Origin stories are for the weak. Never mind a protracted sequence of events culminating in an unholy transformation that takes huge wailing and gnashing of teeth to come to terms with. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is having no truck with such time-sapping indulgence. That blood gets pumped and it’s massive green rage monster time for lawyer Jennifer Walters.
Poor Walters can’t even claim dominion over her new found Hulk powers. She is cousin to Bruce Banner, who takes it upon himself to train her in all things rage. Yet She-Hulk quickly makes it clear that this series isn’t all about world-threatening stakes or a masculine treatise on testosterone-pumping anger.
Unlike Banner, Walters can immediately control her transformations and retains her personality the whole time. Her anger control is different.
“I do it pretty much every day because if I don't, I will get called emotional, or difficult, or might just literally get murdered,” she says through gritted teeth.
“I'm an expert at controlling my anger because I do it infinitely more than you.”
She-Hulk Official Trailer
Series creator Jessica Gao and head writer Kat Coiro imbue She-Hulk: Attorney at Law with the enraging dilemma of the female experience. Walters (Tatiana Maslany) literally has to occupy two different bodies depending on the demands of her surroundings, exacerbated by a lifeline high profile legal job as Head of Superhero affairs in which she is contracted to be She-Hulk at all times.
Being required to present one face simply to get by under the veneer of empowerment is as depressingly powerful a social criticism now as it was when the character debuted in 1980.
As Garth Marenghi once said, “Subtext is for cowards.” The male ego is ripe for trampling throughout the show, and the concept of shackling a powerful woman under personal and professional expectations is a billboard mood.
She-Hulk is a distinctly light tone which casts itself in the vein of a goofball office sitcom. Walter’s exasperation at a family dinner in which the comments remain about her weight, potentially exploitative business ventures, and her dating status is as recognisable a trope as they come.
Is She-Hulk Worth Watching?
Early on She-Hulk struggles to settle into a rhythm. The legal office element is battling with the superhero fantasia which is, in turn, raising its dukes to Walters relatable denial to adjust her life for what the green eyes of fate has thrust her way.
Half-hour episodes by their nature result in snappy short flippant scenes that move to get out of way of the building blocks needed. Walters lacks a connective sounding board as the Banner parts feel rushed yet paralegal Nikki Ramos is an off-the-peg super supportive best friend toolkit.
Snippets of great dialogue work well in isolated memes (see the above speech). She-Hulk adheres to the comic’s habit of fourth wall breaking dialogue as Walter’s makes frequent asides to express her inner monologue.
This isn’t quite a Fleabag level of mugging for pointed looks, but despite adherence to the source one can’t help but feel that the connection being sought with the viewer would be better served with another character. Without this anchor, Walters’ modern woman chaos mentality comes across more 1990s than 2020s.
Unusually for a Marvel show, She-Hulk will play out over 9 episodes rather than the customary 6. The return of Tim Roth as ‘Abomination’ is set up as our legacy threat, whereas Jameela Jamil as Titania promises to deliver more exploration of the facile nature of image and perceived strength.
As the character simply turns up and gets punched at the start, then time will tell how well this lands. More time suggests more chance to mix in some levity with the breeziness, which will be essential to ensuring we can connect with these characters.
As it stands, Maslany carries the show both figuratively and literally with excellent presence. Her irritation at dealing with circumstances is a refreshing step away from ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ frowning.
If given more biting dialogue to better articulate her character then She-Hulk could be deadlifted above the other Marvel shows.
Fingers crossed that the show’s suit won’t rip at the seams in the process.
Words by Mike Record