There may be many advantages in being able to turn green, have incredible strength and saving lives… but Jennifer Walters has more immediate concerns. With the public being more interested in the appearance of a ‘She-Hulk’ it’s starting to impact her ‘Attorney at Law’ job description – the extent that she no longer has a job.
So when a new job-opportunity is made, it’s tempting. But when it’s representing the man-monster that fought your cousin… it can be complicated.
And just where on Earth is Bruce?
There are plenty of deep, philosophical shows out there, packed to the metaphorical rafters with worthy questions and great action. There are others that are just, purely, fun. Even for a half-hour show, the truth is that, technically there isn’t a lot happening in the latest episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – it’s all banter and connective tissue. ‘Superhuman Law‘ is the kind of entry where you could provide a one-sentence synopsis and still have room for extra punctuation. ‘Jen loses her job, gains another and finds her new client could be a conflict of interest‘ is the brief version. We don’t even properly resolve the first episode’s end where Jennifer and the super-powered Titania (Jameela Jamil) are about to come to blows… (you might not even know the gatecrasher’s identity if you aren’t listening carefully, but one presumes she’ll be back) before we’re moving swiftly on to the subject of consequences. Jennifer/She-Hulk (she still hates the name) apparently saved everyone there but while they’re grateful, both the prosecution and the defense see her emerald-hue’d alter-ego as something of a liability in the courtroom setting. Jen, after years of training, experience and crushing student loans (now that’s topical!) appears not just unemployed but unemployable.
The title of the series wouldn’t make much sense if she remained without a legal brief, so she’s quickly rehired to head up a division defending super-humans. It’s not what she really wants to do – but the options are limited. Cousin Bruce doesn’t seem to be too bothered when she’s asked to represent Emil Blonsky, his old foe, so she accepts…
Much of the episode is a mixture of asides and knowing metatextual easter eggs. Tim Roth’s version of Emil Blonsky (aka the ‘Abomination’) is a leftover from the less-organised days of the MCU and when The Incredible Hulk film saw Edward Norton replace the first film’s Eric Bana in the role of Burce Banner. Of course, Mark Ruffalo would go on to become something of the definitive Hulk and his alter-ego in the MCU thereafter, but here the She-Hulk series can’t help but embrace the green elephant in the room. When Bruce admits he’s long since forgiven Blonsky for the big battle they had, he acknowledges “I was a different man. Literally…” which produces a smile but might as well have been a definitive wink to camera in its fan-service. Far more subtle examples include a news website’s side-panel referencing a man with steel claws in bar fight (an X-Men/ Wolverine reference?) and the Hulk being revealed to be aboard a Sakaar starship does feel like an excuse to get him out of the way and also potential set-up for a World War Hulk adaptation.
There’s also some familial bluster with scenes showing Jen with her family – the around-the-table meal leading to predictable misunderstandings and commentary (reminding me of a similar scene in the Sandra Bullock/ Melissa McCarthy comedy The Heat. Perfect Strangers‘ Mark Linn-Baker is her father who tries to be understanding. he notes that they are more than capable of dealing with Jen’s new-found alter-ego having already experienced a ‘Hulk’ in the family, though I’m still trying to work out iwhich branch of the banner tree he belongs to (is he or his wife related to Bruce’s dad?) It’s all broad-strokes and banter with a mid-scene addition that doesn’t add much except to extend the punchline.
It’s the kind of series – thus far – that seems directly and unapologetically marketed to appeal to the existing MCU fan… anyone coming in completely cold (which is unlikely) may simply be left wondering at all the chuckles and in-jokes around them. It’s all fun, largely because it feels less ‘important’ than the general world-saving remit of many a Marvel endeavour and subversive in the way it delivers its knowing punchlines. There’s nothing wrong with that, indeed, the straight-dramas delivered thus far have sometimes suffered from very selective hand-wringing and so Marvel have probably earned a self-reverential, self-deprecating look at their empire.
So far, She-Hulk is undeniably bite-sized fun – though one wonders if combining the first and second eps might have worked as a better opener? There’s enough here for now, but it may need to deliver more than just quips and kicks to feel truly sensational…
- Production Design/VFX9