Girls: Latching
April 17, 2017 11:17 AM - Season 6, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The series finale of Girls.
posted by aabbbiee (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by lmfsilva at 1:03 PM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm...nonplussed. So this was the episode in which Hannah became an adult - because of teen tearaway and nice cop and "You can't just quit this time!"? I think I get it. I just wish it hadn't had to involve the ol' epiphany-of-motherhood saw.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:39 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Other than the standout moment of "You know who else is in emotional pain? EVERY ONE!" that should have been shouted out on almost every episode, this was a very unremarkable end for a show that already had thinkpieces before the premiere. End not with a bang but a whimper etc.

I think without the motherhood as rite of passage bit that went through the final season, the series could have ended effectively with last episode (that was apparently their "regular" series finale, just in case anyone complained). It became the point where "there four go to parties together" to "these four go to parties and may occasionally see each other, acknowledge their presence and move on", and the final scene was the embodiment of that.

This feels like a crappy epilogue that nobody needed. Like if Mad Men instead of "ding!" had one more episode where he goes to Atlanta to pitch the ad.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:04 PM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well at least it didn't end with Mr. Big or Richie vs. Kevin (Looking.)
posted by larrybob at 3:31 PM on April 17, 2017

I'd have to say this is actually my favorite season of Girls. I started watching just before season 5, so I binged the previous 4 seasons. And I have to say I really hated all four of them for a long time. I really don't know why I kept watching the show but I liked this season. Don't know why but it was my favorite.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:37 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rewatching this episode improved it a lot for me.

First, while I know motherhood-is-a-new-chapter is a well-worn trope, the usual way it is handled is through something like a birth episode, where the character we know is handed her newborn and looks into its eyes and makes a soul connection and the orchestra swells, indicating that the character is now in love with her child, will never ever be the same again, boom! new chapter commences, happy ever after, story over.

This was not that, at all, and I was impressed by that.

This was the messy reality of new motherhood. This was the leaking and pain of engorged breasts, the absurdity of modern pumping equipment. This was the new mom despondent when her baby doesn't latch because there's no logic and reasoning with the hormones (and you get the best oxytocin high when your baby nurses, so when the baby refuses to nurse, it's not just a frustration- you're also being denied your oxytocin high). This was a baby not acting like the books say babies are supposed to act. This was the advice from people like fucking well-intentioned Marnie who thinks she knows best and has read a bunch of bullshit studies and has Major Opinions that she should fucking keep to herself, and yet this was also the care and the help and support from people like Marnie who are there and caring and helping and supporting and still get the pointy end of the stick when the new mom goes on her hormone-fueled rages. This was what new motherhood looks like in reality- no swelling orchestra, no instant soul connection.

This was an epilogue, and I was glad to have it. I honestly don't care much about where the other characters go. I mean, I do care, but I feel like I already know. But Hannah becoming a mother was something I wanted to see, I wanted a glimpse of that. Hannah, the child, the narcissist, the obsessive-compulsive. Hannah, whining about everything. And she apparently had the easy-breeziest pregnancy in the world with a normal birth for her beautiful healthy child. But how does Hannah move into motherhood? I wanted to see that. I think I did see that. I feel like I got the closure on the story that I needed.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:21 AM on April 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

I loved it. It was one of the most honest portrayals of motherhood (and early breastfeeding) that I've ever seen. If anything, it felt a little lifted from Melissa Albert's After Birth but I would gladly see more stories in this vein. It's interesting how a ten or twenty something woman without pants is scandalous but a new mother half naked is quotidian. It's like, the most common story in the world but the least told story in the world, especially when you're in it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:59 AM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've loved Girls from the start, watched every episode at least twice, and looked forward to this last season to see how it was all going to be wrapped up. This finale was a disappointment, though. I didn't buy the premise that Hannah would secure a college teaching job, or that she'd be happy living in the country. Even less so Marnie. The section where Hannah walked out was disjointed and seemed to miss out a section of the story - one minute she was walking off and the next it was nighttime. Indeed, in some recaps there's a still of her sitting in a diner that I don't recall seeing (I've not watched this episode twice yet though, so I may have missed it, but I don't think so). Loreen was the saving of this episode. She's been remarkable throughout this last couple of seasons.

The best line in it was Marnie calling Hannah "Ghostbuster". That made me LOL.
posted by essexjan at 1:26 PM on April 18, 2017

I spent the last week watching selected episodes from the show's run, and I think that made me appreciate this episode more, even if it wasn't the greatest Girls episode, or the greatest finale, ever. A few things:

- The opening shot with Hannah and Marnie sleeping together - this is a recurring motif throughout the run of the show, the opening shot, panning up from entwined legs of whoever is spooning Hannah as they sleep. I think it's so iconic for this show, because for one thing, these shots are almost always of Hannah and a friend, not a lover. And it's such an intimate moment. One of the things this show is about is how all these people support each other and show each other love as friends, even when they are shitty people and shitty friends. They are all enmeshed with each other in ways that are not necessarily healthy but that are important to them at key points.

- It's been really interesting to see the evolution of Hannah's mother's character, and their relationship. The show starts and ends with Loreen giving Hannah some tough love, but this time it's given with compassion and understanding, and it actually helps. It was also great to hear her talk about the dissolution of her marriage, after so many episodes of her basically being painted as a shrew in that situation.

- Having watched so many episodes in a short period of time, I have a new appreciation for Hannah and Marnie's friendship. Say what you will about Marnie (and there is a LOT you could say) but she is a loyal friend. It was great to see the ultimate act of that loyalty, and then watch her realize she needed to figure out what was next. I am also kind of sad we'll never get to see her trying to live out her fantasy version of being a corporate lawyer (I foresee a lot of perfectly-fitting black suits, a sleek modern apartment, and Soul Cycle).

- I am also a little bit sad we never got to see Elijah's Broadway debut.
posted by lunasol at 1:28 PM on April 18, 2017

It's like, the most common story in the world but the least told story in the world, especially when you're in it.

Interesting. I feel like I know this story inside out. Most of the stories regarding parenthood that I've read and seen in media in the last ten years have involved the unanticipated pain/frustration/complex joy of new motherhood. And often involves spit up and dishevelment. I thought part of the reason that the cop followed her home so respectfully was that generally held understanding that weird shit can go down when you've just had a baby, much of which is par for the course but worth checking in on in case it's indicative of something problematic. I thought Hannah's bumpy transitioning to this new role was really supported by all the characters, even if a bit ham-fistedly by Marnie.

What I did like was the title: Latching. Maybe it's about Hannah relaxing enough to latch on to this new self. And a new kind of relationship with a man who she gets to help shape and learn from in a completely different way.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:47 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Most of the stories regarding parenthood that I've read and seen in media in the last ten years have involved the unanticipated pain/frustration/complex joy of new motherhood.

I can't recall seeing any other depictions of a new mother calling her infant an asshole for not latching. But man, I really needed to when I was 6 weeks postpartum or so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:17 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sure, the messy reality of early parenthood has been depicted in media, but please note that almost all of those have been comedy takes, and the vast majority of them have been written by men, from the father's experience. I can only think of one other show that has depicted or even mentioned a breast pump or leaking breasts (Catastrophe).

Serious looks at the messy reality of early motherhood, written by women. Not a comedy, not a tragedy. Name me some other examples. I don't think this is as common as you suggest.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

And this episode wasn't about dishevelment and spit-up. It was about a very specific series of experiences: postpartum healing, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure. The things Hannah talks about, that she's still bleeding and feels like her butt and vagina are one entity are not really ideal healing situations but also happen pretty commonly and are never talked about--like I had a normal vaginal birth, developed granulation tissue on my tear which burned every time I peed and made sex impossible for 5 months and had to be cauterized off and I'm pretty sure I've been dealing with a very slow healing rectovaginal fistula for 3 years now but my midwife told me it was normal to feel your farts coming out of the front end right after childbirth so I never did anything about it. Because who knows what is normal with a healing woman, like you bleed egg-sized clots and are wide open in every sense of the word. And I am still breastfeeding 3 years on so clearly it worked out but when we were about 6 weeks postpartum, roughly where Hannah was, my husband worried aloud that breastfeeding might kill me, because my nipples were bleeding, my kid's latch sucked, and though I had a ton of milk it was such an overabundance that my child didn't just spit-up but projectile vomited every single time she fed, but I had milk, so everyone was telling me to just pump and bottlefeed, never mind that I didn't want to pump, because what mattered was that she was getting breastmilk, not that I felt my body becoming this public entity, this thing that mattered for what it produced not what it was or the feelings of the person inside it. And I had a good postpartum experience! Nothing of what you'd call postpartum depression. But.

Like, you make it through, you find your support (I liked how in Hannah's case it ended up being her mom, unexpectedly, that scene where Hannah is visibly relieved by hearing about her mother's lack of success with breastfeeding was poignant), maybe you combo feed, you learn to self-advocate hard at the doctor or whatever, and gestational parents whisper to each other about what's happened and how it smashed them and unmade them, how suddenly their suffering is the most normal thing in the world, like, shrugs, sounds about right!

But I have not seen this shit on TV before, no. In my experience, honest narratives about it are very, very rare. So I really appreciated seeing this on television.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel like this is a fitting closure episode for me. I came to Girls late - bingeing all five seasons just before Six started. I found myself hating all the characters so almost dropped it but I tend to be a dedicated TV watcher and wanted to see how the story ended for everyone. Everynow and then on the show there were moments that really resonated with me in a way a lot of TV doesn't. I had (less extreme) feelings like this in my twenties and watching someone else live them out provided some resonance and emotional clarity for me. This show felt more real in a substantially different way from anything else on tv. (I'm curious now that I'm older and in a life stage closer to that of the SATC women if a rewatch would provoke similar resonance. I don't think so and it makes Girls a superior show, to me.)

I, like PhoB, could have used this episode during my first weeks of motherhood when I had to supplement almost right away. My emotional state: I didn't even buy bottles ahead of time because I did not understand not being able to breastfeed as a possible outcome. So having that not work (and having my "helpful" in-laws (complete with the L&D nurse) was super trying at an already momentous time. The "Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world!!" sequence just hit me like a stake in the heart because I felt that too. That would have been very powerful for me to see in those first weeks.

I don't know that I'd like to invest any more time in the Girls but would I watch Dunham's next/a show about early motherhood? Yes. Should there be more stories on TV about motherhood with this realism & humor? Please.

I also appreciated shitty female characters on TV. It's progress. They are awful but isn't nearly everyone in Breaking Bad awful and there weren't the same complaints?
posted by emkelley at 12:41 PM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ha, well there were, but only about the female characters.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

The thing I did not like about this portrayal of motherhood was that while I felt Hannah was acting completely normally for a first time new mother, the show (and Marnie and Loreen) seemed to be saying she was a selfish asshole and thus not doing her job as a mother. The episode turns on her monologue to the teenager about being selfless, and then she goes home and magically is able to breastfeed. There were also several times that she said she wanted to switch to formula and she got no support. This is a character who has serious mental health issues and no one seemed concerned that she might have postpartum depression? I have loved this show for the entirety of its run and especially this season, but this episode was a huge disappointment for me. They got many of the details right about the blood, pain, leaking, etc. and that was great to see but I wish they hadn't made breastfeeding the metaphor or used this as an example of Hannah yet again being immature and selfish when early motherhood is one time that I think some of her behavior was completely understandable.
posted by notheotherone at 7:48 PM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Her mother was supportive of her wanting to switch to formula, and ultimately encourages Marnie to let her supplement, so I'm not sure that she didn't have support for that.

I wish they had actually said the words "postpartum depression" though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:09 AM on April 22, 2017

I was extremely disappointed that she could magically breastfeed in the last 90 seconds of the episode.
posted by purpleclover at 6:57 PM on April 26, 2017

The episode was literally perfect for me otherwise.
posted by purpleclover at 7:16 PM on April 26, 2017

FWIW, one of the producers of the show (can't remember if it was Dunham or Apatow or someone else) did say that they intended it to be unclear whether or not she'd gotten the baby to latch at the end. I definitely interpreted it as if she had though!
posted by lunasol at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2017

Re: ambiguity, yeah, I remember that. I think it was in the post-credits discussion. I have no idea why they would think that was ambiguous when the sound over the credits is unmistakably suckling and Hannah is cooing at her baby in a soft voice.

Re: magically breastfeeding, I want to point out that we're told that Grover breastfed well for the first few weeks and then he just stopped. It's not that he never latched but then all of a sudden magically latches for the first time at 6 weeks old. He had been breastfeeding well, but then stopped. They call that a nursing strike, and sometimes babies just snap out of it again. And it sorta makes sense that he would snap out of it at this particular point because Hannah was probably engorged with milk after walking for hours without pumping, and she'd just vented all her rage at the teenager. She probably was in a different place emotionally than she'd been, and babies respond to that. (But not always. And those fucking hormones, I tell you what.)
posted by aabbbiee at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Really? Ambiguous? I also interpreted it as nursing.

Yeah, I know about nursing strikes. And a baby latching for unknown reasons after a few weeks of refusing to is definitely the sort of thing that feels like a particular true-to-life experience.

But considering the powerful baggage and pressure that comes with breastfeeding for women in my personal demographic (I am 38, white, educated, live in the Bay Area), having the baby latch as Hannah is recommitting to being a parent makes it seem like breastfeeding is the reward for Finally Doing Life Correctly. Which is crappy for people who can't breastfeed. I would have liked it better if he'd started latching while she was being a mess *and* it didn't fix anything, or if he didn't and that was fine too.

I would have preferred more ambiguous ambiguity, I guess.

I dunno—as the screen went dark, I said to my husband, "This finale was perfect," and we both heard the suckling sound that we both interpreted as nursing, and I immediately said, "Aw, didn't stick the landing."

I've been rolling this around in my head for a couple of weeks. I mean, it's fine to have specific stories that don't cover every single situation; in fact, that's been one of the series strength's throughout its run. It's so quirky and so specific, and oftentimes so off-kilter and strange that reading the criticisms of it—that it's not realistic about the broader experience of contemporary young women in Brooklyn!—has been confusing. (The New Yorker's Jia Tolentino does a better job of breaking that aspect of it down here.)

So I get that Hannah is not every woman who can't nurse. And that in real life sometimes nursing works and then doesn't work and then works again. But having the character seem to achieve redemption through breastfeeding felt crappy to me.

It almost felt like this to me: Let's say our hero is fat, and she agonizes over it, but then a lot of people tell her that her own body is fine the way it is, and then she kind of gets that and comes to terms with it, but she happens to lose a bunch of weight anyway and that's how we end the series. Might that be a real thing that happens to a real person? Sure. But does it also send a weird, contradictory message? Yes, that also. (This is not a perfect metaphor.)
posted by purpleclover at 2:23 PM on April 27, 2017

Agree with aabbbie that the mechanics of it seemed right, that the baby had probably developed a bottle preference because of the speed of letdown, and both being sated with formula and hannah's boobs being engorged could help both problems.

I mean, I don't know. I didn't read the ending like she was going to be blissfully breastfeeding forever. She pretty much says she doesn't want to pump on campus.

I think one of the difficult things about breastfeeding being so politicized is that, say that it ended instead with Marnie telling Hannah that Grover had had formula and he liked it. Say the only messages around breastfeeding had been the stress and the intense emotional moments of it not working. That would have been kind of crappy to see for moms like me who did breastfeed. I thought they ended with a positive message about both breastfeeding and formula, which is pretty rare.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:42 PM on April 30, 2017

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