Have no fear, She-Hulk is finally here. The first episode of the long-awaited Disney+ series has finally been released. At only 37 minutes, the She-Hulk: Attorney At Law premiere episode delays the inevitable and delivers its (hopefully) coldest dish up front.
[Warning: spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney At Law episode 1 are below.]
She-Hulk‘s premiere – a change-up in the formula
The opening and closing scenes of the episode are by far the best, and I think it’s because they feel the most like Jen’s show. When we’re in her law offices and we’re in the court, we’re firmly in Jen’s world and see things from her point of view. We’re connecting with her more clearly.
But the majority of the episode makes the mistake of yanking that away and I think, in turn, yanking the focus away from Jen (Tatiana Maslany). The conflict is initially shown as though Jen will have to learn how to control and deal with her new “development” as a Hulk. But there’s an entire montage in the middle of the episode showing exactly why that’s not the real issue.
Maybe there’s something to be done by putting Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) into the focus, where his state as someone at peace with their situation contrasts with Jen’s inner conflict about it. Where he works as a real foil to her.
But as the episode is, all it really does is bring Bruce’s inner conflict to the forefront while he projects it onto Jen. There’s nothing to be said about Jen, or even really learn about her in the episode, except that she really wants to get back to her life and Bruce is preventing her from doing it.
The show’s creator and head writer Jessica Gao revealed in an interview with Variety that a lot of the premiere episode was actually intended to be episode 8. This is funny for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that Marvel nearly continued their formulaic streak, with the penultimate episode of each Disney Plus series being a backstory.
But it also makes a lot of sense when watching the episode. There isn’t a lot here for Jen, and it almost feels like they felt they NEEDED to get this part out of the way before they could get to the stuff they really wanted to get into.
She-Hulk’s “Feminist Agenda”
There’s been a lot of conversation about the way this show handles the perspective of the main female character before the show ever came out by critics who were given episodes ahead of time. It’s always strange to watch people get upset at the mere existence of a female main character, but it’s a little harrowing to watch critics indulge in such a ridiculous “critique” (but to even refer to it as such gives it an unearned sense of legitimacy).
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, of course, addresses female empowerment. It doesn’t do it with subtlety or finesse, but why should it have to? The first movie in the franchise about a rich millionaire with an inflated ego has a finale where he faces off with another millionaire with an inflated ego who is hoisted by his own petard, serving as a warning for the main character who immediately changes their ways.
The MCU has never been about subtlety or layers. The MCU is a story for children that appeals to adults as well, and if She-Hulk’s story of empowerment – rejecting her cousin’s testosterone-filled projection and her work colleague’s sexist slights – helps even one girl, woman, or person feel more confident in themself, I’d say they’ve done a fine job.
Diving into the uncanny valley
Ever since “Smart Hulk” was introduced in Avengers: Endgame, something has been off about him. I’m not sure the term “uncanny valley” even begins to cover it. Beyond how he looks, he just feels completely different from Bruce, and it almost feels like that issue has been replicated with the emergence of Jen as She-Hulk.
There’s still plenty of time for the show to flesh out the dynamic between the two forms, and maybe there’s even something thematically to say about the fact that they might feel or act differently, but as of now, it might just be an issue of sheer concept. I’m never fooled into believing that Hulk and She-Hulk are real people.
The big CGI monsters work when they’re just that: monsters. But injecting life and emotion and complexities into it was, I think, a bridge too far. To take a line from Jurassic Park – “The (creatives) were too preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
As of now, I’m unconvinced that there’s the budget – or even the technology – to execute something this ambitious convincingly. Every time the characters are in that form, I feel like there’s a wall between me and them, and I can do nothing but hope that wall disappears over the course of the series.
The promise of the episode’s end
The ending of the episode comes back around to Jen in her office, talking right to the camera, and telling us all about what happened. She once again insists that this is just a lawyer show and that no “hulking out” will be necessary. Before comedically arriving in court and finding that hulking out is imminently necessary.
This truly is the best moment of the episode and it gives me hope that the show can be better going forward. Not just the way that it (finally) presents the thesis of the show and Jen’s conflict, but also the way it shows the action – in quick flashy shots, posed like panels of a dynamic comic book.
There is clearly something within the concept that works. There are hundreds of comic books that say as much. But the show pushed it to the side to make way for a faux-premiere episode that postpones what the show really wants to be. You can really feel it busting at the seams to be something else. When it gets the opportunity to shine, I think it does, and I hope the remaining episodes can execute just as well.
New episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law premiere every Thursday on Disney Plus. What did you think of the first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law? Let us know in the comments or on social media!
If you want to learn more about She-Hulk, be sure to check out Vin’s 2-Part She-Hulk comics reading guide to get started!