She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is the latest Marvel TV series to arrive on Disney Plus. It’s also the most acclaimed comedic entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as aspiring lawyer Jen Walters transforms into a super-powered green giant to battle bad guys (and sexism).
In my She Hulk review for CNET, I noted the show’s incredibly smart streak, but I couldn’t help feeling: “It lacks the delicious chicanery of proper legal drama, the rousing action of a sci-fi show, or the heart of even other Marvel shows.” Now that Episode 1 is streaming on Disney Plus, what are your first impressions?
Here’s our recap of the series premiere episode and post-credits scene as we explore themes and Easter eggs, mysterious spaceships and the love life of Captain America. Episode 2 follows on August 25th and every Thursday (here’s the full She Hulk episode release schedule). Lots of spoilers to come!
The series stars Tatiana Maslany, who has previously appeared on the award-winning sci-fi show Orphan Black, HBO’s Perry Mason, and the Broadway show Network. She opens the show with a speech about how those who benefit from power also have a certain responsibility. Hmm, I’m sure there’s a shorter way of saying this…
The speech is delivered directly to the audience as the camera zooms past law books and a bobblehead by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It’s meant to clearly state the show’s manifesto and nuance Spider-Man’s famous maxim, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It remains to be seen whether this motto will be fulfilled in the series. To be honest, Jen Walters is an attorney practicing closing arguments for a court case, and that doesn’t set a high bar for sincerity. Does she really believe that stuff? I hope so because she’s the hero.
Jen turns back to the camera at the end of the scene and makes the first of the show’s signature fourth wall breaks while speaking directly to the viewer. Chronologically, the first fourth wall break comes later in the episode and deserves a double take from Bruce and Jen, a reaction that’s pure Fleabag. Maybe there’s more to the audience chats than just simple one-liners?
The origin story of She-Hulk
We first meet Jen when she’s already She-Hulk, then flash back to when she got powers. That keeps us from spending much time with Jen in front of the Force. Yes, the Cheetos with chopsticks thing and their Steve Rogers theory are fun, but what do these cute details tell us about our main character? Unless we get a sense of who she was before, it’s hard to understand how the arrival of superpowers is rocking her world. For example, Jen later calls the Avengers a “secret government contractor group.” Imagine if she were a staunch anti-superhero before she gained powers. What a predicament that would be!
Anyway, we’re going on a road trip with cousin Bruce, aka Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. His arm has been in a sling since he donned the Infinity Gauntlet and messed up his hand undoing Thanos’ finger snaps in Avengers: Endgame. Banner wore the noose in the post-credits scene of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which came out a million years ago – wait, it’s been less than a year? Lie!
Anyway, it’s time for She-Hulk’s origin story, the event that irreversibly changes her life, the moment that will always play a major role in her story when the themes contained in the character are expressed in a pivotal practice , and – yes, a spaceship crashes the car and Jen gets Brucey blood.
wait, is that it? Is that the origin story? uhh ok
When an injured and battered Jen staggers into a sports bar bathroom, a crowd of reveling women are shocked at her condition. But they immediately come to her aid in what feels like the most endearing and truest moment of the premiere. Jen then breaks out at some after-work creeps, but Bruce attacks her before she can all go Promising Young Woman.
Where did the spaceship come from?
Strange stuff finds you when you’re a Hulk.” That includes being cut off in traffic by a vehicle definitely not designed for the highway came from the planet Sakaar, where Banner and Thor worked as gladiators for Jeff Goldblum’s grandmaster in the Movie Thor: Ragnarok were working. But what message could it carry and who could try to reach the Hulk who was once the champion of this strange planet’s arena?
Smash She-Hulk (The Patriarchy)
Jen awakens in a mariachi-style cabana/bunker adorned with Iron Man’s shattered helmet. It turns out that while Bruce planted Hulk-ness on Jen, she in turn healed his glove-withered arm. That hardly seems fair, but then it wouldn’t be the first relationship in which the woman gives more than the man. By the way, I don’t reach for subtext: During the training montage, in which we learn more about Jen’s abilities, the themes of the series also crystallize.
The show has a lot to say about being a woman and especially being a woman in public. The power fantasy of the superhero genre is often said to appeal to children because it involves becoming bigger, stronger, and claiming control of the world. The story of the Hulk intriguingly complicates this fantasy by explicitly combining physical strength and violence with fear, anger and pain. By placing Bruce next to Jen, She-Hulk makes that inarticulate angry strength an explicitly male thing and contrasts it with the female experience.
Bruce tells Jen that the Hulk is triggered by anger and fear. Jen replies that this is the baseline of everyday emotions for every woman. The episode is even called “A Normal Amount of Anger”. Boom – this is She-Hulk’s true origin story.
“Once people start seeing you as a monster,” Bruce Jen also warns, “it never goes away.” Given that the show is about a woman who’s being reluctantly pushed into stardom, that line resonates resonated with many women who have been viciously treated for daring to live their lives in public. Women like Britney Spears, Monica Lewinsky and Pamela Anderson have been branded and castigated for their behavior – often through grotesque double standards – but in recent years they have been redeemed.
I’m always angry
Remember when Mark Ruffalo first played the Hulk in The Avengers? One of the moments that sealed that perfect casting was when he revealed his tragic secret: that he was always angry.
And yet, have we ever seen Ruffalo’s banner display much worse than crumpled melancholy? It’ll be fascinating to see if the arrival of another Hulk brings out the conflict in Banner. We get a glimpse of it when Bruce punches Jen off a cliff in a fit of jealousy, but I think that’s meant to be funny (maybe he’s calling back the “weak god” gag when he punched Loki in The Avengers).
The argument between Jen and Bruce is basically an escalation of the obligatory fight scene. Anyway, I really hope that the conflict in Ruffalo’s banner will be developed in later episodes. For too long, Bruce Banner has been too nice for an uncontrollable rage monster.
court in session
And that brings us back to the process. Before Jen can make her point, Jameela Jamil crashes through the wall. She plays Titania, a superpowered influencer who originally appeared in the comics as a willowy woman who was given superpowers by Doctor Doom during the Secret Wars storyline.
If the TV version follows a similar origin, that makes Titania a fascinating mirror of She-Hulk as a normal woman endowed with great power.
Reluctantly, Jen Hulk comes out in public for the first time and stops Titania. Hopefully that won’t come back to bite her in the spandex.
Captain America f–!
In the post-credits scene of Episode 1, Jen puts forward her theory about Captain America’s sex life. She only pretends to be drunk, because the main benefit of Hulkdom is that brew pounding is just humming, not puking. Anyway, Bruce confirms that Steve Rogers lost his virginity to a girl on the USO tour in 1943. The star studded man with a plan, indeed! In this song from the 2011 film The First Avenger, Steve notices an attractive blonde autograph hunter at 2:30 – maybe she was the lucky woman:
She-Hulk random thoughts
- Hulks are created by lethal doses of gamma radiation, but only when a rare combination of genetic factors synthesize gamma radiation into “something else”.
- When Jen smashes Bruce’s glasses, it seems pretty clear that he’s only wearing them to show he’s Smart Hulk.
- Maybe it’s just me, but does it ever look for a second like they’re actually in Mexico? Or even outdoors?
- Nice bit of cross-brand Disney synergy with the mention of Pixar. Jen calls out the moment when Bing Bong jumps off the wagon in Inside Out and oh great, now I’m crying.
- Spandex is a Hulk’s best friend.
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