Sunday night’s season five finale of “Girls” confirmed two already widely suspected truths: that Lena Dunham is an artistic prodigy who is able to convey and compartmentalize the nuance and angst of womanhood better than most writers and television series creators twice her age, and Jenni Konner, executive producer and writer of “Girls” and Dunham’s partner since the show’s creation, has now officially emerged as a heavily skilled director.
For Konner, who had zero directing experience prior to taking the reins on Sunday’s episode, ironically titled “I Love You Baby,” the impulse to add to her resume of producing and writing duties stemmed from being surrounded by the ever-inspiring and always supporting “Girls” cast and crew.
“I had been sitting next to the most talented people in the world for five years and watching them do their job and I really wanted an opportunity to direct the show before it ended,” Konner told Variety. “What was so wonderful about it was that I have access to the best help in the world, with Lena and (director) Jamie Babbit and the entire cast and crew — and I did ask for a lot of help. I run everything by Lena. Unlike producing, I had to learn to think visually about every single choice, and then realize how many more choices there were left to make. And it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.”
Like in life, there were no neatly wound bows to tie up the plotlines or character arcs in the season finale. At best, some romantic quandaries were partially resolved — Marnie (Allison Williams) runs back into the arms of still-besotted Ray (Alex Karpovsky); Elijah (Andrew Rannells) is cruelly dumped by actor-narcissist Dill (Corey Stoll); Hannah (Dunham) discovers a sense of quiet inner peace at a MOTH reading where she delivers a poignant monologue about jealousy and friendship — but most relationships remain messy and inconclusive.
In the case of Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Adam (Adam Driver), things turn downright volcanic.
“I was overly cautious and I rehearsed the fight scene for a long time,” says Konner of the interlude in which Jess and Adam hurl a barrage of pots and lamps and other assorted household items at one another in a manner so violent and out of control it verges on Sid and Nancy-level hysterics. “I did a lot of prep work on that scene that someone more experienced may not have done — but I wanted to do it right.”
That extra work served Konner well because the final frame of that row — shot from overhead and, per Konner, “inspired by the last shot in ‘Taxi Driver,’ — results in a poetic tableau of modern dysfunctional romance, with the two wounded warriors lying half-naked on the floor amidst the detritus of their massive argument. It’s a moment that’s both beautiful and brutal, a moment so masterfully executed it belies Konner’s lack of directorial experience.
“The scene was just inspired by this idea of what happens when you get these insanely volatile people together, when there is no calming source,” says Konner. “With Jessa and Adam, there’s no clear role — it’s just dynamite lying next to each other.”
Konner plans on directing again — this time the “Girls” series finale in 2017.
“We had the first table read today for our final season and everyone just sat there and it was so much fun and we all agreed that we’re going in the right direction,” says Konner. “But it was also sad and I kept thinking about the fact that when the show ends I’m never going to see these guys again. It’s just heartbreaking.”