Will the final episode of Girls be a time hop? Will we see far into a future that its characters have been meticulously and often painfully avoiding for six years? All signs in “Goodbye Tour” point to yes, as an academic job opportunity for Hannah (Lena Dunham) upstate seems to close doors on many characters that seemed yet to have their last hurrah. After the waiting and wondering crystallizes into hard and fast canon, the show’s penultimate episode’s gut punches are less in the text than they are in our new consideration of what we’ve seen before it.
The boys—Adam (Adam Driver), Laird (Jon Glaser), and Ray (Alex Karpovsky)—have their final moments reconsidered as Hannah wanders a familiar college campus overpopulated with underachievers. This isn’t to say what’s on screen isn’t engaging, it’s that its metatextual implications have more series-wide impact. Time spent wandering a green campus, with fresh green brightness so earnestly captured you can smell the grass, is more interesting because of who it takes Hannah away from.
Her insane job interview with the wooing head of the university’s English department (Ann Dowd) is very real—and not in a coffee shop like the interview that opened the season—even if it’s complete fantasy. (Is this how physicists feel when they watch sci-fi movies?). Effectively, Hannah is interviewing for the blend of nostalgia and freshness she got at her substituting gig. It’s the academic version of “I keep getting older but they stay the same age.” The interview goes so well that it scares her, leading to a series of post-interview interviews with friends and family about her future.
Elijah (Andrew Rannells) protests, desperate not to have to go it alone just yet. It’s fitting that he’s retained the same mindset that led him to wear Hannah as a beard all those years ago in his closeted past. While he’ll bitch and moan about the city being a suffering place of artistic merit, his midnight bedtime serenade of the only slowed-down pop song you’ll hear outside of a movie trailer this year (Demi Lovato, naturally) reminds us that their relationship is one of the most touching and complicated in the show’s entire run. He cares enough to sing to his whiny friend even when he’s scared she’ll leave him.
Her dad (Peter Scolari) and his partner, Keith (Ethan Phillips), provide the kind of progressive, “this is the future liberals want” parental advice that Hannah’s always wanted: supportive, kind and just a little self-involved. They want her to go for it and be happy, and even if they won’t take the bus to see her, they’ll still bring some culture to the ‘burbs.
There’s one person Hannah’s been trying to reach all season, but who’s buffeted her at every turn: Marnie (Allison Williams). Whether they’re having a desperate heart-to-heart on a cabin floor or a judgmental dinner in Hannah’s apartment (and on Girls, is there any other kind?), the pair have refused each other’s personal meddling all season. This blows up in their faces when they bump into each other at Shoshanna’s (Zosia Mamet) surprise—well, a surprise to the uninvited Hannah, at least—engagement party. Apparently Shosh’s awoken a dormant thing for tall Asian men and decided to grow up all at once after meeting Byron (Justin Leong) at a cupcake vending machine.
While Shosh is happy, the remaining girls—Jessa (Jemima Kirke) included—bring the classy party down by absorbing all decorum and churning it into pettiness like sputtering, smog-producing Drama Machines from the Industrial Revolution. They’re all pissed at each other and all self-righteous to boot. Shosh, absent for most of the season, tells her former friends why, going on a long rant explaining what viewers have known for years: These characters are toxic friends. It’s a bit banal to come now, but its cramped bathroom staging and fuck-you kicker (Shosh basically gives them the middle finger, but with an engagement ring) grant the speech some catharsis within its lucidity.
Besides, Elijah pops in to tell everyone he got the Broadway gig and calls them all “feckless whores,” so if you, like me, only really care about Elijah, this is a big moment for you. Marnie struggles to maintain control over a group more tangibly slipping out of her grasp than ever, but the real show here is Jessa and Hannah. Their aching, stumbling joint apology is a touching reconciliation that still acknowledges the irreparable break in their relationship. Ties are being cut, but the girls still won’t let that bring them down. Ending their current timeline by going hard at someone else’s party would be a fitting end, especially since it seems the only drama that hasn’t been beaten out of this show lies in the future.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.