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The final episode of Girls revealed Hannah Horvath's two most important relationships

The penultimate episode of Girls, which saw the quartet in one room for the twelfth and last time, was what many viewers expected. The true ending - focusing on Marnie and New York - was more surprising. 

A girl’s foot hooks over another girl’s leg. A thigh wrapped round hips. In a soft pink bedroom, the camera pans up to reveal Hannah spooning Marnie, who is wearing soft pink pyjamas, her lip caught on her bulky mouth-guard. After the cold open and the show’s iconic title card, this is the first peek we got into the lives of the women on Girls. If the title alone wasn’t enough, this visual introduction makes it clear that these are women stuck in a state of semi-adolescence, plaits and all.

As the show rolled on, the fact that Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna failed to break out of this stasis kept viewers both hooked and frustrated. There were new jobs, new men and new homes; birthdays weddings, and divorces; yet despite some character development (Jessa sobering up, Shoshanna finding self-confidence, Hannah making it through a breakdown in her mental health), the four main women seemed to keep disappointing each other, and falling short of responsible adulthood. So how do you satisfactorily end a show dependent on collective arrested development?

Perhaps you end it with a group of four women finally accepting the extent of their differences, agreeing, through the odd tear, to move on with their own lives, before dancing carelessly together, as though they’d only just met. The penultimate episode of Girls, which saw Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna in one room for the twelfth and last time, was close to what viewers might expect from this bittersweet programme. Where was left to go from here?

The final episode, “Latching” opens with a call-back to its beginnings with that familiar tracking shot panning over Hannah lying in bed with a sleeping companion. In the pilot, it was Marnie, but we’ve also seen the same shot open seasons two and three, with Elijah and Adam respectively spooning Hannah, her main emotional supports in each of those seasons. In “Latching”, we’re back with Marnie, who is spooning Hannah in a mirror image of that first spooning shot. “We always said Marnie and Hannah were the true love story of the show,” executive producer Jenni Konner told EW after the finale aired. “I think you really see how much they love each other,” Dunham agreed.

Marnie makes a powerful case for being Hannah’s crutch as she tries to bring up her baby – something both Elijah and Adam offered to do, but essentially failed to follow through on. “Well this is just like Adam’s pitch and that didn’t work out so great,” Hannah says.

“You think you have a lot of friends, right? Who's here? Elijah’s not here,” Marnie insists, “Adam isn’t here.” She pushes on. “Who’s here? I’m here. I win. I’m your best friend. I’m the best at being your friend. I love you the most.”

Despite this self-referential set up, “Latching” never feels truly full-circle. It takes Hannah’s new home in upstate New York for its setting, and the strange, semi-suburban atmosphere and familial dramas are something we’ve only seen before in diversions from Girls’s main narrative, in bottle episodes “The Return”, “Video Games” and “Flo”. The result is something that, as Dunham herself acknowledges, feels more like an epilogue than a finale, as we see Hannah struggling with the first few months of motherhood, impossibly frustrated by her son’s sudden refusal to breastfeed.

But epilogues are somehow more final, truly more of an ending, than a more traditional and immediate closer. An epilogue fundamentally refuses the viewer the opportunity to imagine the same patterns continuing just out of shot, in the way that say, The Office (UK) encourages (Tim: If you turn the camera off, it’s not an ending is it? I‘m still here.) Instead, in forcing the viewer to really see the next stage in a character’s life, it puts the previous stage fully to bed.

Ending a show about not growing up was always going to be a challenge, and choosing a glimpse of Hannah’s motherhood was a risky choice for Girls. It’s one that many have found disappointing. “It’s a TV show called Girls. I suppose it’s unsurprising that it would include this most easy delineator between girlhood and womanhood,” Kathryn VanArendonk writes at Vulture, adding, “It’s frustrating that this particular plotline has become such a dominate way of measuring maturity and growth in female characters, as though no other life choices can compare as a meaningful way to determine adulthood.”

I watched the final with an uncomfortable sadness. In moving away from New York, and therefore Jessa, Elijah, Shoshanna, Adam, and Ray, this episode drilled home that the majority of those relationships are over, whether off-screen, in the show’s implied narrative, or on. And despite Hannah’s selfish outbursts while trying to raise Grover, this episode made it clear that these characters really have grown and changed.

Hannah and Marnie’s argument in the car has all the hallmarks of their usual edgy conversations: Marnie frustratingly superior, Hannah overly dramatic and sullen. “Promise me you’re not going to give up, okay, there’s a reason they call breastmilk ‘liquid gold’”, Marnie preaches from the front seat. “Well, if you really felt like that, I think you’d agree to taste mine,” Hannah sulks, as Marnie sighs, “Hannah, you have to stop asking me to do that.” Full of friction, challenges of intimacy and clearly a great deal of love, it reminds me of their conversation in the bathtub in Girls’s pilot: “Are you going to leave your towel on?” Hannah asks, protesting. “But I never see you naked, and you always see me naked, when it should actually be the other way around.” But as they squabbled, it dawned on me that this is the first time we’ve seen the two friends argue over something, or someone, other than themselves. I welled up, not out of pride for the characters but the realisation that their infuriating, compelling 20s really were almost over.

The episode ends with Hannah finally getting Grover to latch. Her eyes widen with the joy of the surprise, and the screen cuts to black. As the credits roll, we hear Hannah brokenly singing “Fast Car” to her son.

Many critics have commented on the strange choice of “Fast Car” as the song that would end Girls. It’s a black, working-class woman’s perspective on the cyclical nature of poverty, which seems like it has little application to Hannah’s privileged life. But there are specific lines about the comfort of recurring patterns of dependency in an urban setting that seem to relate to the way Girls has repeatedly presented Hannah’s experience of New York: “City lights lay out before us / And your arm felt nice wrapped ‘round my shoulder / And I had a feeling that I belonged / I had a feeling I could be someone”.

That feeling of belonging swept in and out of Hannah’s life and in and with New York: one day she’d be up, dancing alone in her apartment or running over Brooklyn Bridge with elation, the next down, hiding from the outside world under her blanket, desperately hoping someone would save her from herself. As Tracy Chapman sings, “We gotta make a decision: leave tonight, or live and die this way.”

Hannah left the city, and her cycles of belonging and alienation, for something new.

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Now listen to a discussion of Girls on the NS pop culture podcast, SRSLY:

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

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“I see the world in rectangles”: Life as a Lego Master Builder

Nathan Sawaya stunned colleagues when he quit his job as a lawyer to play with Lego full-time. Now everyone from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama’s a fan.

Nathan Sawaya is describing his favourite Lego brick, shiny-eyed and grinning at the thought of it. But he’s not a child proudly displaying a beloved toy. He’s a 43-year-old former corporate lawyer, and well over six foot tall. The brick he is evangelising about is a small 1x2 socket plate with a stud in the centre of its top. He calls this a “Jumper”.

“You know your Lego lingo?” he asks, looking crestfallen when I shake my head. “It has only one stud instead of two, and it allows you to do even more detail because you can offset the brick a little bit. But in general, I focus on the rectangular pieces.”


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Sawaya is one of the world’s eight Lego Master Builders, having left his job at a New York law firm when he was 32 to dedicate his life to building Lego constructions full-time. His most striking works include a torso of a man ripping his chest open with bricks spilling out, called Yellow, a lifesize T-Rex skeleton, a two-metre long model of Brooklyn Bridge, and replicas of famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa, and Edvard Munch’s Scream.

I meet him in a dark exhibition space in a tent on London’s Southbank, where his works are lit up around us. His latest constructions consist of a series of DC Comics superheroes, so we are surrounded by expressionless Supermen flying around us, capes realistically rippling, and a full-size Batmobile with glistening batwings. His boyish eagerness aside, Sawaya himself looks like a comic book villain – a hulking figure dressed in black from top to toe, with a long black overcoat, piercing eyes and thick dark hair.


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Back in his early thirties when he was a lawyer, he would come home after a punishing day at work and do something creative – drawing, painting, sculpting with clay and wire. He soon began to experiment with Lego, constructing models out of sets he had lying around the house. His son, now 17, was never particularly interested in playing with it himself.

“Eventually I made the choice to leave the law firm behind and become a full-time artist who plays with toys,” he beams.

His family was supportive, his colleagues jealous, and his bosses confused – but it wasn’t long until Sawaya found success as a Lego artist. He has had exhibitions of his work on every continent but Antarctica, and gained some high-profile fans. When he was US President, Barack Obama posed with one of his installations – monochrome life-size men sitting on park benches in Washington – and Bill Clinton has a sculpture in his office, as does Lady Gaga in a music video.

“That is the magic of Lego,” he says of his popularity. “It has become a universal language in a way.”


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Sawaya’s Master Builder status means he can buy all his bricks directly from Lego in bulk – not possible for us Lego civilians. He used to buy sets in toy shops and on eBay when starting out; now he can email asking for 500,000 red 2x4 bricks, say, and Lego ships them to him on wooden pallets. He has six million bricks on hand at his studio in Los Angeles. “Millions of each colour and shape and size,” he says. “And they’re all organised by shape and colour.”

He works away for hours at a time in his studio, with his dogs obediently at his feet, in what he describes as a “trance”. He plans designs on special “brick paper” like graph paper, but sometimes he free-builds from his imagination. “I do often see the world in rectangles,” he says, and sometimes he even dreams in bricks.

Just like children do with Lego sets, he simply snaps the bricks together – though he does dab glue between each brick, which triples the time it takes. He describes it as “therapeutic”, but says making a mistake can be “heartbreaking” – he can lose days and weeks of work at a time. “There may be times where I start questioning my choices in life,” he smiles.


Photos: Copyright Jane Hobson

Sawaya faced snobbery from the art world when he first began approaching galleries as a Lego artist. “Oh, is that cars and trucks and little castles?” was the response. He feels it’s now a more acceptable medium. “It makes art accessible,” he says. “And in doing that, it democratises the art world a bit. It allows people to relate to the art. Everyone has snapped a brick together at one point, every child has played a little bit with Lego.

“As an artist, my role is to inspire. And what better way to do it than through a medium everyone is familiar with? If someone sees a marble statue, they can appreciate it, but very few people have marble at home they can chip away at.”

The first Lego creation Sawaya can remember making was a little house, when he was first given the toy at the age of five. He then made a city that grew to 36 square feet. When he was ten, he was desperate for a dog. His parents refused, so he tore all his creations down and built a lifesize one. “It was blocky and very multi-coloured, of course,” he says. “But it was that ‘Aha!’ moment – when I realised it doesn’t have to be on the front of the box. It can be whatever I want.”

The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes is on at Upper Ground, Southbank, London, until 3 September 2017.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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