Girls didn’t always have its feet firmly planted in reality. (Oh, Hannah Horvath just miraculously got a plum teaching position at an upstate college off the back of her “hot shot” Internet writing career? Sure, Jan.) But there are nuggets of truth to be found in the five-year-old HBO show’s hyper-specific take on life in New York.
With the show’s series finale upon us this coming Sunday, April 16th, let’s take a look back at Girls at its most fundamentally New York—those messy, joyful, often dance-filled moments when the city became a character in and of itself.
10. “Boys” (season 2, episode 6)
There are many New York-y elements of this season-two episode—Hannah pukes after landing an e-book deal, Marnie wears an insane plastic dress to an artsy house party, Ray refuses to get career advice from Donald Trump—but Adam and Ray’s excursion to Staten Island to return a dog (that Adam stole, mind you) takes the cake. For all of Ray’s trash talk of the borough (“It’s not an amusement park, okay? It’s the gates of hell”), it’s oddly satisfying to see him verbally reamed by a real pistol-carrying, no-fucks-given Staten Island broad.
9. “Hostage Situation” (season 6, episode 2)
Hannah and Marnie have problems of their own—namely, dealing with a drugged-out Desi in Poughkeepsie—but Shoshanna is left to have the real New York nightmare in this season-six episode. With Elijah and Jessa in tow, Shosh attends a very The Wing-like women’s networking group hosted by her now super-successful former college best friends, who still haven’t forgiven her for backing out of spring break to go stalk Vincent Gallo in Rockaway with Jessa. With all of its passive-aggressive pleasantries, power jackets and sidewalk drama, the ep plays out like every New York media event ever.
8. “Hello Kitty” (season 5, episode 7)
Is there a more Brooklyn way to find out your ex-boyfriend is schtupping your best friend than in the middle of an immersive Sleep No More-esque theater piece about the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, which said ex-boyfriend just happens to be performing in? Hannah coming to that realization while watching Jessa lovingly gaze at Adam from a fire escape is a painfully poetic sort of New York heartbreak, as is Elijah getting dumped by the Anderson Cooper-ish Dill at a swank uptown party (Hamish Bowles sighting!) later in the episode.
7. “Sit-In” (season 4, episode 5)
Skyrocketing NYC rents make it extra dicey to break up with a bae that you live with. But Girls took it to a new level when Hannah returns from her short stay in Iowa to find that Adam didn’t just move on from their relationship—he moved in a whole new girlfriend to Hannah’s Greenpoint apartment. Rubbing salt in the wound, he also tore down the walls between bedrooms (somebody ain’t getting that security deposit back) and transferred all of Hannah’s belongings to a Fort Greene storage unit, where she’s forced to sleep for the night. And here we thought brokers were the real housing nightmare.
6. “She Did” (season 1, episode 10)
The capper to season one features every New Yorker’s subway fear: Taking a little train catnap after a trying evening, only to wake up at the end of the line to the realization that your purse has been stolen and you’re now money- and phone-less in Coney Island at dawn. If we were Hannah, we’d take to the beach and eat our feelings in leftover wedding cake, too.
5. “Beach House” (season 3, episode 7)
A weekend out on Long Island with your girlfriends sounds like an idyllic escape from the daily grind of the city. But on Girls, as in life, that summer-weekend idealism goes to shit and quick. For one, they’re unwittingly in sleepy North Fork, not the bumping Hamptons. (“It’s for people who think the Hamptons are tacky and don’t want to be on a beach that’s near a J. Crew," argues Marnie, because of course.) Hannah invites Elijah and the theater gays over without asking, which sparks a fight between the ladies, culminating in Shosh doing as all true New Yorkers have done before her and going on a full-blast drunken rant about her narcissistic friends. Better off staying in Brooklyn, girls.
4. “Bad Friend” (season 2, episode 3)
“It’s a Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive!” If those immortal Hannah Horvath words don’t sum up a night out on the town in Gotham, we don’t know what does. This is “the coke episode” (not to be confused with “the crack episode”—more on that later): On assignment for the terrifically titled Jazzhate.com, Hannah procures the drug from her weirdo neighbor Laird, snorts lines of the stuff off a club’s bathroom toilet with Elijah, wears a stranger’s neon mesh shirt (with nothing underneath, mind you) while dancing to an AndrewAndrew DJ set and finds out her best friend slept with her gay ex-boyfriend, all in the same night. Yup, sounds like your average Wednesday in New York.
3. “One Man’s Trash” (season 2, episode 5)
Ever pass by one of those picturesque Brooklyn brownstones and wonder, “Who the hell can afford to live here?” Girls answered that with this season-two bottle episode, a dreamy look into how the city’s richer half lives—you know, those fortysomething doctors who look like Patrick Wilson and own Ping-Pong tables, high-tech showers and enough fruit bowls to fill a Nancy Meyers movie. It’s a New York that the show doesn’t tap into often—it most recently penetrated that world of privilege with season six’s “American Bitch”—but when it does, it does it beautifully.
2. “The Panic in Central Park” (season 5, episode 6)
In a city as jam-packed with humans as New York, it’s only inevitable that you’ll eventually run into a former love. In this cinematic capsule episode inspired by The Panic in Needle Park, Marnie catches up with her ex Charlie, who has since acquired a north-Brooklyn beard, a drug-dealer career and a Ryan Gosling-style New Yawk accent. The two have a blissful day in the Big Apple—rowing boats in Central Park, conning rich people at the Plaza, sharing pasta at a red-sauce joint—but it all blows up in a New York minute. The couple gets mugged at gunpoint, Charlie turns out to be a closet heroin addict and Marnie is forced to walk the grungy streets back to her Chinatown apartment barefoot. Might want to schedule a tetanus shot, Marn.
1. “Welcome to Bushwick, a.k.a. the Crackcident” (season 1, episode 7)
“I matriculated at NYU and I just smoked crack, what is going to happen?!” Obviously, this beaut was going to take top marks for its completely on-the-nose sketch of a sloppy Bushwick party, where “all of Brooklyn, two-thirds of Manhattan” and girls named Tako pack into a crumbling warehouse on the corner of god knows where to sweat to Britney Spears remixes. The climax is, of course, Shoshanna accidentally smoking crack cocaine and pantslessly running through the streets of Brooklyn while her makeshift “crack spirit guide” Ray chases after her. “I am never coming back to Bushwick again, ever!” Marnie yells mid-party and really, who can blame her?