She-Hulk Smashes Her TV Show

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law just completed its season at Disney + with a literal smashing finale that went all out with comedy, guest stars, and unexpected meta moments as She-Hulk destroyed the fourth wall in her TV show.

Tatiana Maslany starred as both Los Angeles-based lawyer Jennifer Walters and her alter ego, the sensational She-Hulk. In the pilot episode, Jennifer is involved in a car accident with her cousin Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and his gamma-infused blood is mixed with hers, which turns her into She-Hulk. Unlike Banner, Jennifer is able to maintain her personality when she transforms into She-Hulk, and is able to continue her career as an attorney, who now represents superhumans in court.

The Disney + show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is supposed to be the first comedy series for the MCU as numerous guest stars and new characters popped into the show. Many of them were obcure Marvel Comics characters, others were more notable MCU personalities like the Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) and Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth) and most recently Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox). Many of these guests are welcome, though with his many appearances in recent MCU projects, Wong is starting to overstay his welcome. Meanwhile, with his charm, Cox practically stole the episode he first appeared in, which was one of the best in the series.

It was alarming that the Daredevil-centric episode was one of the best because it was the second-to-last episode. Many episodes felt flat and too cute, and worst of all, a couple were not funny, which is deadly for a comedy. There was a feeling throughout most of the series that it was playing things too safe and holding back its punches. A good example was when She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall during episodes. For anyone who does not understand, breaking the fourth wall is a narrative technique where a character in a story directly addresses the audience and steps outside of the story to do so. We’ve seen this done in the Deadpool films and comics, though She-Hulk did this first in John Byrne’s The Sensational She-Hulk Marvel Comics series to great effect.

In the TV show, the fourth-wall breaking was sparingly done to add some wry commentary to what was going on. While the comments were humorous the show did not run with this technique until the final episode, which happened to be its the best. During the third act, a frustrated She-Hulk has had enough with a predictable slugfest that made little sense and actually left the series, broke out of the Disney + menu and entered the real world looking for Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios. Antics like this often occured in the comic books and should have happened more often in the TV show. These antics were not the only hysterical moments, but the opening credits for the episde was a hilarious recreation of the 1970s TV show The Incredible Hulk, but with Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk acting out scenes originated by Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno. Things like that should have happened more often in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, which turned out to be a very light-hearted legal dramedy. To be honest, if the show was not set in the MCU and was just a regular legal comedy, most of us would not bother to watch it.

Another thing that was deadly at times for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law were its special effects. It had its moments, but many times, the CG was quite dodgy and rushed. There were reports about how overstretched special effects companies were with MCU properties and this show is evidence of that. It’s a shame because MCU films and TV shows have great special effects. But here with this show, it had to convince us that this ultra tall, green woman actually existed, but on too many occasions the show failed to trick us. It might have been better if they use more conventional tricks like makeup and tall body doubles instead. Let’s hope Marvel Studios goes back and patches up the effects in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law because it is sorely needed.

Despite these flaws, this does not mean She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a dud or not recommended. It has many things going for it starting with Tatiana Maslany. She is an amazing actress and owns the dual role of She-Hulk and Jennifer Walters. She brings a certain vulnerability, yet plucky determination to the role. She has to come back at some point to reprise the role whether in a second season or some other MCU film or TV show.

The show does take its time to explore the typical life of She-Hulk, who was not interested in being a superhero, but in practicing law. We see her dealing with clothing issues, not having a secret identity, struggling to find love in a world that only seems to be interested in She-Hulk not Jennifer Walters. It was quite disheartening seeing her going through failed dates and empty one-nighters, so it was joyful to her connect romantically with Matt Murdock since the two have genuine chemistry together.

There was a running plot line throughout the show that was interesting as it directly took on the real-world problem of toxic fanboy culture. We’re quite aware of this as insecure male fans have harassed women and attacked women-centric films and TV shows online. In this show, She-Hulk was stalked and harassed by an online group called Intelligencia, who wereout to destroy her reputation. Their payoff in the penultimate episode was very infuriating and we sympathized with Jennifer as she nearly went on a rampage that landed her in jail. Unfortunately, the identity of the group’s leader was so obvious and the conclusion of this story was glossed over in favor of She-Hulk’s supreme fourth-wall breaking act. But it was worth it because by the way her confrontration with Intelligencia was playing out it looked to be your typically disappointing finale to a Disney + MCU show.

The trajectory of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law followed a troubled formula with many of these MCU shows until its final episodes: a terrific and promising pilot episode, tepid and mundane middle episodes, and dissatisfying and rushed finales. Only in She-Hulk’s case, did the show manage to smash the landing and redeem the series on the whole with its imaginative final episode. If a second season of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is greenlit, it should not pull its creative and comedic punches. The showrunners should look at the final episodes or pilot to give us more episodes in that mold.

José Soto


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