Impulse Ep. 4: Why Jenna is a refreshingly complex character


Compared to a character as compelling and complicated as Henry, Jenna initially appears to be shallow and stereotypical. But Impulse makes it clear she’s not. CW: Sexual Assault

Check out my reaction to episode three of Impulse here! Episode four “Vita/Mors” is a major one for Jenna (Sarah Desjardins) as a tragedy in her past is brought back to the surface.

Jenna’s character development has progressed since the pilot, and it reaches new heights in this episode. Here are four ways in which Jenna has proven she’s more complex than you might have initially thought.

Related Story: Impulse: A look at three storylines from episode three

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1. She’s popular but very empathetic

When we first meet Jenna in Impulse, she’s meant to be a foil for Henry. Henry (Maddie Hasson) is an outcast and a rebel, who is angry and frustrated about being trapped in a small new town. Jenna, meanwhile, is popular and seemingly happy but also rather annoyed about having to adjust to having a license-less quasi-step sister.

Both Henry and Jenna are used to people constantly filtering in and out of their parents’ lives and, therefore, their lives. They don’t expect the arrangement to last, so they don’t make much of an effort to make it work.

That changes after Henry’s assault. While Henry turns to Jenna reluctantly, Jenna proves herself a very worthy confidant. Even though she only knows Henry for about four months, she doesn’t view taking on such a huge responsibility as an inconvenience. She views it as her duty.

2. She’s a “huge nerd”

Episode three exposed a previously unknown side of Jenna. She’s actually really smart. Henry even jokes about such a trait being seemingly contradictory to her status as a popular kid: “It’s like you’re leading a double life.”

From the pilot, Townes (Daniel Maslany) is established as the person most likely to figure out what’s going on with Henry. He doesn’t discount possibilities that others see as fantasy, which proves to be very helpful.

If Townes is the “guy in the chair” (to quote Spider-Man: Homecoming) for the superhuman Henry, Jenna is the girl in the chair and no less important. She is able to make sense of Townes’ seemingly outlandish theories, take them further and tie them directly to what Henry’s been experiencing.

3. She’s very protective

Jenna may not be tough in the same way that Henry is, but that doesn’t mean she’s not tough. As soon as Henry confides in her, Jenna takes it upon herself to be Henry’s protector. In the pilot, she tries to protect Henry from Lucas (Craig Arnold). Henry ends up taking matters into her own hands, but Jenna does try to get help like Henry tells her to.

In episode three, Jenna goes to the hospital to try to talk Clay in Henry’s stead. She boldly steps to Lucas and warns him to stay away from Henry, precisely because she knows how dangerous he is. If Lucas is going to target someone, Jenna wants the crosshairs to be aimed at her, not Henry.

Later in the episode, when she realizes Henry went out alone, she immediately goes looking for her. By the time she reaches the quarry and realizes Henry is drowning, Jenna prepares to jump in after her until Henry teleports.

4. She has trouble letting people in

In episode four, we see yet another aspect of Jenna. Turns out she’s actually more like Henry than viewers, or even Henry herself, had thought. One of Henry’s defining characteristics is that she tends to push people away, especially her mom Cleo (Missi Pyle). Henry never had much stability in her life, so it just became easier for her to rely on herself.

Therefore it is a major step for Henry when she chooses to let Jenna in, even though Henry continues to shut her out sometimes. Ironically, it’s Henry’s newfound reliance on Jenna that makes her unaware Jenna might be going through something too.

She automatically seeks out Jenna when she teleports in her sleep and is terrified of what it could mean. When Jenna refuses to help because of “family fun day,” Henry assumes she’s being abandoned by yet another person in her life, never considering that Jenna’s reasoning has nothing to do with her.

Unfortunately, Jenna is secretly hoping Henry will notice that something’s up. After losing her mom at a young age, Jenna learned to rely on herself too. Her dad Thomas (Matt Gordon) eventually stopped putting as much effort into helping Jenna mourn her mom, at least from Jenna’s perspective, so she carries on traditions like baking “cocoa-doodle surprises” alone.

The only time Jenna opened up to Henry about her mom was when she was high. When she’s sober, she doesn’t feel as comfortable doing so. She doesn’t want to shut Henry out. Instead, she offers to let her stay home and bake with her. However, she also doesn’t want to let Henry in. She doesn’t tell Henry why the day is so important to her.

Like Henry, Jenna also tries to shut Cleo out. She feels awkward talking with Cleo one-on-one, but she also desperately wants a maternal figure in her life. Cleo’s persistence pays off, and Jenna is finally able to open up about one of the most painful events in her life: the day she found out her mother had early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Next: Impulse: Five questions you probably have after episode five

Unfortunately, Jenna and Henry don’t end the episode on the best of terms. Henry is somewhat jealous of Jenna’s new bond with Cleo and becomes very defensive when Jenna criticizes how she treats Cleo.

Unaware of where Jenna is coming from and that she’s trying to help, Henry puts her foot in her mouth and then feels terrible when she realizes that she hasn’t been paying the same attention to Jenna that Jenna has been paying to her.