Shoshanna is being criminally underused in Girls season 6. Why?

Shosh has been relegated to minor-character status in the show's sixth season. Will its final episodes do her justice?

If the Girls character Shoshanna had any idea how much attention the show’s sixth season was giving her, she’d probably have an epic, watershed rant like the one she had in season 3’s Beach House episode. “You treat me like a fucking cab driver,” she said back then. “Seriously, you have entire conversations in front of me like I’m invisible, and sometimes I wonder if my social anxiety is holding me back from meeting the people who would actually be right for me instead of a bunch of fucking whiney nothings as friends.”

Shoshanna was once Girls most prized gem – her arc has been among the most satisfying and sobering of the show’s six seasons. She started off as Jessa’s naïve, motormouthed younger cousin, but she’s gone through a lot of classic early-20s struggles, and has now developed into a (relatively) poised adult. Since that rant in season 3, Shoshanna has spread her wings, fallen, and got back up again. She failed college, graduated late, got and dumped a boyfriend (preppy soup mogul Scott), moved to Tokyo for work, got fired, returned, and in the final moments of season 5, used her marketing nous to help Ray and Hermie turn their coffee house into a defiantly anti-hipster zone.

Then came season 6. So far, across eight episodes, Shoshanna has:

  1. been to a networking event with Jessa and Elijah
  2. had three separate conversations with Ray, all of them about Ray
  3. accidentally introduced Ray to her old boss Abigail – at which point Ray and Abigail fall in love, and Shoshanna leaves.

The other girls have dominated the story. We’ve seen main character Hannah bossing her writing career, deciding to become a single mother, and maturing enough to definitively renounce a relationship with Adam. We’ve watched Shosh’s cousin Jessa glugging yoghurt with Adam in their slovenly apartment, making an indie film with Adam, and trying to make things right with Hannah. We’ve witnessed Marnie’s crumbling relationship with Ray, her many car-crash scenes with her ex and musical partner Desi, and we’ve been shocked by her resolution to grow up – at the behest of a wise old pawn shop owner.

As for the season’s secondary characters, Elijah has had an entire episode to himself (The Bounce), Ray has lost his friend Hermie and resolved to carry on his community documentation project, and even Hannah’s baby daddy Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed) has probably had more screentime than Shoshanna. Why the hell has Shosh been relegated to minor-character status?

Let’s look at episode 2 of season 6, Hostage Situation, the best this year’s run has had to offer Shosh. In it, she takes Elijah (and, reluctantly, her terrible cousin Jessa) to a networking event organised by her old college friends. Those old friends have since gone on to found a successful clothes business, but when she tries to make amends with them – she ghosted them so she could hang out with Hannah, Marnie and Jessa – they reject her. She’s only just started a job as a junior executive in an advertising agency, and she wants to fit in with the successful New York crowd, so she’s bruised by her old mates’ cold reaction. Her own reaction is to take it out on Jessa – who, she says, is the reason she’s not earning lots of money and going on fancy trips. That is some definitive characterisation – she has aspirations she’s not capable of living up to, and that burns – but that’s pretty much all this season has allowed her to have so far.

Elsewhere, she’s been used simply as a counterpoint to other characters, or to move other characters’ arcs along. In episode 1 (All I Ever Wanted) Shosh’s interactions with Ray serve only to prove how ill-suited Marnie and Ray are for each other as a couple. In episode 4 (Painful Evacuation) her single conversation with Ray encourages him to go and see Hermie, who Ray finds dead. In episode 5 (Gummies) she pops up for less than a minute to pay her condolences to Ray. And in episode 8 (What Will We Do This Time About Adam?) she serves as a clunky device to introduce two characters who didn’t know each other: Ray and, inexplicably, Shoshanna’s old boss Abigail (played by SNL‘s wonderful Aidy Bryant). That pairing is a sweet one, and it’s a nice ending for Ray, but where exactly does it leave Shoshanna? Two episodes of season 6 remain, and as we can see in episode 9’s preview, next week the four will have a ‘group meeting’. What growth can we expect to see in her character at this stage? How has this season really changed how we see her?

The show’s group has been fractured by Jessa and Adam’s relationship, so it’s understandable that Shosh has dropped off the radar – Hannah is the show’s main focus, and her only real link to Shosh was Jessa. But the gap left in the show’s narrative is still palpable and weird: the writers know how much fans love her, so depriving them of Shosh scenes feels intentional. Some fans assume there must be some kind of beef between Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna) and someone else on the show.

It’s not unheard for TV shows to carry on despite conflict – it happened with The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi – but there’s another more credible reason for Shosh’s absence, and it’s hidden in the season six trailer. In that clip, Shoshanna’s voiceover says: “All those ladies out there who, like, have jobs, and purses, and nice personalities? Those are now my friends.” If that’s what Shoshanna tells the other girls in the bathroom scene glimpsed in the episode 9 preview, then that’s reason Shoshanna hasn’t been seeing any of the other girls. She’s ‘grown up’, in her terms. She’s done making all the mistakes that the other girls are still making, and she’s moved on. She’s maybe even happy. We already know episode 9 is probably Mamet’s last on the show, because in its preview she’s wearing the same white outfit seen in a post Lena Dunham shared on the day that Mamet and Jemima Kirke finished shooting Girls.

Dunham’s interview with People appears to confirm the idea that Shosh has outgrown the others. She explained: “Zosia [Mamet], who plays Shoshanna, has the most traditionally happy ending because Shoshanna always dreamed of having that Sex and the City ending. So we wanted to give it to her. I cried during her last scene. It was like watching someone grow up.” There you have it. Next week is the last week we’ll see Shoshanna, and the reason she’s been absent for so long is, probably, because she’s outgrown everyone else. Either that or this show has royally fucked up a brilliant character’s final season, in response to which all we can think is…