“Girls” returned on Feb. 24 with the all-new episode “Video Games.”
Season two of this Golden Globe winning series continues to take us on a deeper journey into the inner lives of our beloved characters. Marnie (Allison Williams) is floundering and searching for direction, Hannah (Lena Dunham) realizes she wants to happy like everyone else, Ray questions his worth and in this week’s installment, Jemima Kirke shines as Jessa reaches out to her dad in the wake of her marital ruins.
We do not choose our parents or the family in which we are raised. Many of us strive to set ourselves apart from our parents. But, we are, in large part, a product of our childhood and the values and examples that were set (or failed to be set) for us.
Jessa has never really had a relationship with her father, and she resents him for never being there when she needed him while she was growing up. He runs away when things get tough. Jessa despises this about him, but often does the same thing in her own life.
There are several memorable scenes in this emotionally heavy episode that is perfectly infused with just the right amount of humor. We learn some important things about Jessa and Hannah, as we see both girls in a new light.
Jessa wants to be Loved
We all want to be loved. It’s the single most powerful emotional craving we have. Parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally. Sadly, not all parents give this kind of love to their kids – which may be a domino effect of a deficiency in their relationship with their own parents.
The first surprising thing we realize about Jessa is that although she plays it so free-spirited and cool all the time, she desperately wants a connection with her dad. So much so, that she drives to see him in response to what is likely a butt text.
She’s totally non-phased about the fact that he’s super late to meet her and Hannah at the train station. When he does arrive, he nearly doesn't have enough room for them in her car. Seriously. He can't watch a clock and move some stuff out of his car to accommodate his daughter's arrival? Poor Jessa!
Series creator Lena Dunham addresses Jessa and her father's issues in her inside the episode video on HBO's website. She says:
"She puts on the performance of being the most liberal, free-spirited, open girl. But, she's actually so guarded. So seeing her reduced to little girl status around her father -- her father is young and kind of sexy and can't focus on her. He clearly wasn't someone who was ready to be a dad and he still doesn't engage with the job. Seeing how hard she works for his attention is really heartbreaking, especially as a contrast to how she acts in her day to day life."
Ben Mendelsohn does an excellent job playing Jessa’s aloof, sort of hippie father Sal. To Sal’s credit, he greets Jessa with warmth and immediately acknowledges her beauty.
The first heartbreaking revelation comes when Jessa tries to open up to her dad about her breakup with Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd). She tells him, “He didn't want to work on it. It’s like he didn't even remember we took vows.” Her dad tries to gloss things over, and tells her maybe she wanted it, because they’re not like other people.
We learn, here, that although her marriage to Thomas-John was spontaneous, Jessa didn't take it lightly, and she is hurt by the way things ended. Sal’s response shows us he’s not nurturing and wants to move on quickly from uncomfortable topics.
The most emotional scene comes when Jessa confronts Sal about his emotional and physical absence in her life Sal has the gall to tell her he can’t rely on her.
It’s impossible not to cry as Jessa tearfully reminds him he’s not supposed to rely on her – she’s the child. Jemima Kirke delivers Jessa’s raw emotion in such a vulnerable way. We can see and feel Jessa’s emotional depravity. We just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be okay. We want to tell her she’s good enough, despite the fact that her dad’s lack of concern and attention in her life dictates otherwise.
Unfortunately, their time doesn't have the happy ending we hope for. Sal makes plans for dinner, drops the girls off to shop for the food and never returns to get them. So, they walk back to her dad’s house, and as Hannah packs to leave, she finds a farewell note from Jessa, simply stating, “See You Around Love Jessa.”
Like father, like daughter. Jessa’s running away from the pain and awkwardness herself and we feel so bad for her …
True-to-form, Hannah provides unintentional comic relief in a very emotionally intense situation. We’re thrilled to see Hannah’s sense of loyalty, as a friend, for making the trip with Jessa. Bravo! She greets Sal and his new age girlfriend, Petula (Rosanna Arquette), very politely.
Petula is ecstatic that Hannah can act as a cushion between Jessa, Sal and herself, and Hannah awkwardly agrees she’s up to the task. We've seen so much of Hannah’s self-serving side and it’s nice to finally see her stand up and support her friend in this way.
Of course, Hannah bumbles into some really funny, socially awkward situations. Here's a short list:
- Hannah squats at the side of the railroad tracks to urinate and is totally unaware an elderly couple is watching her.
- Hannah discovers she’s eating the rabbit she just held for dinner. She’s repulsed and tries ever-so-subtly to spit the meat out of her mouth.
- We love how Hannah brags about “inking a book deal” but then she’s naive enough to have sex with Petula’s teen son Frank for “eight seconds.” He accuses her of using him for sex and she’s mortified but tries to gracefully manage the fact that she took his virginity. Or so we think -- she tells him he came in her thigh crease.
A poignant, emotional revelation about Hannah also comes when she’s alone at the train station, waiting to go home and she calls her parents to thank them for their support during her childhood and “sometimes in her adult life.”
She tells her mom that most of the time she feels like they are totally different and couldn't possibly have been created by the same God, but she loves them. Her mother doesn't buy her sentimentality, though, and suspects she’s sucking up to her because she needs or wants something.
Hannah stares at her phone in shock and then squats to relieve herself again. She cries in agony due to a painful urinary tract infection and most likely in part due to her mother’s abrasive response. We feel her pain in more ways than one.
Overall, “Video Games” paints a very vivid picture of how family dysfunction informs our adult behavior. While we struggle to turn out differently from our parents, some part of them will always be ingrained within us. Furthermore, no matter how tenuous or grating the bond, we will always seek love and approval from the parents and/or family with whom we are tied.
“Girls” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.