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'Girls' Minus Charlie Equals... What Exactly?

Kelly Hanelt |
April 5, 2013 | 1:49 p.m. PDT

TV Editor

Fare thee well, Charlie. (HBO
Fare thee well, Charlie. (HBO

That Marnie just can’t catch a break, can she? Not three weeks after she (spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to watch the season finale… though seriously, what have you been doing with your free time that you haven’t yet consumed those excruciatingly compelling 30 minutes?) cavorted into the sunset with her smothering-uncle-type-turned-hipster-billionaire boyfriend Charlie, news dropped that his portrayer, Christopher Abbott, has called it quits with “Girls.”

Details surrounding his exit are few and far between, a vast majority of them bloated and sensationalized by the tales of feuding between the actor and series creator/ star Lena Dunham. But life is not an OK Magazine spread and, as such, said headlines will only pose to distract from the real facts of the scenario. Which are these: Abbott exited the series just on the threshold of season three’s filming, he will not appear in the next season at all… though he was meant to. Which leaves only one question left to behold – what the hell is going to happen to Charlie?

The most obvious answer is that somewhere, in those lost hours/ days/ months meandering between season 2 and 3, Charlie and Marnie break up. As incandescently happy as they appeared in the finale, those two were as suitable a couple as hot shorts and a snowstorm. Also the idea of Hannah and Marnie being concurrently happy would undermine the angsty zeitgeist that has established “Girls” as the cultural landmark it is.

It's time to break out the Demi Lovato tunes for Marnie again... (HBO)
It's time to break out the Demi Lovato tunes for Marnie again... (HBO)
So Charlie up and dumps Marnie (because we know her pathological clinginess would never enable her to end such a relationship, especially now that she’s fought so hard to get him back... and he’s so rich) and leaves her even more flailing and desperate and pathetic than she was in season 2. But viewers don’t want to see that. We already witnessed Marnie at her lowest, an abyss from which she emerged having gained no perspective and having learnt nothing except mastery of the acutely irritating art of self-pity. She’s lost Charlie before, spiraled into what she never failed to pronounce as the “worst year of [her] life” and seemingly found absolution in the renewal of his love. If she loses Charlie again, what’s to say it’ll go any different?

Enter my enduring faith in Lena Dunham. She understands this generation enough to portray it with such an off-putting shade of honesty that you become entranced and invested in the lives of people who, though you have never met, you feel that you know all too well. You can relate to them. But you hate them. Such is her uncomforting genius. And one of the defining characteristics of people so young is that they are, for better or worse (usually worse though), entirely fickle creatures. Just as Christopher Abbott checked out of “Girls” mere moments before it was going to set, Charlie could plausibly check out of Marnie’s life, and New York for that matter, with equal haste.

“Girls” respects itself too much to pull a long-distance-but-you-never-see-or-hear-him shtick. When Jemima Kirke (Jessa) was pregnant, she didn’t hide behind Olsen twin status hobo bags, but rather came face-to-face with a quarter-life crisis in the presence of her father and ran the other way, out of Hannah’s life and off our TV screens. It was true to her character and gave the show dignity for not trying to fool its viewers.

Charlie could get killed off, become gay, move to Tokyo, or get in a biking accident so terrible that he needs total facial reconstruction surgery and must be recast. In the entire spectrum of disgraced exits from television programs, Abbott’s is far from the first and far from the worst. If anything, Charlie’s absence will open up room in Marnie’s life for her to discover a side of her personality that is likeable. Marnie will bounce back, and so will “Girls.”

Reach TV Editor Kelly Hanelt here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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