Marvel’s output on Disney Plus has been something of a mixed bag. There have been more successes than failures, but fans just are not as enthusiastic about the shows as they are the movies. But in recent months, there has been some evidence that Marvel is starting to hit its stride. Ms. Marvel is my favorite MCU show so far, but having seen the first four episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, it might have some competition.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law revolves around Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), who, in addition to being a very talented lawyer, is Bruce Banner’s cousin.
While on a road trip with Bruce following the tragic events of Avengers: Endgame, the two are involved in an accident. Bruce’s blood touches an open wound on Jennifer’s body, and given her emotional state following the accident, she transforms into a Hulk.
Tatiana Maslany makes as strong an entrance as any newcomer to the MCU over the last two years. She seems to have a stronger grasp of her character from the outset than many other characters have after an entire season or a feature-length origin story. Watching her juggle her new life with her sudden transformation (both literal and figurative) into a superhero is incredibly compelling. After five years of starring in Orphan Black, Maslany knows how to sell playing multiple characters with conflicting objectives.
I was concerned when head writer Jessica Gao revealed that the show had taken inspiration from Fleabag — one of the best shows of the last decade. But Jennifer Walters manages to break the fourth wall without it feeling like a retread of Deadpool or Fleabag.
She has a sense of humor, but she’s in conversation with the audience, even in conflict with them at times. This is a key element of the character in the comics, and four episodes in, the creative team has sprinkled in just the right amount of it.
One of the more effective running gags is Walters’ growing frustration with the number of cameos throughout the season. She knows that having Bruce Banner and Wong pop up is driving viewership, but she also doesn’t want us to forget that this is her show.
As an MCU fan, the cameos were hard not to enjoy. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law gives some of the MCU’s best characters room to breathe. Bruce Banner, Jennifer’s cousin, is prominently featured in the early episodes, teaching her how to be a Hulk. Mark Ruffalo would not have spent the last decade making Marvel movies if he didn’t enjoy it, but it’s clear he’s having a blast playing off of Maslany in a big brother role.
Wong (Benedict Wong) became a more fully fleshed-out character in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but the actor reaches new comedic heights in his multi-episode arc in She-Hulk. Some of my favorite Marvel comic book moments involve characters unexpectedly popping up in arcs where you’d least expect them, and this show nails that element of the comics better than anything else Marvel Studios has produced to date.
The CGI Hulk in the room
Finally, for anyone concerned about the CGI following the rather rough first trailer, it’s good enough now to not be distracting. That’s not to say that She-Hulk is going to compete with an Avengers movie. Did anyone expect it to? Either way, it’s not going to blow you away, but the CGI is better than some of the less convincing scenes in Ms. Marvel.
No MCU show on Disney Plus has felt more immediately self-assured than She-Hulk. I’m not going to make any sweeping declarations having seen less than half of the season, especially considering how quickly Moon Knight fell apart. But I’m thrilled with the direction that Jessica Gao and director Kat Coiro have taken the character so far.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres on Disney Plus on Thursday, August 18. The season will consist of nine episodes, with the season finale streaming on October 13.
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