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Emily Nussbaum On The 'Girls' Finale


For those of you who are not caught up on "Girls," spoilers ahead. When we last saw the girls of "Girls" on Sunday...


ZOSIA MAMET: (As Shoshanna Shapiro) We can't hang out together anymore.

ALLISON WILLIAMS: (As Marine Michaels) No, no, no. See, I am trying to fix this so that we can hang out as the friends that we've always been. And we can be again if we just...

MAMET: (Shoshanna Shapiro) No. I think we should all just agree to call it, OK? Great.

WERTHEIMER: The series finale airs tomorrow night. Emily Nussbaum is the TV critic for The New Yorker. She joins us now to talk about how this series is ending. Thank you for doing this.

EMILY NUSSBAUM: Thank you for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Now, it feels like "Girls" is kind of breaking the great rules of television. Surely, the friends are supposed to stay friends, isn't that right?

NUSSBAUM: Well, it depends on how you see the show I think. Certainly, if you see it as a show like the show "Friends," then that would be true. I've always seen "Girls" as a show that was breaking the rules in the first place by being a strange, indie-film inflected, peculiar, alienating highly personal kind of auteurist creation.

You know, a lot of times people compare the show to shows that have ensembles of friends, including very frustratingly, to me, "Sex And The City." But I always thought of the show as a little bit more like "Louie," which is to say it was this strange experimental intervention into the way half our stories work. It's gone in all sorts of different directions.

But I agree that it's interesting that it's ending with the friends splitting apart. Although I have to say, right from the beginning of the show, there really was a question of exactly what kind of friendships these were.

WERTHEIMER: Now, obviously, you're not in an Lena Dunham's head, but what do you think she's - what's the statement here? What's she telling us?

NUSSBAUM: I'm not sure because I haven't seen the finale. But I think that finales, in general, are incredibly fraught moments for television shows. A lot of people that I know have been - who are fans of the show as I am, have been expressing sorrow about it ending. I'm actually glad that "Girls" is ending. I don't think TV shows are meant to go on forever. And I especially think that a show that was very much both of its time and about a particular period in the lives of its characters is something that's supposed to go on for 10, 15 years.

It seems like from what's happened on this really great last season, I've actually thought the last season was landing the show in very interesting ways. It's been consistently funny. It's taken strange paths, but it seems to be heading back to Hannah as a character. And that episode that was on last week was called, I think, Goodbye Tour or something like that. And it seemed to be a way of addressing all of the other characters in the show.

As much as I like several of the other characters, one of the things about the show is - has always been that it has been this strangely imbalanced series that is centrally about Hannah's journey, and the other characters have been distorted and changed in all sorts of things over time. And so I have a feeling that the final episode is going to focus on Hannah and that actually does seem appropriate.

WERTHEIMER: Well, you mentioned "Sex And The City," but what about others series about female friendship? HBO just had a very successful mini series, "Big Little Lies" that really turned on the solidity of female friendships between women in their 40s.

NUSSBAUM: I've got to be blunt. Like, I don't think that it makes any sense to talk about the show only in comparison to shows about female friendships. I mean, it's one of - to me, been the frustrating things about the reception of "Girls" is as much as it's been talked about and celebrated, it's often been narrowed to this idea of it's a woman show by a woman about women about female friendship.

I don't even think the show is that much about friendship, to be honest. I mean, certainly, it's about Hannah and several friends of hers. But in a lot of ways, it's very much about this period in people's lives where they're trying to figure out who they are and what kind of life they want to lead and wrestling with this kind of unformed, slightly humiliating limbo period.

The reason I often compare it to "Louie" is, I'm like, those are two shows that are about similar main characters. They're about autobiographical artists who are trying to throw themselves into life experience during a strangely liminal period in their life and often experience this kind of humiliation and then turn it into art successfully or unsuccessfully. Narrowing the idea of the show to it's a show about female friendship reduces a little bit of what it's doing artistically.

WERTHEIMER: Emily Nussbaum, the Pulitzer Prize winning TV critic for The New Yorker, thank you very much.

NUSSBAUM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.