is the latest Marvel TV series to hit Disney Plus. It’s also the most widely comedic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as ambitious lawyer Jen Walters transforms into a super-powered green giant who fights villains (and sexism).
In myI noted the show’s brutally clever feel, but I couldn’t help but feel that it “lacks the delicious banter of a proper legal drama, the thrilling action of a sci-fi show, or the heart of even other Marvel shows.” Now that the first episode is streaming on Disney Plus, what are your first impressions?
Here’s our recap of the series premiere episode and post-credits scene, exploring themes and easter eggs and Captain America’s love life. Part 2 follows on August 25 and every Thursday (here is the whole). Lots of spoilers to follow!
The Lawyer Show!
The series stars Tatiana Maslany, previously seen in the award-winning sci-fi show, HBO’s Perry Mason and the Network’s Broadway show. He opens the show with a speech about how people who benefit from power also bear some responsibility. Hmm, I’m sure there’s a shorter way to say it…
Delivered directly to the audience as the camera pans past law books and Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s header, the speech is clearly intended to outline the show’s manifesto and add nuance to Spider-Man’s famous saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It remains to be seen whether that mission statement will be fulfilled in the series. To be honest, Jen Walters is a lawyer practicing closing arguments for a court case, and that’s not a high bar for honesty. Do they really believe that? I hope so, because she is a hero.
Jen turns to the camera again at the end of the scene, creating the first of the signature fourth wall breaks as she speaks directly to the viewer. Chronologically, the first fourth wall break actually comes later in the episode and earns a double take from Bruce and Jen, a reaction that is pure Fleabag. Perhaps there is more to talking to audiences than simple messages?
She-Hulk’s origin story
We first meet Jen when she is already She-Hulk and then go back to when she got the powers. This prevents us from spending much time with Jen in front of the powers that be. Yes, the Cheetos with sticks thing and her Steve Rogers theory are fun, but what do these cute details tell us about our main character? If we don’t understand who she was before, it’s hard to empathize with how the arrival of superpowers shakes her world. For example, Jen later calls the Avengers a “secret government contractor.” Imagine if she was staunchly anti-superhero before she got her powers. What a predicament that would be!
Anyway, we’re on a road trip with Cousin Bruce, aka Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. His arm has been in a sling ever since he donned the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers: Endgame and messed up his hand in the process of canceling Thanos’ finger snap. Banner was seen hanging in the post-credits scene, which came out a million years ago — wait, that was less than a year ago? Lies!
Anyway, it’s time for She-Hulk’s origin story, the event that changes her life irrevocably, the moment that will always tower over her story, where the themes implicit in the character are expressed in decisive practice and — yes, and a spaceship crashes a car and She just gets some of Brucey’s blood on her.
Wait, is that it? Is that the original story? Uhhh, okay.
When a bruised and battered Jen slips into the bathroom of a sports bar, the crowd of women at the party are shocked by her condition. But they immediately come to her aid, which comes across as the sweetest and truest moment of the premiere episode. Just then some closing time Hulks up, but Bruce tackles her before she can go all Promising Young Woman.
She-Hulk Smash (Patriarchy)
Jen wakes up in a mariachi themed cabin/bunker decorated with a broken Iron Man helmet. It turns out that while Bruce forced Jen into the Hulk, she healed his withered arm in return. That hardly seems fair, but then it wouldn’t be the first relationship where the woman gives more than the man. By the way, I am not reaching for the subtext: During the training montage, in which we learn more about Jen’s abilities, the themes of the series also crystallize.
The series has a lot to say about being a woman, and especially a woman in the public eye. The power fantasy of the superhero genre is often said to appeal to children because it’s about getting bigger and stronger and claiming control over the world. The Hulk’s story compellingly complicates this fantasy by explicitly associating physical strength and violence with fear, rage, and pain. By placing Bruce alongside Jen, She-Hulk makes this inarticulate raging force a distinctly masculine thing and contrasts it with a feminine experience.
Bruce tells Jen that the Hulk is driven by anger and fear. Jen answers that this is the basis of everyday emotions for every woman. The episode is even called “A Normal Amount of Rage”. boom — It is She-Hulk’s true origin story.
“Once people start seeing you as a monster,” Bruce also warns Jen, “it never goes away.” Since the series is about a woman who reluctantly rose to fame, the line resonates with many women who have been treated cruelly for daring to live their lives in the public eye. Women like Britney Spears, Monica Lewinsky andthey have been labeled and criticized for their behavior – often through grotesque double standards – but in recent years have been vindicated.
I’m always angry
Remember when Mark Ruffalo first played the Hulk in The Avengers? One of the moments that sealed this perfect casting was when he revealed his tragic secret: that he was constantly angry.
And yet, have we ever seen Ruffalo’s banner much worse than crumpled melancholy? It will be interesting to see if the arrival of the Hulk will start a conflict in Banner. We see a glimpse of this when Bruce throws Jen off a cliff in a fit of jealousy, but I think it’s meant to be funny (perhaps a call back to the “minor 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 the conflict in Ruffalo’s Banner is developed in later episodes. For an uncontrollable raging monster, Bruce Banner was too nice for too long.
Court in session
And so we’re back at court. Before Jen can make her argument, Jameela Jamil breaks through the wall. She plays Titania, a superpowered influencer who originally appeared in the comics as the Willow Woman, who was given superpowers by Doctor Doom during the Secret Wars storyline.
If the TV version has a similar origin, it makes Titania a fascinating mirror of She-Hulk as a normal woman gifted with great strength.
Only the Hulk reluctantly makes his first public appearance and stops Titania. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to bite her in the spandex.
Captain America f–!
A scene after Episode 1 shows Jen pushing her theory about Captain America’s sex life. She’s just pretending to be drunk because the main advantage of Hulkdom is that pounding drinks is all buzz and no chatter. Anyway, Bruce confirms that Steve Rogers lost his virginity in 1943 with a girl on a USO tour. Star Spangled Man With A Plan indeed! A lovely blonde autograph hunter catches Steve’s eye at 2.30pm in this song from 2011’s The First Avenger – maybe she was the lucky lady:
She-Hulk random thoughts
- “Strange things find you when you’re the Hulk.” The spaceship that caused the Hulk to fender-bender is a Sakkarian Class A courier vessel, meaning it hails from the planet where Banner and Thor worked as gladiators for Grandmaster Jeff Goldblum in .
- Hulks are created by lethal doses of gamma radiation, but only when a rare combination of genetic factors synthesizes the gamma radiation into “something else”.
- When Jen breaks Bruce’s glasses, it seems pretty clear that he’s only wearing them to show off that he’s the Smart Hulk.
- Maybe it’s just me, but does it ever seem for a second like they’re actually in Mexico? Or even outside?
- A nice bit of synergy across the Disney brands with a mention of Pixar. She just calls out the moment Bing Bong jumps out of the car in Inside Out and oh, great, I’m crying now.
- Spandex is the Hulk’s best friend.
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