A look at the character who defined what HBO’s Girls is all about: Shoshanna Shapiro.
Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) was never supposed to be a major character when the HBO hit series Girls was first getting started, but after consideration and an infectious performance by Mamet, the path changed for Shosh. Over the course of six seasons, we have seen Shoshanna experience growth unlike any other character on the show.
We’re first introduced to this wide-eyed, youthful character who comes around by association, since she is Jessa’s cousin. She’s quirky, inexperienced, molded by her admiration of Sex and the City, and curious about life outside of her NYU classmates. Too often on screen, Shoshanna is weighed down by the mistakes and dramas of the other three girls, until the third season when Shoshanna has a breakout moment. In the seventh episode titled “Beach House,” a drunk Shosh lays the honest but brutal truth to each of the girls as they all take jabs at one another after an unsuccessful beach trip. Drunk or not, Shoshanna serves as a reflector for each of the characters and exemplifies why the group doesn’t work. She’s also there to remind us why they continue to justify their relationships and attempt to make it work for an exhausting six seasons.
Although Shoshanna has shown the most growth from each of the girls, she received the least amount of screen time in season 6. Initially this felt like a mistake and a slap in the face to the audience members who have grown to love Shoshanna for the woman she has become. However, in those few moments we saw her this season, she brought a dynamic to the screen that was beyond necessary. Shoshanna’s absence was met with a new outlook on life and a freedom from the toxicity of the group as seen in the bathroom scene of Sunday’s episode “Goodbye Tour.” At her engagement party (yeah, that’s right Shosh is engaged), the girls congregate to the tiny bathroom of Shoshanna’s apartment for a “group meeting” that no one wants to be a part of except for the host, Marnie. Shoshanna doesn’t hesitate to interrupt the hot potato, blame game the girls are playing to let them know she’s done with whatever it is they are trying to hold on to. Her testimony to their drama and toxic relationships feels like that of someone who might have spent time in a recovery program, which isn’t off the wall since she is now engaged to a man who has completed all 12 steps of Al-Anon. The reference to Byron’s AA achievement is important to acknowledge, because during the “Beach House” fight, Shoshanna denounces something Jessa says as some “AA-bullshit.” But it’s that “AA bullshit” that full circles Shoshanna to that significant moment in her story where she began to recognize that there is an existing problem. Another reference to the “Beach House” fight between the girls, comes in the pattern formed of exits. Shoshanna leads the departures, which is then followed by Hannah, and then following a brief moment of exhaustion and disbelief through an exchange between Jessa and Marnie, Jessa leaves Marnie to sulk. There is a glimpse of hope after each of these monumental scenes, where Shoshanna, Hannah, Jessa, and Marnie rebuild their confidence and if only for that moment, find comfort in the fracture of their friendship in an effort to move on.
The distance Shoshanna has formed between herself and the other girls has been a long time coming and a development that was never kept secret on screen. From taking a job in Japan to yelling at Jessa after a Women Entrepreneurs Meet Up Now event for ruining her life, we’ve been aware of her unhappiness among the group. But for some reason her departure from the bathroom, and ultimately the series, still hurt a bit. You can’t help but root for Shosh as she celebrates a new chapter in her life, and it’s totally easy to imagine that her and her fiance Byron will have a colorful, exploratory life together. Unfortunately, all we have is our imaginations because Girls ends this Sunday, April 16 for good and the last of Shoshanna has been seen. With or without Shoshanna in the finale, we know that her influence on the show was greater than any of us ever expected, and it’s so refreshing to see the Sex and the City-obsessed, twenty-one year old cousin of Jessa evolve into one of the most dynamic, brilliant characters on television.
Good luck Shosh, have the wedding of your dreams, and never lose that spunk we all love you for!