There’s been a lot of discourse about this show, some positive, but primarily vitriolic. Let’s address all the room’s elephants all at once: "She-Hulk" isn’t even remotely bad or offensive, it doesn’t deserve the constant review bombing it’s been getting since before it was even publicly available, the effects are fine for a TV show (and better than what was shown in trailers) and the comedy works. I know most aren’t going to agree with everything I said above. Marvel projects are a highly volatile subject matter, whether you come away with a negative opinion of them or not, but writing this show off as “woke garbage” before it could even begin its nine-episode run is ridiculous and asinine.
Sure, the series has moments and quotes that people will post on Twitter, either celebrating the series or tearing it down, but you can say the same for just about any series being produced by a major studio right now. Really, all it boils down to is studios trying to get brownie points from progressives and stir controversy with those who view any series with a non-white, non-male and/or non-straight lead (or supporting cast) as “wokeism”. Here’s a solution: watch what you like but don’t be pissed off that things you have no interest in exist and have fans; all the diversity in these shows and movies is performative by the studios anyway, so there’s no reason to feel one way or the other without falling into blatant homophobia, xenophobia, sexism or racism.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
"She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" follows Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), the cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), as she tries to navigate the legal landscape of the MCU while simultaneously being a recent, unplanned inductee into the very exclusive green-meanie (Hulk) club.
While some critics have been able to see the first four episodes of the series, I’ve only seen the first two, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have enough material to have thoughts on it. Both episodes are good in their own right, the first mostly serving to set up Walters’ origin story and the second seemingly getting us into what the rest of the series will be, a comedic legal procedural where she’ll have different superpowered clients each week.
While I enjoyed the first episode for what it is and really loved getting about a half hour of new Mark Ruffalo material, the second episode shines by comparison. The first feels very much like the MCU boilerplate, lacking a real style and having forced action for the sake of action. The second, on the other hand, feels much more like its own corner of the MCU, creating its own style and comedic sensibilities. Sure, it takes characters from the MCU’s past and brings them back, like Tim Roth’s Abomination returning for a real meaty role for the first time since 2008 (even though he cameoed briefly in Shang-Chi) and Charlie Cox’s Daredevil already confirmed to appear at some point in the series, but it somehow doesn’t just feel like another entry on the extensive Marvel release slate.
The driving force behind this feeling is the cast, which Maslany leads expertly. She’s fantastic in every scene, which is great because she’s in every single scene in the first two episodes. I can’t say I’m surprised by her performance because of her lauded role in Orphan Black, but it’s still great for the MCU (and the series by extension) to have such a great, confident lead who can nail the serious and the comedic.
The rest of the cast, outside of Ruffalo and Roth, haven’t been given a lot of time to form a real opinion on them. Despite this, the chemistry between Maslany and Ginger Gonzaga, who plays her best friend and paralegal partner Nikki, is palpable in the short scenes they share together. I’m sure Gonzaga will be given more time as the series progresses, but there’s not much to say about her outside of that right now.
One of the biggest points of contention with this series on social media has been its visual effects, which have been regularly clowned on since the first trailer premiered. The effects aren’t really an issue though. Sure, the screenshots floating around look pretty damning, but what you realize when watching the finished show on Disney+ is that the Twitter/YouTube compression, (usually) the low resolution and what, in hindsight, was unfinished VFX work did the series no favors. The actual series looks great, especially for being a TV project featuring multiple characters that are entirely computer generated. Yes, Ruffalo’s Hulk looks much better than Maslany’s, but the teams working on Marvel projects’ effects have had well over a decade to work on his character model and animations for film projects, while she’s brand new and on a TV budget; it makes sense for why there's a noticeable gap in quality between the two.
All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing where She-Hulk goes in its remaining seven episodes. We know a bit of what’s to come on the cameo side of things, but I’m more interested to see what the show can do when it’s not relying on hype and fan service to get its audience engaged. If the first two episodes are any sign of things to come, I think we may have a pretty good series on our hands, even if it doesn’t have the massive stakes other MCU series have had.