There’s a certain sweetness at the end of “The Wedding” that is so at odds with the rest of the series, and it colored my entire view of the episode in a rosy tint. These characters have been shat on so much (albeit by their own doing), it’s almost refreshing to see them have a win once in awhile. But that sweetness wasn’t just because Jessica got the part, or because Stuart got the date. It’s because at the end of the weekend, Stuart made his way back to Wade’s house, borrowed cooler in hand, filled with barely-touched food. Throughout the series, I’ve wondered why Wade is friends with Stuart, and that one little scene was the perfect response. Alas, there is only one episode left in the season and the sweet taste left by “The Wedding” cannot last for long.
Like last week’s trip to “Long Beach,” most of the “The Wedding’s” scene takes place outside of the L.A. environs. As Margaret Eby (who did a wonderful job with last week’s review) pointed out, the change of scenery is welcome, allowing Stuart to mix and mingle not only in a new place, but a new place with new rules of how men interact with women. Stuart wants to sit at the Hot Lady Table; instead, he gets the Loser Table, pestering his former tenant (who just so happens to be the bride) so he can get what he wants. But his true prize appears in the form of Kimberly, the billboard model whom he gets along surprisingly well with, despite her abject stupidity (L.A. sure seems to be a small town). “I can never meet guys I can debate like this with,” she says to Stuart as they discuss why aliens only beam up farmers, rather than the president. But it’s not the smart guy she wants; it’s Kanye West’s DJ. He explains away his decision to let Kimberly have the room to Jessica by saying he’s playing the long-game, which seems a little ridiculous considering how cheap this man is. He’s had a breaking point when it comes to women in other episodes, yet even the long game doesn’t explain giving up your room. There’s nice guy, and then there’s idiot.
The crux of this episode is the scene where Jessica and Stuart unite in their misery and they take stock of their lives. As I’ve said before, I prefer when Jessica and Stuart interact as if they are couple. The chemistry between Stephen Merchant and Christine Woods is wonderful, but that’s not just it: Merchant dials it back a bit when he’s working just against Woods, leaving the freneticism that Stuart is imbued with behind. It’s a so-much-more-palatable watch that it feels like a respite. That chemistry didn’t alleviate how obvious this scene felt. She implores him to go out with normal girls like, say, her. But she’s not normal, he retorts. She’s more than that. I was expecting them to slowly tilt their heads together and go in for the kiss before Glen could barge in. It’s a set-up for good things to come between Jessica and Stuart so I won’t begrudge the writer’s dalliances into rom-com cliche.
To be honest, my biggest problem with this episode was having the great Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate) guest star as Stuart’s tablemate and giving her absolutely nothing to do. I don’t think it’s fair analysis to complain about what I think a show should do. Coulda, shoulda, woulda doesn’t make a good review. But Punch in particular is an interesting case: She specializes in the kind of character that the characters of Hello Ladies aspire to be to some degree. She’s plays totally heinous, but she consistently makes her insane selfishness work for her in a way that makes the viewer love her despite everything that she does. Stuart could use a good deal of that. Perhaps, it’s because the characters Punch is so good at playing are more cartoonish, while Stuart is supposed to be somewhat grounded in cringe-worthy reality. Against Punch, Merchant is forced to tone himself down, much like he does when working with Woods, and the subtlety of his distaste for her, culminating in calling her child a cunt, was great. All I know is that her simple monologue about how the Anne Frank House wasn’t tragic enough (“It was actually quite spacious”) has been a series highlight so far.
- Jessica and Glen’s relationship confuses me at this point. Last week, he refused to define the relationship, but this week, he’s accompanying her to a weekend getaway. I did love the pan from Jessica, looking at the bride and groom with such happiness, over to Glen who is just looking at his phone.
- Jessica is the perfect lead for an NCIS type of show. She’s pretty in a girl-next-door way that can come off as tough-yet-feminine. Maybe she’s replacing Cote de Pablo?
- I love the way Merchant says Kanye. Can-ye.
- “She probably gets approached all the time.” “By whom? She’s a playwright.”