Marvel has certainly landed more hits than misses with its foray into the small screen on Disney Plus. From the genre-bending WandaVision to the gritty psychological thriller Moon Knight, these shows have changed viewer expectations of what the MCU can be. Now, as Phase 4 comes to an end with its last episodic series, She-Hulk is planning to push the superhero genre even further as their first all-out comedy – all in the guise of a half-hour legal drama.
Head writer Jennifer Gao explained her plan (opens in new tab) with the show was to lean into the conflict of a superpowered individual coming to terms with how their powers clash with their normal lives. Think less Thanos, and more about the perils of dating on Tinder when you’re six-foot-seven and green. The result is Jennifer Walters’ story of a hard-working lawyer, who just so happens to Hulk-out from time to time.
We first meet her mid-monologue on the responsibility of power (not quite quoting Spider-Man, but not far off) as she prepares to take to the floor for her latest case. However, it’s not long before we learn she’s not just a normal lawyer, as her colleague – and best pal – Nikki advises her to “Hulk out” if things don’t turn out as planned. In the first fourth-wall break of the MCU, Jennifer turns to the audience to explain just how she landed her powers.
We quickly learn that she ended up with her green visage thanks to an ill-fated road trip with her cousin, Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo). A rogue spaceship pulling out in front of their car caused the pair to roll and crash their vehicle. Both survive, but Bruce gets some of his blood on Jennifer’s open wound, turning her into the She-Hulk.
To teach her how to handle her newfound Hulk status, Bruce whisks Jennifer away to his Mexican hideout. He’s got a binder – and 13 years of trauma – to help him out. But, Jennifer isn’t like the Hulk. In fact, she doesn’t seem to have much of an issue at all with her new powers, much to Bruce’s amazement. The thing is, she explains, she’s already always angry as a woman thanks to the patriarchy (yes, She-Hulk isn’t the most subtle of shows – although you do appreciate what they’re trying to do).
The dynamic between Bruce and Jennifer in these scenes is really charming. Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo bounce off each other well. In particular, Orphan Black star Maslany puts in a stellar performance: you can’t help but automatically root for her. She’s so likable as soon as she’s on screen, while also effortlessly nailing the comedy, including some particularly great moments where she grapples with the foot-and-a-half difference between her Hulk height and her Jennifer height.