This week’s Girls actually found a way to improve upon last week’s fantastic Adam-Ray adventure by focusing, finally, on Jessa. Jessa has often been a caricature at best, and while we have see a few glimpses of real emotion and fragility with her relationship with Thomas-John, she’s always existed on the fringes of the Girls group, floating in and out of episodes or even the frame (as she did last week). Jessa’s breakdown with Thomas-John also hinted at a damaged past, one where the stability of a “normal” man would be something she innately seeks, even if consciously she doesn’t recognize it. In “Video Games” she mentions briefly about how he doesn’t even want to work on their relationship, but suggesting in her tone that she would did want to. She doesn’t want to be her father, and “Video Games” showed us exactly why. Hit the jump for why “I am the child!”
Without Hannah, this episode might well have been perfect, but she did serve as an ok foil against the bizarreness of Jessa’s home life. She spoke the truth too about that childhood fear of being the last one picked up or left at a party because your parent was late — that fundamental fear of abandonment. That’s something Jessa has had to live through over and over with her father disappearing and reappearing in and out of her life like she does with people now. Strangely though at the end of Hannah’s remarks Jessa commented, “it’s worse if you’re molested by the weird sub.” Hannah pauses, “wait, were you molested by the weird sub?” Jessa seems confused, embarrassed and cavalier at all once: “yes … no! I mean I don’t know. Probably.”
Some of the look into Life With The Johansson’s (Version 3.0) was played for straight laughs, like with the advent of Rosanna Arquette as Petula, Jessa’s father’s current girlfriend, who wears Jefferson Starship shirts, believes life is a video game (there’s no evidence for this because, of course, scientists lie), has a strange son named Frank, and says “a rabbit a day keeps the doctor away!” Not that women like Petula don’t exist, but she seemed to include every possible hippy stereotype. But it worked, especially in conjunction with Ben Mendelsohn playing Jessa’s father (looking particularly Sirius-Black-esque).
There were many elements of “Video Games” that would have made it a great stand-alone short film, with Jessa on a quest to see her father after feeling that he was trying to send her a message (more likely, as Hannah pointed out, a butt text), and wanting to confront the man who left her unshaped as an adolescent. “You never taught me anything,” Jessa finally pours out to him. “I can fully rely on you, though” he father counters. In one of the most powerful moments of the series Jessa speaks for every child who must grow up and figure themselves out for themselves without supportive parents when she said, “you shouldn’t have to, though. I am the child. I am the child!”
Like the stand-alone episode with Hannah and the doctor, things don’t really change in the end. Her father makes promises, Jessa half believes them, and then he pulls the same shit he always has. That’s life. But what was even better (and worse) was when Hannah called her parents to thank them for supporting her and giving her a good childhood, but her mistreatment of them has left them wary, and in the end her mother blows up at her thinking that Hannah is doing what she always does — asking for money, etc.
It’s a cruel but maybe slightly karmic moment for Hannah, and a fitting end to the bleak but informative “Video Games.” It gave Jessa some context and was in and of itself a lyrical half hour. It’s no surprise, either, that was written by one of Girls‘ executive producers Bruce Eric Kaplan, who has also written for Six Feet Under, and is prolific with his witty but bleak single panel cartoons. Like them, this was a bleak but substantive vignette, finally about Jessa, and I’m thankful for it.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
– Frank was a little over the top as a sexually confused or repressed weirdo who had sex with Hannah and then claimed she used him. I did like the line though about he doesn’t eat rabbit and therefore he’s “hungry all of the time.”
– “Hannah grow up, it’s fucking food.” – Jessa
– I felt that the Hocus Pocus reference was a little shoehorned, but then again I always appreciate it!
– Hannah’s struggle with her IUD was a funny set of moments. “My urine feels like daggers!”
– Hannah: “What happened to the 5 year old daughter?” Jessa: “No one speaks to her anymore. I wonder if her name is still Lemon.”
– Don’t you remember, Hannah? Jessa gave her cell phone to the man at the Mexican restaurant.
– Huffing aerosols and driving with your eyes closed … yep. Teenagers.