Girls finished its provocative six-season run with an odd, low-key provocation: a just-okay episode lacking all the typical trappings of a finale. Season finales don’t (except in the instance of a puzzle shows like Lost) make or break a series. Girls seemed to want to underscore this point, staging what amounted to a Girls-y variation on The Sopranos’ infamous hard cut to black, but instead of being unsure of what happens after the camera stops rolling, viewers can be certain: Hannah Horvath is going to keep being Hannah Horvath and nothing, not a baby or the end of the TV show that features her, is going to stop that.
“Latching” didn’t have any of the signatures of a finale. All the loose-end-tying up happened in episodes eight and nine, the latter of which finished with the titular girls basically agreeing they aren’t friends anymore, but dancing it out anyway. (In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer and director of the episode Jenni Konner said, “Episode 9 would be the traditional finale and then the 10th would be as if there was some imagined spin-off that will never be.”) We’ll just have to imagine Ray and Abigail are kissing on a merry-go-round in perpetuity; dream of the raw bar at Shosh and Byron’s wedding; wonder about the health of Jessa and Adam’s ongoing psycho-sexual true love affair; keep our fingers crossed that Elijah can learn how to dribble a basketball before White Men Can’t Jump opens on Broadway.
This episode, instead, was a coda. It began with the same shot that the series did: Hannah and Marnie sleeping next to each other, though this time, Hannah wakes up appalled to find Marnie there. Marnie has an offer: she wants to help raise Hannah’s baby. Despite the fact that they half-hate each other most of the time, Hannah takes her up on this. (Like so many spin-offs, this one has a dubious premise.) The show then jumps ahead five months, and the two are now holed up together taking care of Hannah’s six-week old son Grover (so named at erstwhile father Paul-Louis’s recommendation), who is refusing to latch.
The hazy and intense early days of motherhood are indeed an occasion for the horror movie/love story slippage that suits Girls, but Grover’s difficulties breastfeeding are used largely as an opportunity for Hannah and Marnie to demonstrate how deeply they remain Hannah and Marnie, purebred narcissists of distinct types, working on a dangerous co-dependency. Marnie is always playing the do-gooder martyr and Hannah is always playing the perpetual screw up, Hannah forever unappreciative, Marnie perpetually unappreciated, Hannah the sloppy child, complaining from the backseat about the grown-up’s singing, Marnie the put-upon grown-up who won’t just tell Hannah that, yes, she is going into town to see some jazz trio.
After Hannah brings Grover to Marnie in the middle of the night, convinced he hates her because he won’t latch, Marnie calls in the troops: Hannah’s mother. Loreen reads Hannah the riot act, or, if you prefer, the common sense act: everyone’s in pain, life is hard, Grover is not something Hannah can quit, he doesn’t hate her, he’s a baby. Hannah responds like a child: lashing out and blaming her mother’s marriage for turning Hannah into such a mess.
Hannah then leaves the house and runs into a teenager in her underwear, whom Hannah assumes is in trouble, but is simply refusing to do her homework. The girl flips the roles for Hannah, allowing Hannah to take the maternal perspective, even if she still ends up walking home with no pants on. Hannah comes back to her house to discover that Marnie and Loreen have given Grover formula, taking some of the pressure off. He begins to cry and Hannah goes to him. Now he latches. A baby step forward. It’s a testament to all the (better) episodes of this excellent, trying, fascinating show that in the next episode, which we’ll never get to see, we still know exactly what happens: Hannah inevitably takes a step back.