As a former Marvel fanatic and big supporter of anything Tatiana Maslany does, it hurts me to say this: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law just isn’t a good show.
It’s clunky, awkward and full of overladen dialogue about MCU MacGuffins and Corporate Feminism that just doesn’t find the right notes. I guess it’s just not easy being green.
We begin with a rather insulting assumption: that we won’t care about a courtroom drama/lawyer show unless we get some CGI-laden, superhero exposition first. As if a huge portion of TV watchers didn’t just spend six years of their life hooked to a complex courtroom drama/lawyer show. But off we go anyway. Now the entire first episode will be an exhaustive catch-up between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and our lead Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), talking about how great the previous MCU movies were and throwing out several dry one-liners that will only make sense if you’ve been consuming every entry as you’ve been told to.
Jennifer Walters is, of course, Bruce Banner’s (THE Hulk) cousin. ‘So, is hulking out genetic?’ we wonder, before wondering no more when a car crash causes Banner to bleed his radiation-infected blood onto Walters, which turns her into the She-Hulk. It’s important to note here that while Banner’s Hulk is, well, a hulk of a being – he’s gigantic, green and monstrous – the She-Hulk is somewhat more daintily proportioned, with curves in all the right places, toned limbs, and sporting a head full of long, flowing hair. Yup.
After running away in shock from the scene, Walters winds up (human again) in the bathroom of a dive bar. The corporate feminism tone of the show is thus set when several drunk women find her bruised and battered, and proceed to tell her how ‘strong and beautiful’ she is while applying make-up to her face and handing her a fresh pair of heels. Sorry, but adding in catchphrases from popular elements of feminism does not a feminist show make.
Enter the training montage. Jennifer Walters can’t just be a cool lawyer that sometimes turns into a big green angry lady: it has to make sense to the MCU fanboys and contain multiple references to other Marvel and Disney products (‘think of something emotional, like Bing Bong from Inside Out!’, ugh).
Walters gets hooked up to a hulk-inducing machine (built by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, of course) that will kill her if she doesn’t transform, and transform she does. The sequence is less spectacular display of VFX prowess than it is clunky and unnecessary. Knowing the story behind Marvel’s overworked and underpaid VFX artists is just salt in the wound.
Let me make it absolutely clear that when I say that She-Hulk moves like Jar-Jar Binks if he was a Barbie doll, this is not a gripe with Marvel’s VFX artists. I think they should absolutely be paid more and given more time to get their craft right, and treated with respect regardless. It is unfair to pin the problems of a multimillion dollar company on its incredibly stressed-out workers. Plus, I’d be willing to overlook the silliness of She-Hulk’s appearance if this was in any way an endearing show.
Tatiana Maslany is certainly trying her best to make it so. After playing a woman and her multiple clones in the addictively goofy and intriguing Orphan Black, I’ve been dying to see her in a high-profile show again. She is a serious talent who can pretty much do no wrong – and as Jennifer Walters, she is approaching a well-rounded and relatable character. But every time she transforms into the titular She-Hulk, it is hard to see her as anything more than a mo-cap suit.
She-Hulk certainly isn’t the worst Marvel has to offer, but given the current onslaught of comic book content I feel like these sorts of things have very much overstayed their welcome. It’s sad that this had to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, when Marvel hasn’t produced anything insightful or entertaining for some time now.
Certain audiences will interpret this review and others like it as confirmation of their ‘go woke and go broke’ bias: that is, the idea that if you incorporate progressive, culturally liberal and politically correct elements in your TV show, its ratings will bomb. I don’t believe in this idea at all, and I also don’t think She-Hulk is ‘woke’. It’s trying it’s darndest, but if it truly was woke, it would be a better show with something relevant to say.
She-Hulk is currently streaming on Disney+. The first episode is available to watch now with a paid subscription.