Welcome to the Pug and Nikki show! “Mean, Green, and Straight Poured Into These Jeans”—written by Dana Schwartz and directed by series newcomer Anu Valia—feels like the shortest She-Hulk episode yet. It’s swift and a little silly (let us just handwave every bit of legal proceedings forever, okay?) and yet provides the seemingly incongruous yet totally perfect team-up of Pug and Nikki, fashion fiends, who use their fashion powers for good.
Which is to say, for Jen. Who really, really needs it.
What we’re talking about this week, kids, is the power of perception. Titania may have trademarked the name “She-Hulk,” but it’s clear from the opening scene with cousin Ched (Nicholas Cirillo) that people are still going to associate it with Jen, the actual She-Hulk. But still: Influencers are inescapable and irritating, and Jen can’t just not do anything about the problem of Titania having trademarked her name. Holliway will not stand for it. It looks bad for the firm.
So he puts Mallory Book on the case. Mallory is terrifying. Mallory is somehow the exact opposite of both Jen and Titania. Perfectly put together without an iota of overdoing it, cool as the metaphorical cucumber, and able to decimate a person’s self-confidence with a single sentence, she’s also able to offer thoughtful and considered moral support when the moment is right.
But I’m getting ahead of this episode’s greatest charms: Pug and Nikki, who are also here to offer Jen support—just of a very different kind.
The minor revelation that Pug is a sneakerhead is a nice bit of layering for his thus far pretty simple character (he values a high quality restroom; he loves sneakers). I’m still slightly disconcerted by Arrow’s uptight and aggro Prometheus as a cheery lawyer pal, but it’s growing on me. And the clear friendship he’s developed with Nikki really seals the deal. He already knows what her price for a favor is. (Return favor, plus interest.) This is not the first time they’ve had this negotiation.
The absolutely cringe parts of the boba shop bit are so precise, so murderously awkward, that I was too busy groaning in secondhand embarrassment to laugh—until Nikki gets the Avongers dealer to admit he does know “the guy.” The real superhero fashion guy. Realistically speaking, I do not understand why they would put on their Avongers gear in order to plead their case to the secret fashion maestro, but honestly, I don’t care: It’s worth it for the visual.
Fashion guy grants them a 15 minute consultation. Pug is a lawyer. Nikki’s a paralegal. They can do a lot in 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Jen is always terribly dressed this episode, from the “I am so sorry, little child” outfit she wears to Titania’s pop-up (why did Nikki let her do that???) to the big boxy suits that you can’t help but pay attention to, given that everyone is constantly talking about her clothes. The thing is, of course, that it’s a double-edged sword. It shouldn’t matter what she wears. She shouldn’t have to look a certain way in order to be She-Hulk or to be Jen Walters, skilled lawyer. But what’s more, because she doesn’t fit a very limited idea of what the norm for a woman is, the world makes it hard for her to live up to the expectations on her appearance. When Mallory says “Dress like you respect yourself and not like a football player pleading no contest to a DUI,” it’s accurate and it’s mean, and it’s an impossible bar for She-Hulk to meet. They don’t make nice suits for her body. They don’t make any suits for her body, frankly. She probably has to shop in the men’s big and tall stores.
It shouldn’t matter. But it does.
The entire Titania plot—frankly, her entire existence—could have been custom-made to feel like emotional sandpaper for me personally. The influencer economy, mean girls, snake-oil beauty products: all of it makes me shudder. And I don’t love that She-Hulk has to have a female nemesis who is, of course, perfectly made-up and fashion-conscious and all the things she’s not—though this is where the Pug and Nikki plot creates some balance. You don’t have to be a stuck-up fashion snob to care about clothes.
But I do think the show is trying (if not always fully succeeding) to make the point that it’s patently absurd that people treat Jen as if she’s unattractive and uninteresting just because she doesn’t have swoopy hair and bigger curves. The exaggerated version of plain girl vs. hot girl is on purpose. I just wish its points were a little sharper. (It doesn’t help that the She-Hulk CGI seems especially wibbly on some of Jen’s facial expressions this week.)
And for all that Jen rolls over too easily this week about the little things, she’s still the architect of her own triumph, in court and out. It’s not Nikki who ultimately gets super-tailor Luke (Griffin Matthews) to agree to make Jen some clothes; it’s Jen, who demonstrates the particular challenge her case presents by shrinking into her ordinary self and growing into She-Hulk. You can almost see Luke’s eyes light up, even behind his sunglasses. This is something different. He clearly enjoys different.
In court, Mallory Book represents her, but the winning strategy is Jen’s idea: to bring in all those terrible dates that she went on after she made a She-Hulk dating profile. It’s horrible and effective, and it works, and Jen’s willingness to do it wins some hard-won admiration from Mallory, who both offers support (“You deserve better”) and understanding after the case. “Holliway could never have gone through that. He’s never had to prove his value to a parade of underwhelming men,” she says, accurately.
Of course, she gets in one last dig about Jen’s clothes, but no worries. That’s sorted, though we’ll have to wait to see what, exactly, Jen is so excited about. The episode gives the last moment not to Jen but to a fellow we’ve not seen for a while. Now we know how Daredevil gets that shiny new helmet, at any rate.
BOOTY BOOST SMOOTHIE SIPS
- She’s not an Avenger yet but she’s going to be and they’re still working out the deal … put in a few more wink-wink-nudges, why don’t you!
- Todd is one of the firm’s biggest clients??!? Hmm.
- I love the subtle little connection from Titania calling Jen a child to the scene when she’s eating lunch in her human body while wearing She-Hulk’s giant suit; it makes her look especially small and childish, and Jen has to stop seeing herself like that.
- There’s no funny tag this week, but there is a moment in the credits drawings where Holliway is trying out a Booty Boost while Pug side-eyes him from the hallway.
- “In fashion it’s cool to be mean.”
- Yes, I was curious about Luke, the superhero stylist; yes, I went looking to see if he previously existed in Marvel. Assuming the internet is telling the truth, there was a fashion designer named Luke Jacobson in three issues of Dakota North, and if you go look up Dakota North, you’re going to wind up down a rabbit hole that leads to a whole lot of characters from Netflix’s dearly departed Marvel series.