The promise of Marvel television has mostly been undermined over the past two years. When WandaVision took off, it was due to its willingness to embrace the medium. Meanwhile, other series like Hawkeye and Falcon & The Winter Soldier felt like long movies. None of the shows have been outright failures, but a failure to differentiate them from the films has caused many viewers to tune out. For the first 20 minutes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, it feels like the MCU is doomed to repeat its mistakes. Yet the final minutes of our first episode creates a tonal shift that reverberates throughout the series. Suddenly, She-Hulk cashes in on its TV format and Tatiana Maslany’s considerable talent. In doing so, it paves the way for the funniest MCU property to date.
While traveling with her cousin Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Jennifer Walters (Maslany) becomes exposed to his Hulk DNA. Shortly after, she begins to transform into a Hulk herself. However, she’s put in too much time and effort to become a lawyer. Unwilling to lose her career to become a superhero, Jennifer must deal with the pressures of her career and personal life. This task is only made harder when a villain attacks her courtroom, exposing her secret to the world.
Maslany’s genuine joy and comedic timing give She-Hulk the engine the series needs. Without her performance at its center, exploring She-Hulk in this format would be far more cringe-inducing. Maslany, an Emmy winner for Orphan Black, perfectly shows her exasperation and frustration with the world’s attempts to hold her back. Yet she meets each new obstacle with her quick wit and brilliant legal mind. The series also puts in the effort to frame Jennifer as a legal scholar, not a person driven by personal feelings. In doing so, the series establishes an ethos that feels wholly unique from the rest of the MCU.
The writing team lays the groundwork for the series efficiently over the first two episodes. Some physical humor works its way into the story in the first pair of episodes as Jennifer gets used to her powerset. However, once the basic premise of the series has been established, the series takes off like a jetpack. It quickly becomes a joke-a-minute series, setting up strings of visual gags and wordplay humor. To its benefit, She-Hulk never shies away from making the joke at the expense of its characters, even when those characters are established MCU favorites. Most important of all, it gets weird, acknowledging the oddity of superpowered beings interacting with everyday people.
Unlike other shows in the MCU, She-Hulk features legitimate comedy. Maslany not only has comedic timing but the bevy of connected MCU actors show up to maximize their impact. With limited screentime, Tim Roth and Benedict Wong become highlight guest performers. Using their powers to comedic effect is much needed, especially after two episodes of set-up and exposition.
The CGI will certainly be a point of discussion, both for those looking to exalt and bring down the show. There’s some inconsistency, but for the most part, the series gets a handle on showcasing creature physicality. With some quick exposition, the series explains why characters swap between the various forms at will, which becomes a necessity for the future of the characters.
For the first time in a while, the MCU was willing to play to the television medium. While the budget of She-Hulk will certainly feel high compared to other comedies, Tatiana Maslany’s stellar performance makes it all worth it. With the ability to poke fun at itself and set up new comedic elements for the MCU (including Walter’s comic-based breaking the fourth wall), She-Hulk shines. It quickly earns its way toward the top tier of the Disney+ offerings and establishes a foundation for a long-running series.
Alan’s Rating – 8/10
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres on August 18, 2022, on Disney+. It will release new episodes weekly.