Plot summary: Jen meets Matt Murdock, first in a court room and then as Daredevil as the pair try to take down the nefarious… Leap-Frog.
Episode Title: ‘Ribbit and Rip It
Air Date: October 6th, 2022
Directed: Kat Coiro (5)
Written: Cody Ziglar (1)
In the comics, Eugene Patilio’s father operated as the recurring villain Leap Frog, but after being imprisoned, Eugene took up the mantel as the goofy hero Frog Man.
Jen casually namedrops Red Hulk when speculating what the twist is going to be. Red Hulk has long-assumed to be joining the MCU, and in the comics, was created by Intelligencia, so that could be what’s behind their plots to steal her blood. His alter-ego was Thunderbolt Ross though, so it seems we’ll either get a change or a recasting.
With the exception of Jen and Mallory, every woman getting an award at the end of the episode is a real SoCal lawyer.
Jen is forced to take on Eugene ‘Leap-Frog’ Patilio as a client (due to his father’s wealth) as he attempts to sue Luke Jacobsen for suppling a defective supersuit.
Jacobsen hires Matt Murdock as his attorney, who easily has the case dismissed after forcing Patilio to admit he went against Jacobsen’s instructions.
After getting a quick drink, Jen and Matt meet again as She-Hulk comes to the defence of Patilio, who is pursued by Daredevil.
After explaining Patilio has kidnapped Jacobsen, Matt insists on leading the rescue mission. Despite their clash of styles, the duo easily take down Leap-Frog and his goons. And then sleep together.
Jen attends the Southern California Law Awards gala, where Intelligencia hack the screens and display the contents of her phone and a sex-tape Josh filmed without her knowledge.
Furious, She-Hulk begins rampaging, causing Damage Control to surround her.
He’s here, and he’s glorious. I hate that I’ve spent weeks eagerly anticipating Daredevil’s arrival and feeling disappointed when he didn’t show up, because this is She-Hulk’s show, and I addressed my feelings on them teasing it out for longer than they perhaps should have last week, so let’s just focus on the now.
I love this ever-so-slight rewrite to inject more levity into Matt’s character. It feels like it’s pulling more from Mark Waid’s run with the character, and bringing Slutty Matt to the MCU was delightful. With the intense flirtation (somewhat present in Daredevil, but not like this), also came a more acrobatic, flippy Horn-Head, and I’m into that too. Obviously, we all prefer practical over CGI, but it was done tastefully and fits this more explicitly comic-booky universe better than the perpetually grizzly combat style of the Netflix-verse (of which I am a big fan). In fact, Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight loved it too and revealed they simply didn’t have the budget for the CGI flips.
Matt fit the show like a glove, pairing perfectly with both Jen and She-Hulk. I particularly enjoyed the debates about stealth vs smashing, and both made their points nicely and got to bicker (flirt) about who provided the assist. Obviously this corridor fight isn’t the same as the memetic one-shot action sequences of the past, but it was still a great deal of fun, and giving Matt his extendo-clubs (I’m sure they have an official name I refuse to look up) kept things fresh. It wasn’t purely the Daredevil show though, and it was fun to see Jen smashing through the ceiling and effortlessly taking down goons while Matt brawled his way through them more methodically. It was the exact kind of one-issue team-up that sings on the page and has been unfortunately rare on screen. I actually think Iron Fist’s one-episode guest appearance in Luke Cage Season 2 might have been one of the best ones before this, but nobody but me remembers that.
Nevertheless, we are going to have to talk about pacing/structure. Again. This episode should quite clearly have been the immediate follow-up to her first encounter with Luke Jacobsen. Having one episode in between them and calling it out like at the wedding would work, but going three weeks between set-up and payoff is too much. Not just for Daredevil, but also Luke. He made her superhero suit weeks ago and she only just put it on, and did so in a surprisingly anticlimactic manner. I get delaying it because she simply doesn’t want to wear it and wanting to make a big deal of that first appearance… but that’s not really what happened. (I do really like the suit, by the way.) I would prefer more superheroes got their powers and into their costumes doing the things people want to see much faster, and had some hopes that the first episode of She-Hulk would mean exactly that, and episode two would have us hit the ground running with her fully in effect.
Worse than that, the tacked-on sequence from the Gala knocked the whole episode down a peg for me. Again, they did it on purpose and lamp-shaded it with Jen acknowledging the episode should have ended after Matt’s Stride of Pride. And it’s not even that I found the events that followed bad (I think tricking Jen into rampaging so the government use their anti-Hulk tech to attack her is a good idea), more the timing felt off and it was too involved of a scene to shove on after the story hit a natural resting point. It either needed to be MUCH shorter, or saved entirely for next week. Like, keep the stuff with Nikki helping her get ready to go to the gala, but then go to credits with her saying something like ‘I’m sure nothing big and finale-y will happen there…’ Whatever, I’m not a writer.
Overall though, it’s much like last week, in that it left me feeling ‘where has THIS show been?’ as it was better written and directed than the majority of the season, with a really fun little villain of the week. Taking a 3-episode break let Kat Coiro come back with a vengeance, bathing our heroes in moody reds and blues that made it impossible for them to NOT kiss. This is what makes the structure issue even more frustrating, because there were always good pieces on the table; they just chose to assemble them in a way that bordered on self-sabotage. But you can see the potential of the show when it’s firing on all cylinders.
Also, nothing to do with the episode’s quality, but it’s very funny to me they’d at least repeal the Sokovia Accords in a random episode of She-Hulk after making sure to let us know they were still in effect in many post-Endgame projects.
Most Marvellous Player
This episode was wall-to-wall great performances, but it’s still Charlie Cox in a walk. I’m thrilled that he got to come back to this role in the MCU after much speculation Disney would push for bigger names and recast everybody. He was SO good in Daredevil that I assume it was simply too difficult to imagine anyone else in the role, and while he could do his No Way Home scene in his sleep, this episode let Cox flex an entirely different set of muscles. He was always charming and witty, but they slid the flirtation dial up to 11 and reaped the rewards accordingly. You still get his barrage of legal arguments that simply overwhelm prosecutors, and the almost too-polite behaviour, but rather than having Foggy tell Karen that Matt fucks a lot, we actually get to see him in action, as it were. Leaning into his ability to tell when women are flustered by his presence was cute, and his constant playful teases about how to go about the mission and quibbling over the finer points of superheroism worked really well. He’s the veteran here, but word of his exploits haven’t made the West Coast. He gave us every facet of the character and more, and I can’t wait for more of this (assuming Born Again doesn’t shift him straight back over to the old tone.) I think he’s back next week based on a BTS picture of him in the costume in a location different to any in this episode.
All of that being said, Brandon Stanley put in an admirable shift as Leap-Frog, and a lesser performer would have lost to him this week. The deep commitment to being a rich delusional dipshit was fun from his first scene until his last and if they ever bring him back they need to have a great pitch in mind because this was perfect.
Tatiana Maslany was no slouch, and in fact seems incapable of such a thing. It takes two to tango, and she made for an incredible dance partner for Cox. He seemingly has chemistry with everyone, but there was an undeniable spark here and in a perfect world, she’d appear in Daredevil: Born Again to return the favour, and it would be a tradition for them to keep crossing over.
Honourable mentions to Jon Bass for being a cringe-lord and Griffin Matthews for how well he played Luke taking offence to accusations of his shoddy merchandise.
Leap-Frog was announced as appearing some time ago, and some took his inclusion as a sign of the show’s commitment to having fun and not taking itself too seriously. Obviously results to date have been mixed, but Patilio is the exact kind of goofball that belongs on this show, and he was even dumber than advertised (in a good way). The costume was great, his atrocious puns were better, and I particularly loved The Lilypad as a location. A Frog Signal. Frogger arcade machines. No notes, perfect Villain of the Week for a comedy show.
It seems pretty clear to me that Todd is HulkKing from the Intelligencia message board, but for now that’s just speculation. He continues to be truly awful, and the line about nobody being on his level when it comes to collecting stuff from Africa (including an intentionally awful “Wakanda Forever!” was laser-guided to induce rage. My assumption was this was him giving Jen one last chance and her rejection caused him to pull the trigger on the gala stunt. But maybe he’s a red herring!
As for The Intelligencia themselves, this was obviously an abhorrent thing to do to someone, and is presumably as close as they can get to addressing revenge porn. It both acts as a smear campaign and lured her into making herself appear like a danger to the public and getting The Big Guns (Damage Control) involved. They’re smart to have more overt villains to go alongside this anonymous cabal of assholes, and while I do kind of wish there wasn’t a larger Secret Plot element, if they’re going to do it, this is the kind of villain to use for it… I just wish they’d been introduced earlier than Episode 5 of 9.
My MCU podcast with Ben Phillips, Ben & Matt’s Marvellous Journey, will return in early 2023 to cover this and all the other 2022 Marvel projects.
In the mean time, check out my other podcast with Ben, There Will Be Movies, which looks at 25 of our favourite movies from each decade. Our fourth volume is the 1980s, continuing this week with Back to the Future.