Saying Goodbye: 10 Essential Girls Episodes
After six fantastic years, Girls is saying goodbye this month. With the series finale set to air on April 16th, it seems as good a time as any to look back on ten of the HBO dramedy’s very best episodes. Girls has never lacked for great writing, hilarious situations, and a lot of naked Lena Dunham, but these episodes are especially demonstrative of each of the elements that make the show so special.
Please note that this isn’t a traditional countdown, but rather an alphabetical list of the series’ ten best episodes.
After Hannah pens a scathing think piece on successful writer Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys), who has been accused of sexual misconduct, the writer in question invites her to his apartment for a personal conversation. Though initially careful and apprehensive, Hannah begins to drop her guard as the episode goes on, and Chuck’s careful mixture of flattery and manipulation leads to a brilliant final act.
Boosted by a strong counterpart in Matthew Rhys, Lena Dunham soars in this bottle episode. The counterpart to an earlier episode that saw Hannah playing house with an older man, “American Bitch” does a whole hell of a lot in a very short period of time.
If you could only pick one episode from this list to watch, “Beach House” would probably be the winner. The titular beach house is owned by a family friend of Marnie’s, and when she manages to snag it for a weekend, she lays out a careful plan for how things should go (in typical Marnie fashion). Unfortunately for her, Shosh, Hannah, and Jessa are not on board for this at all, and as tensions rise throughout the weekend, the episode climaxes in a full-on blowout.
Though the episode ends with the girls spontaneously bonding over music, then dancing together, the tone suggests that these tensions will not be forgotten, even if the girls think (and hope) that they might.
A nice switch-up from the girls-only “Beach House,” the surprising and aptly-named “Boys” puts the focus on Ray and Adam, as they’re thrust into a NYC walkabout out of nowhere.
After Adam impulsively steals a dog, Ray joins him on a journey to return it. As the two make their way to Staten Island, they debate a variety of issues, not the least of which is Hannah. Meanwhile, Hannah and Marnie’s friendship is tested when both girls lie to one another on the phone after their similarly-devastating evenings do not go as planned.
The episode succeeds mainly by challenging expectations again and again, and offers some very different dimensions for characters we may have thought we knew.
“Home Birth” is probably the best finale that Girls ever pulled off. No episode of star/creator Dunham’s creation ever made the case that the characters we’ve come to know might eventually drift apart the way that this episode did.
As Laird and Caroline are planning the eponymous home birth, Hannah and Adam are pulled back together after a very tumultuous season. While Adam sees the joy of creation and is moved to reconcile, Hannah has the opposite reaction, and in a showstopper of a scene, they hold hands over a baby incubator until Hannah reluctantly lets go.
Elsewhere, a very angry Ray lashes out at series douchebag Desi and tells him off in glorious fashion. Finally, Shoshanna casts off her safety blanket and takes the plunge on a job offer to Japan.
“Japan,” you say? Yes! Not just a gimmick episode by any means, Girls‘ deep dive on Shoshanna’s new life is a happy-go-lucky love letter to one of the world’s most unique cultures, first and foremost.
As Shosh seems to be more at home on her own than she’s ever been, the illusion begins to fall apart at the seams, leaving her to question whether she really made the right call after all. There’s a ton to take in – both visually and canonically – in Shoshanna’s journey, wholly separate from her friends.
The episode also opens up a can of worms when Hannah invades her boyfriend Fran’s privacy by looking at the photos on his phone…only to find he keeps nudes of past girlfriends. The moral conundrum and relationship breakdown that follow are an easy season 5 highlight.
“One Man’s Trash”
The early companion episode to the aforementioned “American Bitch,” “One Man’s Trash” explores Hannah in the most intimate fashion yet seen in the series at the time.
As she shacks up with middle-aged Joshua (Patrick Wilson), who is separated from his wife, she begins to build a fantasy in her head. While she sees him as the older man who finally recognizes her for her wit, talent, and beauty, he sees her as a fantasy of his own: one of youthful frivolity and freedom. Once she begins to show that she’s more than that, though, he quickly falls back.
The episode ends with Hannah trying to assert her adulthood by taking out his trash on the way out, even as she’s removing herself from his life. It’s a brutal comedown for one of Girls‘ most fun and unique episodes.
“The Panic in Central Park”
“The Panic in Central Park” has Marnie having a very un-Marnie day when she spontaneously runs into her ex-boyfriend, Charlie. Though he’s changed a hell of a lot, they rekindle their romance as Marnie accompanies him for the day, even going so far as to cheat on her husband, Desi. The revelation that Charlie is now a drug dealer derails things pretty quickly, but it’s enough of a change to show her once and for all that she doesn’t belong with Desi, and the two agree to divorce.
The fact that this gets (mostly) rid of world-class douchebag Desi is worthwhile enough, but the depth that “The Panic in Central Park’ instills in Girls‘ most unlikable character changes the way viewers see her forever after.
After Hannah decides that the writers workshop in Iowa isn’t working out for her, she decides to return home to her apartment and boyfriend…only to find out that both have been occupied by another woman.
Shattered, Hannah locks herself in the bathroom of her former apartment and refuses to leave. As her friends come by in a show of support, each offers her their own counsel. In the end, Hannah reluctantly leaves Adam with his new lover, Mimi-Rose, and earns a bit of self-respect in the process.
This was the beginning of the end for Adam and Hannah, and a four-season relationship was dissolved in its entirety in one fell swoop. Bonus points for the brilliant Gillian Jacobs (of Community fame) as Mimi-Rose.
“Two Plane Rides”
This is a loaded episode if ever there was one. The season 3 finale has Shoshanna attempting to rekindle her love with Ray, Marnie kissing Desi for the first time, and Jessa being asked to help an artist commit suicide.
The real meat of this episode, though, is Hannah, who receives a letter of acceptance for an Iowa writers workshop. This causes a rift between her and Adam, as he seems to resent her for it, but characteristic of her personality, she just clutches the letter and smiles to herself as the season comes to a close. A truly iconic moment.
It’s probably the second best finale in the series’ history, after the aforementioned “Home Birth,” but in a series this good, you could do a lot worse than second place.
“Welcome to Bushwick”
The infamous party episode, “Welcome to Bushwick” is certainly one of Girls‘ best from a purely comedic standpoint. With classic moments like Marnie meeting Charlie’s new girlfriend, Jessa accidentally inviting her employer to the party, and Ray being tasked with caring for Shoshanna after she accidentally smokes crack, there are a ton of laughs to be had here.
This is also the episode where Hannah first realizes perhaps just how self-absorbed she is, as Adam reveals that the reason he hasn’t told her anything about his life is because she’s never asked. When she finds out about his history of substance abuse, it’s a turning point for the two of them, and the point where there relationship formally begins.
But seriously, man is this episode a lot of fun!
Agree with our choices? Think we missed some? Feel free to let us know what your favorite Girls episodes and moments are in the comments!
April 6, 2017 at 5:17 am
So glad you included “One Man Trash”
April 6, 2017 at 10:30 pm
Truly one of the best episodes.
April 7, 2017 at 6:34 am
yeah but a lot of people hated that episode for some reason. I think I’d put Beach House at number one although there is one episode in the first season that I would include in this list. I can’t remember the title but I’ll try to figure it out. I remember it being the party crack episode.
April 7, 2017 at 6:35 am
oh wait you did add that episode. Yeah that would be my favourite.
April 7, 2017 at 12:24 pm
Yeah the party episode is hilarious. Love it.