It’s a self-contained wedding episode! With a fourth-wall-breaking joke about how it comes at an inconvenient time because weddings always do!
Do they? Don’t you generally get a lot of time to plan to attend a wedding? Did Lulu put this together in two weeks? With that elaborate of a bridesmaid-invitation box?!?
You can argue that a wedding episode should be light, and I would agree. The problem is that this one can’t decide on a tone, and in the process of being indecisive, it dallies in a whole appetizer tray of clichés about women and priorities and weddings. You can make these things funny! Of course you can! But in “Just Jen,” neither the jokes nor the points ever land as solidly as they should.
The bride is an old friend of Jen’s who she’s fallen out of touch with. When Nikki asks why she’s even going, Jen says it’s out of obligation, which is probably also why Lulu invited her, which is also, you know, not the greatest reason to go to a wedding, but an understandable one in some ways. (More understandable than cousin Ched being the DJ, anyway—though there are some conclusions to be drawn about the expense of weddings, from the Thursday night timeslot to the cash bar to the DJ selection.)
But Jen puts her foot right in it when she shows up as She-Hulk. Everyone is very impressed except Lulu, who would rather Jen not steal the spotlight, which is pretty fair, though it wouldn’t have hurt to just say that up front rather than pouting and then putting Jen on constant cleanup duty for the whole wedding experience.
Meanwhile, Jen says to the camera, “Yeah, obviously this is the one time I didn’t want to show up as just Jen.” Just Jen is insecure about being Just Jen, especially after the courtroom full of losers who said on the stand that they would never date Just Jen. Which is understandable! Who wouldn’t be feeling shitty and vulnerable after that experience! But what it looks like here, as the episode plays out, is a weird sort of entitlement-off, where Jen wants to feel better about herself at the expense of Lulu, who then is unbearably and repeatedly rude to Jen to make herself feel better, and none of it is funny or clever. It’s just sad. But in a sitcom. The tone doesn’t work.
I want there to be some knowing irony in this: in the jokes about how Jen’s super job doesn’t matter, how she still has a little bit of time, for the whole absurd notion that Jen isn’t hot and only She-Hulk is attractive. But I feel like I have to go poking around the edges to find the self-awareness, like the show wants to somehow play it straight and also sly in a way that’s just not working in the wedding plot. It’s stronger—if sometimes very bluntly so—in Nikki and Mallory’s case.
Mr. Immortal (David Pasquesi, last seen as Mok Shaiz’s majordomo on Boba Fett) is the living embodiment of the “Men would rather [do X ridiculous thing] than go to therapy” meme. He would rather pitch himself out a window than have an uncomfortable conversation with his lawyer—which he does, because he only dies for a second, then gets up and strolls away. He has done this to escape marriages. A lot.
It’s somewhat exhausting watching Mr. Immortal’s tired misogyny, but there’s a more subtle thread in this plotline that I loved: watching Nikki and Mallory learn to work together. Mallory, distant and regal, will let this sleazeball talk himself out; Nikki, bursting with opinions, wants to let him have it. And as they work the case, they move toward each other. Nikki starts to temper her responses, ultimately masterminding a plan that makes all the spouses happy, while Mallory opens up a little bit, eventually enjoying herself. By the end, she’s even gone so far as to tell Nikki a few details about her personal life. She’s been married eleven years! She has a kid!
Who she clearly never mentions in the office. This little moment is going to seem very familiar to the many women who have learned to leave their personal lives—their real selves—at the door when they arrive at work. It’s a reminder of the way in which She-Hulk and Jen’s split life is not unusual. It’s just exaggerated.
More than halfway through the season, Titania is still sort of a nonentity of an antagonist. She shows up to mess with Jen; Jen says this out loud and sounds wildly egotistical; Jen is, of course, correct. Titania only cares about Titania, and is literally fighting Jen because Jen, Titania claims, ruins everything for her. (How was stopping her courthouse break-in ruining everything? Is that going to make sense eventually?) Titania, clearly, has not considered that Jen gets attention because Jen puts the work in, and does things besides getting attention, and I do not find this a compelling motivation for a villain; it feels too much like an opportunity for a lesson, and one that male villains rarely have to learn. (And they almost never have to learn it via defeat-by-ice cube. I really hated how she has to be made “unattractive” in her defeat, with her broken veneers and falling false eyelashes.)
I wanted the wedding plot, and Titania’s presence, to add up to more than the sum of its seeming parts, but it doesn’t quite get there. Still, “I want what she has” is absolutely something people feel; the world pushes us to compete with each other, to fight each other rather than those who are actually keeping us down, and if you look past the flat jokes, you can see that in this episode: Women fighting each other rather than the very real threat of the hateful trolls of Intelligencia, the site Mr. Immortal mentions that is full of extremely dicey posts about She-Hulk.
There is more to this nasty hotbed of “hateful man babies” than meets the eye: Intelligencia is not just a horribly familiar sort of website; it’s the name of a gaggle of supervillains whose presence here is a pretty strong hint about where this season is going. If it’s annoying for Jen that Titania is obsessed with defeating her, it’s going to get much worse as the clearly well-funded #HulkKing puts his plans into effect.
VIDEO GAMES ARE SPORTS NOW
- Rude to tease the super-suit Luke made for Jen and then only show us this very basic polka-dot dress, which … I get that Jen’s excited to have clothing that fits her, but you want me to believe that super-tailor Luke made her that? Because I don’t buy it for one second. (Also, weren’t the clothes supposed to fit Jen and She-Hulk?)
- Patti Harrison, who plays Lulu, may look familiar from any number of things; to me she’s Bangles from Made for Love.
- The name of Mr. Immortal’s first wife, Baroness Cromwell, is a reference to Baroness Blood, whose backstory connects to Dracula, which makes her mention the tiniest little nod toward the fact that we’re going to have vampires in the MCU before too long.
- Jen is still trying to get in touch with Bruce, who is presumably still far off in space. That’s the bad timing here, not Lulu’s boring wedding.
- Whoever #HulkKing is, he’s got eyes at the wedding, which is creepy as hell.
- We don’t trust Josh, right? We don’t trust Josh at all.