A mature fourth season brings us a deceptively simple finale that doesn’t try to wow us with anything too crazy (I mean we all should’ve expected Caroline’s delivery to be a little bumpy), but instead underscore the main characters’ growth over the course of the season. In season 1 Shosh does crack, in season 2 Hannah has sex with Jessa’s teenage step-brother but the season four finale is the result of a two season long cool down where consequences and realizations are catching up with the girls and guys we know so well. Certain television tropes stick out in this episode where moments get tied up too neatly with a set up we have seen before, yet elements of the show’s disjointed style remain to ensure this episode doesn’t feel too sugarcoated. This week’s “Home Birth” shows a marked change from last season’s finale with botched assisted suicides and the beginning of the Marnie/Desi affair, but as Hannah has shown us this season change doesn’t always have to mean selling out.
Sitcoms and dramas alike often use births as ‘coming together’ episodes because they illustrate how a show’s various characters react to an array of emotions from surprise, fear, stress all the way to joy. It is rarely about the actual mother and father who often remain pretty focused on the actual birthing process, but rather the surrounding characters and that remains true for this episode. Gaby Hoffmann really delivers on Caroline’s paranoid fear of the “birth industrial complex” that she thinks will drug up her and the baby as does Jon Glaser as the cowardly Laird who refuses to overcome his fear and convince Caroline to see a doctor for her premature breech birth. Still Caroline and Laird mainly set the stage for Adam, Hannah and Jessa who all respond rather characteristically to this impending disaster.
I have loved watching Jessa’s progression this season most of all and the finale did justice to the character we have probably seen change the most over the course of Girls. Unlike Adam and Hannah who scream and whine, respectively, during labor, Jessa keeps calm, sticks her head in Caroline’s bathtub to look at her uterus and finally orders everyone else to contribute to the situation instead of panic. Jessa’s normal detachment and lack of responsiveness to others’ emotions works as a boon here, resulting in the crew carrying a wriggling Caroline through Manhattan to the hospital. When Jessa ultimately decides she wants to be a psychologist at the end of the episode, one could certainly read that as abrupt with no previous mention of a career idea much less one requiring 8 years of college, but here Jessa’s impulsiveness fits completely within her character as someone who completely commits to what she wants as soon as she figures it out.
Adam and Hannah more or less keep it together while Caroline is in labor, but Adam’s longing for Hannah at the end of the previous episode has grown stronger after Mimi Rose dumped him for Ace! There is a wonderfully directed scene where Adam reaches his hand over the baby’s incubator to tell Hannah their break-up was a mistake. To Adam’s string of apologies, Hannah responds with sage advice on getting over Mimi Rose, clearly drawn from her tough recovery post-Adam — but she does not grab Adam’s hand despite how easy it would be. Season 1 Hannah would’ve run back to him in a second, but season 4 Hannah has more considerate fish to fry — namely Fran who has inexplicably gotten over his belief in Hannah’s penchant for drama. The episode begins with Hannah recovering from a not-quite panic attack with Fran comforting her, and one fatal flaw of this episode is not hinting at how Fran reversed his opinion on Hannah after the art show or the Cleo debacle for a relationship going strong in a six month time jump at the end of the episode.
Meanwhile Shosh, Ray and Marnie operate in a pseudo-love triangle where no one loves Ray but he still plays an important role in both their trajectories. Ray gives Desi the lowdown on all the reasons he is folksy trash prompting him to skip a show Desi and Marnie have for a big-time record exec and some bloggers. Marnie’s one-liner driven self-empowerment felt off to me, but still her decision at Ray’s behest to sing solo feels satisfying even if the lead up is kind of hokey. Shosh gets offered a job at Abigail, an orderly international clothing store (I think), bedecked in pink and perfect for her – except it’s located in Japan. Her Madame Tinsley’s soup guy boyfriend promises he will probably love her soon in hopes she will stay. She isn’t even worthy of Ray’s attention as he is preoccupied with Marnie, but Shosh finally stands up for herself and her needs and chooses to take the job. As perhaps the least fleshed out of the girls, her story arc this season has been streamlined, simplified and rushed including this episode, but she still seems to have changed over the course of this season approaching her Abigail interview sooo much differently than the Madame Tinsley’s or Ann Taylor Loft interviews of yore.
It turns out ratings dropped from this finale to the last and I think it’s because Girls is in no uncertain terms taking a turn for maturity and consistency rather than the frantic desperation of these girls trying to figure out their twenties. The episode surely was sedate but I am chalking that up to a more sedate season on the whole, though only next season will prove if the show is capable of carrying on a tonally transformed show without feeling quite so sedate. I don’t want season four to be the beginning of the end so instead I will consider this the end of the beginning, or the end of their elongated childhood as self-centered girls, hopefully paving the way for the beginning of their adulthood.