Monday, February 25, 2013

"Girls" - "Video Games": Continue?

     Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) enjoy a
     home-cooked meal on "Girls".
     Photo Credit: HBO

Okay, let's run through some of the contradictory things I've written about "Girls" over the past few weeks:

I claimed "One Man's Trash" to be my favourite episode of the series, citing a preference for "Hannah Show" episodes like "The Return" from season 1. The week after, I praised "Boys" for putting new characters together like Adam and Ray, and I finally considered the cast to be an ensemble the show would be best served to use. Not only did I write that I preferred a sort of "all or Hannah" approach to the cast, but this week's episode featured Hannah and one other main cast member, like most of the episodes this season have, and I thought it was terrific.

And a few weeks back, I wrote about the ultimately toxic relationship between Hannah and Jessa, even if they have their moments of clarity and understanding. And now after Sunday (February 24) night's episode "Video Games," I'm going to revise that statement if not rescind it completely.

Hannah and Jessa are in very few ways similar people. As Hannah points out when first arriving, Jessa and her father speaking in their heavy accents made her feel like they were speaking different languages. When Jessa offers Hannah supposed words of wisdom about how her life will never get any better than it is right now, it's clear how little Jessa understands Hannah and an episode like tonight proves how bad Jessa is at showing Hannah she cares about her. Jessa has never had a good relationship with a parental figure, as we saw in her breakdown with her dad (Jemima Kirke. Emmy nomination. Now please.), so it's not surprising that Hannah yelling "slow down!" from the backseat of their speeding car is off-putting to her. The last thing Jessa wants in a friend is another parent. But the things that bring the two of them together are not just straws they grasp at to keep their friendship alive - Jessa is not the kind of person who would pretend to be friends with anyone -  they're reminders why they are friends and why they enjoy each other's company when they can spend a lot of time not having the time of day for each other. As Aimee Mann's "How Am I Different?" plays over the end credits, I'm left wondering why I ever thought this relationship was on life support.

We had spent the early part of the season seeing only glimpses of Jessa, and I convinced myself we were ramping up to crazy Jessa/Thomas John antics late in the season. Thomas John is gone, but Jessa and Johansson family insanity were in full swing tonight. With a character like Jessa, a good origin story (not exactly the correct use of that term, but you get what I mean) is essential but almost guaranteed to be a letdown. Because Jessa leads such a ridiculously misguided life, a plot synopsis describing a visit to her parents makes me think, "Oh wow, Jessa's parents! She's so screwed up, this is gonna be good!" And surprisingly, it really, really was. Ben Mendelsohn and Rosanna Arquette (playing "Petula," which is a pretty funny name but not as good as Murjashiway) brought some hilarious quirks to their roles and I had no reservations believing those three as a family. On a side note, actor Nick Lashaway played Frank, and I spent most of my viewing being very frustrated that I couldn't place where I knew him from. (The IMDB tells me I recognize him as one of the teenage boys at the health clinic that Steve Carell takes Kat Dennings to in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and as one of Michael's co-workers at his telemarketing job in the "Money" episode of "The Office".) Note to self: attempting to mentally cut a character's bad haircut isn't very helpful in trying to place the actor in a previous role.

Like "One Man's Trash," "Video Games" was a "Louie"-esque short story that ignores any sense of continuity from episodes that precede it. But what "Girls" does so well is it does use episodes like that to establish continuity for later episodes. I have no idea where we're headed next with Jessa, and I won't be surprised if we don't see her again this season.

I'd like to say this is my new favourite episode of the series, but I feel like I will say that three to five times a season with a show like this. So just know that I actually preferred this to "One Man's Trash," and I won't replace my favourite episode week after week. If "Louie" won't be back for another year, then I am perfectly happy to accept short film episodes of "Girls" as a worthy placeholder.