"Goodbye Tour," the title of the penultimate episode of "Girls," directly references the tightrope the show is walking with its final episodes. Fairly or unfairly, critics and audiences will retroactively reevaluate the series based on how well it ends its story and provides satisfying closure for the characters. "Goodbye Tour," is a strong, if somewhat frustrating, attempt to wrap up the central friendships of "Girls."

The episode takes place weeks or months after Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam's (Adam Driver) emotionally draining farewell. She's taken the train upstate to interview for a position at what looks like an idyllic liberal arts college, although it turns out to be more of a wooing than a traditional interview. The dean is a fan of how Hannah's writing speaks to internet culture, though the show also pokes fun at the blink-and-you'll-miss-it nature of cultural turnover when a group of students on campus mistake Hannah for a mom instead of someone who was in a similar position less than a decade earlier. Hannah enjoys her time out of the city, but she's somewhat distressed when she gets a call offering her the job on the train back to the city. Now it's real and she has to decide.

Hannah needs advice from her friends and family. Her dad and his boyfriend are firmly in the "go" camp. Tad (Peter Scolari) has always appreciated Hannah's insight and intelligence, which a teaching position would nurture. Elijah (Andrew Rannells), however, is seemingly in the "no" camp. He and Hannah have developed a bond over the last few years, and without her he would be all on his own. But even though he urges her not to move, there's a hesitancy to his imploring, as if he knows it might be best for her.

Hannah goes for a walk to do some thinking, and during a detour in a witchcraft shop, she notices two younger women, obviously new to New York and still in the early romantic stages. They're excited to live there, especially with each other. It's a signal to Hannah that she needs to reconnect with the friends who once made her feel that way, if only to say goodbye.

Except that they're not that easy to reach. She doesn't want to talk to Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Marnie (Allison Williams) isn't answering her phone, and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) has a disconnected number (a clever way to emphasize how little Hannah has seen of Shoshanna this season). Eventually Hannah decides to go to Shoshanna's apartment (presumably because she doesn't know where Marnie lives), and arrives to find that Shoshanna is throwing a party that she wasn't invited to—an engagement party. Everyone is there, even Jessa (despite her fight with Shoshanna earlier this season).

Much has changed since we last saw everyone. Marnie seems much more together than she was at the nadir of her professional relationship with Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), some kind of amalgam of the season one/two version of Marnie rather than the hopelessly narcissistic (and very funny) version we've seen in the last few seasons. It's an abrupt change, although somewhat defensible since she's had a few months to mature and recover from Desi. Shoshanna, on the other hand, has simultaneously matured and regressed. She's approximating a more mature life with her recent engagement, but she has also turned into the kind of status-obsessed woman she always admired and threatened to become. She wants drama-free friends who talk about cute purses and not much else, and her old friends won't cut it. Shoshanna's character was originally devised as a supporting part, but was elevated to main cast status based on Mamet's inspired performance in the pilot. Even though the character was expanded and deepened, Shoshanna's hopes and desires were always shallower than her friends. It's a bold move for the show to finally commit to that direction, but also jarring and sad.

The four women have a friend meeting in the bathroom (where else?), which further escalates the tensions. Shoshanna agrees not to make a scene, but she has little interest in keeping up relations with any of them. But things soften as the party progresses. Jessa finally apologizes to Hannah, who instantly loses some of her resentment at hearing the word "sorry." All four girls loosen up and dance, the kind of terrible dancing the show is famous for. It's a moment of wild abandon before they go their separate ways. The final scenes of the episode are devoted to a bittersweet musical montage of Hannah packing up and moving into her new home at the university.

It's been hard to judge ahead of time how "Girls" will handle the departure of its characters. I hoped that last week's episode wouldn't be the last of Adam and Ray (Alex Karpovsky), but both were absent this week, and Hannah's move upstate makes their reappearance less likely. I wondered if the four core girls would share the final episode, but Shoshanna has effectively ejected them from her life, so even that seems unlikely. Perhaps the final episode of "Girls" will be a stand-alone episode devoted to Hannah, the kind of episode the show has done so effectively in the past. Or perhaps the birth will bring all the characters together for one last time.  It's difficult to predict what will happen, but Dunham and colleagues have managed to craft the best season of "Girls" yet, so chances are they'll put together something just right.

Reach Staff Reporter Brian Marks here.