Girls Recap: Sins of the Father

Girls-HBO-Season-2-Episode-7-jessa-dadI almost started my recap of this week’s Girls by wondering if the episode title — “Video Games” — was Lena Dunham‘s nod to Lana Del Rey, a fellow female artist whose ubiquitous hit of the same name generated an inordinate amount of debate about whether she was a genius or just a lucky hack.

But then I stopped myself: No matter how many think pieces it generates, no matter how frequently Dunham waves her middle finger at her body-police critics by baring her backside and taking a pee by the traintracks, Girls is just a TV show. Maybe it aims for something a little deeper than your average half hour of (the still amazing) Cougar Town, and maybe it’s a little more self-indulgent than its HBO timeslot buddy (the also amazing) Enlightened, but there’s no better way to drain the fun from a viewing experience than by overanalyzing it to death.

The thing about Girls, though, is it practically begs you to drag each episode to the couch for a post-viewing therapy session. Take this week’s opening scene, with Jessa’s almost grotesquely flippant remarks about “maybe, probably” having been molested by a substitute teacher when she was a kid. Was that her making an ill-conceived joke? Was the casualness of Jessa’s delivery a way to test the waters about maybe, possibly discussing a past trauma? (And is it possible Jessa experienced abuse at the hands of her own father, who greeted his daughter with a fervor that pinged my inner creep-o-meter?) Or perhaps it was merely a case of bad writing on Dunham’s part. (Yeah, it was probably just bad writing.)

Anyhow, that bit of ickiness aside, there were definitely a few good laughs in our opening scene of Hannah and Jessa at a tiny upstate New York train station waiting for Jessa’s dad to pick them up. Sure, it was nasty that Hannah couldn’t be bothered to wade into the bushes to empty her bladder, but I’ll admit I howled when that elderly couple caught sight of her doing the deed, Hannah cluelessly called out “there’s still no one?” and Jessa just smiled wickedly.

It was nice, in that moment, to witness a little of Jessa’s naughty bohemian charm, because later she retreated to her safe shell of superiority, her not-entirely-convincing attitude that the basic rules of common sense and courtesy are simply too pedestrian to be acknowledged. “It’s really lame that that bothers you,” she huffed to Hannah, when her friend expressed shock that Jessa’s dad would leave them waiting at the station for what had to be at least an hour. It was clear, though, Jessa was actually bothered most of all, disappointed that even in her adult life, there was part of her who craved the feeling of being a priority to her father.

Jessa’s dad (a bedraggled Ben Mendelsohn), of course, had his armor up, too: He’s kooky and scattered, his station wagon laden down with old computers, his life philosophy filled with eye-rollingly rehearsed ideas like “Camry drivers are c***s.” He couldn’t even be bothered to remember Hannah’s name correctly, telling Jessa to “get in the front with Sarah.”

Back at the ranch, we got to meet Petula (Rosanna Arquette), the latest wife of Jessa’s dad, a woman prone to her own set of nutty beliefs. Among them: Life is actually a video game in which we need to “grow a pair and get to the next level.” It’s okay to have dirty guest towels that aren’t big enough to dry a leg, let alone an entire body. Pet bunny rabbits are delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Hannah might not exactly be a gracious guest, but I couldn’t help guaffawing when she dropped this question — “I was just wondering: Is this rabbit the same rabbit that we were, um, feeding and petting in a loving way this morning?” Of course it was!)

Naturally, Dad and Petula made unbreakable plans to attend a lecture (and thus avoid a full 24 hours of father-daughter time). After some evening hijinks (more on those in a moment), Jessa finally let down her guard and hinted at her disappointment, grimly telling Hannah not to commisserate and act like her own mom and dad were anything like her miscreant papa.

Jessa, showing a little character growth, finally confronted her dad head-on: Why can’t he clean his house occasionally? Why can’t he “act like leaving a woman and her child isn’t a casual f***ing thing”? Why can’t he ever do anything he says he’ll do? “You think I can rely on you?” he snapped back. And then Jessa cut to the heart of the problem: “You shouldn’t have to. I’m the child. I’m the child.” You could see Jessa’s dad reeling, trying to make up to his daughter years of slights, as he promised to make bangers and mash and spend the day with her. But — as Jessa knew the moment he dropped her and Hannah at the grocery store and promised to be back to pick them up — it wasn’t meant to be. Abandoned once again, Jessa pulled off her own disappearing act, leaving Hannah with nothing but an enigmatic note (“see you around my love”) and a solo train ride back to New York City.

Hannah responded to the weekend stresses with a call to her own parental units, but her anxiety and sadness crept into the call in a not-entirely-charming way. “Why do you call us when you’re in a bad mood?” her mom demanded to know. And since the road to hang-ups are paved with good intentions, Hannah’s overly earnest thank-yous — a true decent moment where the character realized her childhood was pretty charmed — caused her mom to finally snap, “I’m not falling for this crap!” It was another missed connection, but still kinda sweet, no?

Oh, and back to the hijinks I mentioned earlier. We had a mid-episode subplot in which Hannah and Jessa went for a terrifying, whipit-fueled joyride with Petula’s son Frank and his dreamy jock pal Tyler, “an amazing lacrosse player and published poet.” I loved Hannah’s skittishness around the whipped-cream can — “I don’t like using products in a different way than they were intended!” — but man, the eight-second graveyard romp between Hannah and Frank has to rank as one of the most awkward sex scenes I’ve ever seen anywhere (not just on Girls). Just as painfully funny was Hannah’s insane idea to have sex with Frank only because she thought Jessa was bedding Tyler, and desiring “continuity” with her friend in this sexcapade situation. Also beyond beyond? Jessa asking Tyler, “Do the guys on your team suck each other off?” As the absent-from-the-episode Shosh would exclaim, “Oh! Em! Gee!”

Anyhow, I’ll leave the rest of the Hannah-Frank post-coital dance for you to discuss. While you’re at it, what did you think of this week’s Girls? Do you think Jessa’s note means we won’t be seeing her again this season? What did you make of the molestation comment at the top of the show? And how uncomfortable was the graveyard sex scene on a scale of one to horror movie? Sound off in the comments!