Season 2, Episode 7: “Video Games”
After the solo Hannah episode two weeks back and last Sunday’s focus on Ray and Adam, once again “Girls” is allowing its focus to flesh out a particular character, with Jessa (Jemima Kirke) getting the spotlight. The episode kicks off with her and Hannah (Lena Dunham) at the Manitou train station, about an hour outside of New York City, where they’re awaiting Jessa’s father and a weekend out in the country, in an episode that seems to ultimately serve as a goodbye to the character for a while.
Though Jessa has made no secret of her colorful past — a lot of it revealed during her infamous dinner with ex-husband Thomas-John’s parents — we’ve never seen her parents until now. And as we quickly learn, the relationship has been distant, with Jessa taking an accidental text from her father as an overly optimistic sign that there is something left to salvage. And the first sight of her dad, played by Ben Mendelsohn, explains a lot about who he is and how he shaped Jessa’s life. Pulling up (late) to pick them up, he arrives in a station wagon filled with old computers. Why? He doesn’t want people reading his old ideas. And oh yeah, all Camry drives are cunts too, at least according to him.
Jessa’s father shares her eccentric streak, also coupled with an undeniable intelligence. “We’re not like other people,” he reminds Jessa when discussing her failed marriage, and she can’t help but concede that point. But her father’s new girlfriend Petula (a pretty great Rosanna Arquette) couldn’t be more different, a tree-hugging, Jefferson Starship t-shirt wearing, Earth-loving hippie…who also believes that everything we see around us is part of a giant video game simulation, and that we have to keep fighting to get to “the next level.” Quirky parents in a largely quirky episode that has the same expansive stretch as the Hannah-centered episode five, “One Man’s Trash,” but without a similar emotional payoff.
The two girls get into their own fair share of adventures. They join Petula’s son Frank and his friend Tyler for a night of speeding around the countryside in a convertible, doing whippets. Hannah promptly freaks when things take a turn for the dangerous, with Tyler driving as Jessa covers her eyes. She storms out of the car into a graveyard, where Frank comes to retrieve her and the two have the most awkward, short lived sexual encounter you can imagine. As Hannah tells Frank the next morning (learning that she was his second), “That wasn’t sex. You came in my thigh crease.”
But really, “Video Games” is here to cement Jessa’s uneven past, and her difficulty reconciling with a father who has routinely let her down. Noting that he often disappeared for months on end, was never available to talk when Jessa went through hard times with her mother, her father counters by asking her when he has ever been able to rely on her. “I shouldn’t have to, I’m the child,” she cries. But we learn our behaviors, for better or worse, from our parents, and when Jessa’s father once again lets her down, failing to pick her and Hannah up from the grocery store after promising to make her favorite bangers and mash for dinner, Jessa promptly disappears, leaving Hannah a note: “See you around my love.”
It’s sad to see Jessa go, and also somewhat abrupt. She’s an utterly fascinating character, but it also seems that for now her arc has run its course. Her exit seems to indicate an extended absence, which isn’t surprising since the actress was pregnant during the shooting of second season, but we do hope she finds her way back to the show soon. And her departure is done in such a way that it allows the writers a lot freedom to write her back in. Meanwhile, Dunham bookends the show with shots of her peeing, painfully, as Hannah has a UTI. It’s more of the awkward, funny oversharing that has become the show’s stock in trade, and with brief cameos from Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker, it looks like next week could see “Girls” returning to its first season flavor. [B-]
Songs featured in this episode: Flamin’ Groovies “Laurie Did It”; Moby Grape “It’s A Beautiful Day Today”; Nickelback “S.E.X.”; Rilo Kiley “Silver Lining”; Aimee Mann “How Am I Different”