Jessa is the enigma of Girls. Everyone else is somewhat peaceable. Well, maybe not Booth Jonathan, but he’s more of a satire and a crutch for ridiculous situations than anything else. This season we’ve lingered with various characters in places outside of their normal routines. Adam and Ray went to Staten Island. Marnie visited Booth’s loft/gallery/life. And Hannah spent that time playing naked ping-pong, among other things, with the wealthy doctor. All of these trips and adventures and breaks from their own lives are not so much about the experience, they’re just opportunities for introspection.
In “Video Games” it’s Jessa’s turn. When she and Hannah take the Metro-North upstate, we finally get a peek into what sort of upbringing made her, well, the way she is. It’s no surprise that her dad (played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn of The Dark Knight Rises) is a flighty, aloof mess. He’s shacking up with a woman and her two sons in the country in a house that looks straight out of Grey Gardens – only not as nice.
As all young 20-somethings tend to do when with their parents, Jessa turns back into a teenager in this setting. She does whip-its, she encourages reckless driving with her sort of step brothers, and she shoplifts a bottle of Jack Daniels from the local store. She also cries to her father, who has been largely absent from her life, that she’s the child, not him. I feel for her, and I believe her pain, but, at a certain point, you’re also the grown up. And as awful as having this dad might have been, he is who he is and there’s no use longing for him to be someone different. You’d think Jessa of all of the characters would realize that.
The most striking thing about meeting Jessa’s dad is that he’s not, apparently, wealthy. He lives like a bit of a hoarder in an existence that implies there was wealth once (again, back to Grey Gardens), but that’s gone and it doesn’t even really matter to him. I’ve always assumed that Jessa had come from an extremely wealthy family. It’s the easiest explanation for her worldliness and lifestyle and her lack of worry around money or employment. But maybe she’s just thrifty. And this could explain her insecurity around the accusation that she married Thomas-John for his money.
Jessa hasn’t been around much this season. At first, she was largely absent due to her sudden marriage and life 40 stories above the streets of Brooklyn, and then, due to her depression after the marriage fell apart very suddenly and dramatically. It’s likely because the actress who plays her (Jemima Kirke) recently had a baby, and therefore less time. But scheduling and real life are boring ways to explain creative choices. Regardless, she’s the distant drifter who tried on stability for a little while, but has clearly been tied down to the same place for too long. And at the end of the episode, she disappears, and Hannah heads back to the city alone.
NEXT: Hannah might just be conventional after all…