This episode of Girls, titled "Video Games," probably should have been called "Daddy Issues." In it, we get a closer look at why Jessa is the way she is: charming, undependable, emotionally detached, yet also very fragile. The answer is logical: her parents are total kooks. "Video Games" centers around Hannah and Jessa traveling to Manitou to visit Jessa's father after she receives a garbled text message from him. Jessa interprets it as a sign that the two should reconnect. Hannah thinks that they were probably butt-texts.
Either way, when we finally meet Jessa's dad, he's a walking disaster. He's hours late, looks nearly homeless and drives a shoddy car stuffed with old computers. He's also a few screws loose and perhaps a little buzzed, but they quickly find a groove in old jokes, bizarre accents and mutual complaints about Petula, his girlfriend who is so mentally unhinged, she makes Jessa and her dad look like the Clintons.
"This is all one big simulation," she tells Hannah while feeding the pet rabbits that will later become dinner. "We all need to grow a pair and get to the next level, you know what I mean? If you're not with me you're against me, and I'm going to take you down. Bam-bam-bam!"
"Do you have any scientific evidence that life is just a video game?" Hannah asks, probably devising a character like Petula in her e-book because, well, you can't make this shit up. "Because I've never thought about it and it actually sounds kind of real and stressful."
"Of course not," Petula retorts. "Because scientists lie."
Later, over a painful dinner of rabbit and awkward silences, they're joined by Petula's son Frank who, despite his goofy turtleneck and creepy whisper, intrigues Hannah (maybe it's that mysterious Josh Hartnett vibe). When Frank's friend shows up, looking fresh off the Hollister runways, and offers to take the girls out, Hannah jumps at the chance to escape. Much to Jessa's disappointment, her dad doesn't stop them because he already made plans with Petula. He didn't cancel them, he says, because he couldn't count on Jessa to actually show up this time. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I suppose.
What follows is as terrifying as it is cliche. The kids (who are frankly all too old to be called kids) speed around town drinking and doing whip-its over mindless conversations. Jessa, blinded by her own misery, commends the idiotic friend on his driving skills and covers his eyes as he flies down the dark back-roads of upstate New York until Hannah -- ever the voice of reason -- demands they stop because she's scared. Then, in a dark cemetery, she and Frank have the shortest, grossest sex of the series (because whenever you think it can't get worse, it does!). How long before a bad romp is called a "Dunham"?
The next day, Jessa and Hannah mull over an old issue of Penthouse that they unearth in her dad's junk. "These women should be really proud," Jessa says, reasoning that helping a boy discover his manhood is "the most noble" thing a woman can do. Hannah plays along, albeit skeptically, but we get the greater message Dunham is sending: just as women must help boys become men, whether as sexual tour guides or nurturing mothers, so must men must help girls become women, as caring boyfriends or supportive fathers. Jessa, of course, has had neither.
Jessa's frustrations with her dad come to a head on the swings in the backyard. She blames him for his selfishness and for being pathologically unreliable. But what she's really driving at isn't the past -- it's her future. Thanks to his influence, she has a failed marriage, few friends and no career (not to mention a fixation with anything that distracts her from reality and numbs the pain). The only thing he taught her, she deduces, is to be like him.
"You think I can rely on you?" he deflects.
"You shouldn't have to," she cries. "I'm the child. I'm the child."
This is the part where viewers either cringed at the painful familiarity or reacted like Hannah, who calls her parents to thank them for actually parenting her. But one thing's for sure: this could not have been an easy episode for Dunham to write. Parents are a tricky subject, conjuring feelings of interminable gratitude or deep disappointment and bringing out our emotional insecurities. After all, is there any realization more tragic than the dethroning of your own parents? Through Jessa, Dunham analyzes the effects this disappointment has on twenty-somethings and begs the ultimate question: At what age does one's poor parenting go from being a point of sympathy to an excuse? Daddy issues and Mommy issues -- whatever they may be -- can only penetrate your adulthood for so long before they become, well, your issues. It's a poetic moment when we suddenly see our parents when we look at ourselves in the mirror and unfortunately, it's not always pretty.
The most telling moment of the episode was when Hannah called her parents to thank them for the "hammock" of support and protection they've given her, and her mom doesn't buy it. Because she's a parent and she knows better.