Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a bit of a polyphony of projects, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law continues that trend.
Similar to Phase 1, Phase 4 appears to be establishing new characters to replace legacy heroes who spent well over a decade saving the world. Unlike Phase 1, Phase 4 comes off an ambitious decade of storytelling that culminated beautifully in Avengers: Endgame, forging ahead with new and sometimes disjointed projects.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law follows suit with another new character and actress joining the famed cinematic universe. Furthermore, it continues the trend of releasing stories on Disney Plus as it is the eighth TV show of the phase to air on the streaming service.
So, how does it hold up? Is the titular She-Hulk arriving with a bang much like her male counterpart?
We’re in the early stages of the show at two episodes that have already aired on Disney Plus with nine episodes planned total.
Let’s break down the first two episodes.
Warning. This review may contain light spoilers.
Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) is a lawyer in Los Angeles working for the district attorney’s office. She is also the cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who is also the Incredible Hulk. The show takes place after Avengers: Endgame as Banner is still sporting his Smart Hulk persona.
In episode one called A Normal Amount of Rage, Banner and Walters are in the car one day when a spaceship causes a car wreck that leaves both injured. Walters accidently comes in contact with Banner’s blood, giving her similar abilities as the Hulk.
After Waters struggles to cope with the shift, Banner takes it upon himself to train Walters on her newfound powers in Mexico though she is reluctant to become a superhero. As she masters the powers, she returns to Los Angeles to continue her work as an attorney only to learn the choice is not an easy one to make.
In episode two, Superhuman Law, Walters faces the consequences of her choice to use her powers to save a jury during a recent court case. These consequences affect her career, family life, and social life.
As Walters grips with the lofty expectations, she begins work as a lawyer for superhumans, and her first client is Emil Blosky (Tim Roth), also known as Abomination. Blosky is seeking release from prison for his actions in Harlem during the 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk.
Walters makes a choice on whether she should represent someone who has a personal history with her cousin or not. The episode ends on a cliffhanger.
The first aspect of this show that stands out to me is the shorter runtime of each episode. The first episode clocked in at about 38 minutes while the second was closer to 30.
It’s a bit unique given that other MCU TV shows have been longer, but this shorter time fits the show. This is both a blessing and a curse as episodes felt quick, leaving me to want more.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law presents itself as a sitcom of sorts with Walters breaking the fourth wall numerous times.
The tone is subtle in its comedic chops, a bit of a departure from other MCU comedy projects such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. It reminds me of the same tone of sitcoms such as New Girl.
Maslany is fantastic in this role. Her comedic timing is great and she, so far, hits the desired tone of the character of Jennifer Walters.
I found myself enjoying her more when she was on her own rather than when she interacted with Ruffalo’s Banner. Maslany stands well on her own or interacts with characters in her world, but her interactions with Ruffalo don’t feel as organic.
That’s not to say Ruffalo is bad in this role, but there’s something missing, and I just can’t quite put my finger on it.
In terms of episodes, the pilot did a good job at establishing the character and contrasted Walters well against Banner. My only complaint is it felt a bit rushed in turning Walters into She-Hulk. I didn’t have enough time to appreciate Walters as a character before she was flung into balancing her two contrasting forms. Her training sessions with Banner were great, and it did deepen her character.
We did get a brief appearance of Titania (Jameela Jalil) in this episode, but her appearance was short with minimal dialogue, so it’s hard to judge the character yet. I would’ve liked to see her a bit more fleshed out.
The second episode was much more Walters-focused, and I loved it all the more for it. One thing the MCU has done well in recent years is showing the impact of super powers at a more personal level. That was on full display for Walters in this episode.
Without spoiling much, Walters learns quickly how people view her as not just a woman in the legal profession but also unfairly as a sideshow.
The return of Roth as Blosky was a welcome sight. This episode did a great job at making the 2008 The Incredible Hulk feel relevant again as there are several callbacks to it including a funny easter egg from Banner.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law does a good job at balancing its place in the overall MCU. There are a lot of verbal callbacks, including a spirited debate about Captain America’s virginity.
However, other than Ruffalo playing a big role in these first two episodes, She-Hulk largely stands separate, though that may change in future episodes.
One last point: the CGI used to turn Maslany green is a bit rough. It’s not awful but the juxtaposition of when she stands next to Banner in Hulk form is a bit jarring.
Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Episodes one and two were a great way to start a new series.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law hit a refreshing tone with Maslany shining in the star role. I was a big fan of the comedic tone and the sitcom format while it still hit the boxes for being a superhero show. It’s always a welcome sight when Marvel explores the nuances of having superpowers.
The show isn’t perfect. The CGI is a bit rough and Ruffalo’s performance was missing something.
Furthermore, the episode length is a mixed bag for me as I like the shorter format but the second episode in particular left me wanting more.
I’m always game when creators try something new, and I’m willing to look past the faults toward what I hope will be a fun adventure.