking developments, “Evacuation” still doesn’t completely hold up as an episode. The cold open, which finds Hannah interviewing a subject played by Tracey Ullman, hits on an important thematic idea. Hannah is introduced to the idea that writing is not about walling yourself off from the outside world, but rather about engaging with it fully, even if that means the actual written output is intermittent. But because of where the scene lands, it feels superfluous, like it’s more about Ullman’s availability for a brief cameo appearance. There’s no sense of continuity between the cold open and what comes next, and the entire episode is similarly jarring.


Hannah and Ray carry heavy loads in this episode, and to a lesser degree, so does Marnie, who endures a counseling session with Desi and a facilitator who has no interest in Marnie’s perspective on the failed marriage. The plot is dour and needs leavening, but everything involving Adam and Jessa felt completely wrong, as if it belonged in another episode, if not another show entirely. I can’t put into words how much I hate the idea of Adam and Jessa trying to mine the genesis of their dysfunctional relationship into the next Sundance sensation. The Adam-Jessa-Hannah love triangle frankly isn’t as interesting as the players in it seem to think it is, and maybe the punishment for Adam and Jessa’s betrayal is that they’re now doomed to think their garden-variety fuckery is the stuff of great art.

At least Hannah has been disabused of this notion, despite turning that story of heartbreak into a well-received New York Times column. She arrives home from the hospital, still uncomfortable and now weighed down by the choice ahead of her. A giddy Adam and Jessa confront her in the lobby of their building and ask her permission to turn their story into a film, and Hannah doesn’t have the energy. “Just do whatever you want,” says Hannah, in a rare moment of healthy perspective. Hannah already seems a little more grown up at the end of the episode than she did at the beginning, but life-and-death stakes will do that to you.


Stray observations

  • Joshua was in a bad spot with Hannah and couldn’t really win for losing, but I wish he hadn’t been so paternalistic and weird. I was proud of Hannah for rejecting his hug.
  • In addition to mourning Tommy and Hermie, Ray is mourning his relationship with Marnie, which he finally seems to realize isn’t what he thought it was.
  • “I want to die in the mouth of a lion with you,” says Marnie, hoping he’ll recite bad poetry back to her like her other man does.

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