By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Anu Valia
- Starring Tatiana Maslany, Ginger Gonzaga, Tim Roth, Nick Gomez
Immediately The Retreat stands out as a stronger then usual episode of the show for a couple of reasons. From it’s opening montage depicting Jen’s new lease on life after finding somebody she genuine connects with – only to immediately lose it as soon she sleeps with him. And then the rest of the episode finds Jen struggling with her inner identity and self, all personified through her dual identity as both Jen and She-Hulk how she just wants somebody to see her as her and not one or the other.
As sitcom setups go, this is a solid one, and it helps that we have Tim Roth clearly having a ball with this version of the character. If you were going to get Roth back for anything, letting him just kind of chill around, relax, and shoot the shit feels like a good choice and he brings it here. I don’t think he’s as funny as his earlier appearance in the series, but here that comedy is helped by his merry band of idiots – the group therapy session.
For comics fans, this will be smorgasbord of obscure characters that get their day in the spotlight. And regardless of how absurd each of them may be – yes, Porcupine is real and he looks like that in the source material – the actors bring them to life with a real sense of fun that never feels too tongue in cheek. The sequence reminded me a lot of Wreck-It Ralph’s villain group sequence which, while that one I think is probably still superior, this one is no slouch either and highlights the strengths of the series over it’s weaknesses. Malsany has a monologue during this sequence that’s easily the best of the episode, one that finally showcases Jen’s vulnerability and her unwillingness to be open to people. And while you can make the argument that having her do it to be a bunch of strangers is a weird choice narratively, I think it fits for her character. Jen was never one to open up and this gives her the chance to just unload in a safe space.
The comedy is also more subdued this time around as well, less focused on gags and character comedy then it is awkwardness, which in your case your mileage will vary. I found it to be mostly effective, particularly in the case of Porcupine and his overall demeanor, as well as Jen’s insistence that everything was “fine”. And on the note of the show being more subdued this episode, what I do like is how unsubdued it is being about Jen’s sex life – finally, a superhero who is horny and proud of it. We need more of this.
The final scene does warrant some discussion though. It’s a pretty nasty sight, and a very, scarily real one, especially in an age where doxing and revenge porn are a very real thing, and I’m curious to see how they will address this in future episodes. If anything, this makes for “HulkKing”, whoever this final antagonist is going to be, as one of more instantly despicable villains in the MCU even if the continuous method of hiding their Disney+ villains till the last minute has become overplayed and tiresome. I’m just more shocked that they went there, and proves that Jessica Gao and writing team really were given free reign on this one to do whatever.
A strong episode of the show for sure, even if it still doesn’t break the mold in terms of the content the franchise has been putting out. Then again though, at 7 episodes in and with the show having found it’s niche, I wouldn’t mind a full 22-episode sitcom like this. Just letting the characters be characters for once.