When I first heard that Marvel Studios was going to produce a TV show for She-Hulk, I was on-board with the idea, despite knowing there was going to a significant backlash from some segments of the fandom. The latest installment for Marvel Studios’ Phase 4, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, is a light-hearted show based on the events of its first episode, “A Normal Amount of Rage”. Focused more on how someone can navigate the world as a nascent superhero, She-Hulk ticks some of the boxes I look for in a show, specifically smart writing and excellent performances.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the first episode of, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law “A Normal Amount of Rage”.
First off, let’s get my main criticism out of the way. The CGI for She-Hulk (played with sarcastic charm by Tatiana Maslany) is still a bit wonky. It’s not nearly as bad as the first trailer that was released for the show but there are times that She-Hulk’s facial expressions go into the uncanny valley. The transformation effect is handled well, though, with Jennifer Walters shifting into her She-Hulk form smoothly. There was some silliness with wire-work in the fight between Titania and She-Hulk in the finale but that doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of that moment, for me at least.
Much of the first episode’s content is an extended flashback sequence, showing how Jennifer became She-Hulk. While riding with her cousin Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk), the pair have a car accident as a Saakarian spaceship blocks the road in front of them. Some of Bruce’s blood manages to get into a cut on Jennifer’s arm, transferring his gamma-infected blood into her body and triggering her first transformation. My favorite sequence in the opening of the episode is after Jennifer passes out and awakens in a bar (disheveled and clearly disoriented), a group of women see her in that state and immediately try to help her out, saying that whoever did this to her is not worth her time. It’s a simple scene, played for comic effect, but it’s just a nod that there are decent people in the world who will literally give over a make-shift wardrobe to someone they think is in a bad spot. The humanity shown by the group of women is something I found reaffirming and hopeful. The women in the bar don’t know Jennifer but they see a woman in distress and clearly in need of help, so they provide, while also offering commentary on the “relationship” she’s in that cause her to get to this point.
What follows is a long sequence where Bruce begins to explain what has happened to Jennifer and begin to train her on how to be a Hulk. Much like her comic book counterpart, Jennifer retains her intellect while transformed (something that irks Bruce since it took him over a decade to reach the point he’s at now with Smart Hulk). It’s quickly apparent that Jennifer has far greater control over her abilities than Bruce did shortly after his first transformation, something that annoys Bruce to no end. The tussle the pair of them have near the end when Jennifer decides to leave isn’t a knock-down fight but more like a squabble between a pair of siblings who are both right in their own way but also wrong in others. Jennifer clearly doesn’t want anything to do with being a superhero and rightly calls Bruce to task for the isolated and frankly trauma-filled life he’s had to endure as the Hulk. I found it refreshing for the writers to point out the obvious flaws in the superhero life, even if it does feel a bit hollow knowing that the show will feature more superhero moments as it goes on.
Jennifer’s statement on her greater amount of emotional control and the reasoning behind it (as a woman, she has to deal with far more rage-inducing situations on a daily basis than Bruce has had to deal with) is one of those monologues that are going to piss off a certain segment of the Marvel fandom. Much like Sam Wilson’s speech at the end of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, there’s going to be a vocal portion of the fandom that decries Jennifer’s comments about the daily travails and potential life-altering incidents women deal with as “woke” nonsense.
To the “fans” who want to make that complaint, I have this to say: shut up.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is not some woke, feminist screed. The majority of people who think that are the kinds of people Jennifer is referring to in that monologue: condescending men who think they have carte blanche to say whatever they want to women with little consequence. This show is not for them and that’s by design. This is a show produced by women, from a female perspective, and it’s for women. That doesn’t mean men can’t get enjoyment out of the show, which I did. But I have to recognize as a reviewer that I am not the target demographic for this show. Jennifer Walters is an every-woman character, someone who doesn’t desire the power and responsibility that comes with being a superhero but finds themselves in extraordinary circumstances. When Jennifer stands up to Bruce and calls him out on the projection he’s showing toward her, she’s hitting the bullseye with his attitude. It doesn’t make Bruce a bad guy for doing it but it does mean that She-Hulk is going to be a different type of hero from her cousin.
Overall, I found myself enjoying the first episode quite a bit. “A Normal Amount of Rage” isn’t perfect by any stretch but it is a damn good episode of TV, with a stand-out performance from Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo clearly having a ball working off her as Bruce Banner. Some of the upcoming events have already been spoiled by the trailer, such as the reappearance of Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil), which I’m looking forward to. I’m genuinely excited to see what She-Hulk: Attorney at Law brings to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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