Season One Review – She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

She-Hulk

Overview

Directing Kat Coiro, Anu Valia

Producing Jessica Gao, Kat Coiro, Victoria Alonso, Kevin Feige

Writing Jessica Gao, Dana Schwartz, Cody Ziglar, Based on characters created by John Buscema and Stan Lee

Starring Tatiana Maslany, Ginger Gonzaga, Jameela Jamil, Steve Coulter, Tim Roth, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Josh Segarra, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong

Genre Action, Adventure Drama, Fantasy, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Comic Book

Platforms Disney+

Release Date August 18, 2022

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is an American television series executive produced by Jessica Gao for Disney+. Gao also serves as the series creator and head writer. Based on the comic book character published by Marvel Comics of the same name, Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany brings Jennifer Walters (aka The She-Hulk) to life on the small screen. This She-Hulk series serves as Disney+’s and Marvel Studios’ latest project to join its shared cinematic universe known as the MCU. The series stands out as it is one of the few projects that share continuity with Marvel Studios’ theatrical films by prominently showcasing characters from studio films such as Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, while also sharing continuity with Marvel’s Netflix-produced series.

At Disney’s D23 in 2019, the news of the development of a series for its streaming service centered around She-Hulk, the popular fourth wall-breaking cousin of Bruce Banner, was announced. After several attempted story pitches, including Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Shang-Chi, failed to capture the interest of the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige sought out Jessica Gao who impressed him with her taste in humor, quirks, and interest in She-Hulk’s character. Gao landed the role as showrunner and head writer after pitching an Ally McBeal meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe show featuring major characters from the films and Netflix series.

Disney+ ordered nine episodes of She-Hulk which premiered in the summer of 2022 and is included in Phase Four of the MCU. In the fall of 2020, as pre-production continued, Kat Coiro (whose credits include 2022’s feature film Marry Me and a host of episodes of various projects) was brought on as the lead director of the series. The casting of the series lead was a hot topic throughout geekdom and news sources.

The character of She-Hulk has been a fan favorite ever since her creation in 1980 by Marvel Comics Legend Stan Lee and John Buscema. Throughout 2020, rumors and speculation as to who would take on the MCU’s next big green monster ran rampant. In November 2020, Kevin Feige finally broke the news that fan favorite Tatiana Maslany would step into the larger-than-life heels of Marvel’s live-action She-Hulk. Maslany gained notoriety while starring in the cult classic sci-fi series Orphan Black. The announcement of her casting was welcome news for fans of the MCU.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiered on Disney+ on August 18, 2022, with its first episode gaining critical praise from audiences and critics alike. Maslany’s portrayal as both Jennifer Walters and her oversized counterpart She-Hulk received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Throughout its nine-episode run, She-Hulk’s reviews were mixed. Performances of the cast, from lead to supporting, generally received positive reviews; however, inconsistent pacing, an erratic story, and questionable visual effects received mostly mixed reactions from critics and audiences. By the end of its first season, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law achieved a favorable Rotten Tomato Critic score of 87%, yet a dismal audience score of 35%. Metacritic scored the season at 67 out of 100, while its users rated it a 2.4. IGN has scored the series a seven out of 10.

Unlike WandaVision, She-Hulk isn’t classified as a limited series. Kevin Feige has stated shows like Loki, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk could potentially have additional seasons developed. Loki season two is set to drop on Disney+ in the summer of 2023. Although Gao has a premise for a She-Hulk season two, no announcement for a sophomore season has been officially announced.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: In one episode demons are set loose from a Hell dimension through a portal and attack She-Hulk.

Violence: Some episodes consist of hand-to-hand combat where mild violence can be seen. No blood or gore is featured.

Language/Crude Humor:  Occasional curse words such as A**, D**k, and S**t are scattered throughout the series. Characters can be found joking and alluding to sex, drugs, and drinking.

Sexual Content: The lead character engages in physical intimacy with multiple partners throughout the series including kissing and lovemaking.

Drug/ Alcohol Use: A number of characters consume alcohol at a bar throughout the series. As She-Hulk, Jennifer and Bruce Banner’s Hulk consume gallons of alcohol leaving piles and piles of bottles on the floor. In her Jennifer form, she can be found intoxicated in multiple episodes.

Other Negative Themes: Many of the series’ male characters exhibit male chauvinistic traits.

Positive Themes: The series focuses on female equality, empowerment, and feminism. Jennifer rises up against a group of misogynists by taking back her feminine power in unconventional ways.

Story

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law follows Jennifer Walters, a young, ambitious lawyer who is proud of her accomplishments. Along with her best friend and legal aide Nikki Ramos (Kidding’s Ginger Gonzaga), she prepares for an upcoming case in Jennifer’s small office in the District Attorney’s office. Jennifer then begins to bring the audience up to speed by breaking the fourth wall and launching into a flashback.

In this extended flashback, Jennifer and her cousin, the MCU’s Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are driving while complaining about their family. Suddenly, a spaceship appears on the road, and Jennifer and Bruce drive off the road and tumble off a cliff. As they crawl out of the wreckage, Jennifer comes into contact with Banner’s blood, causing her to transform into a Hulk. After the accident, Bruce brings Jennifer to a secluded location in order to teach her how to manage her newfound power and become a superhero. Bruce utilizes the training methods he used to control the Hulk within him. However, he is astounded that Jennifer has the capability to remain herself while in Hulk form and can transform at will.

Jennifer is apprehensive about abandoning the life she has built for herself, and wants to return to her normal life. Against her cousin’s advice, Jennifer refuses to follow in Bruce’s footsteps and returns to her life as a lawyer. Back in the present, Jennifer is preparing to question a witness in court when Titania (The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil), a super-powered social media celebrity, bursts through the wall of the courtroom to attack the people in the court. In order to protect the jury and other bystanders, Jennifer reluctantly transforms into The She-Hulk for the first time in public and subdues Titania.

Jennifer is celebrated for her heroism. However, because of her actions in court, the case ends in a mistrial and she is subsequently fired from the DA’s office. Believing her career as a lawyer is over, Jennifer is approached by Holden Holliway (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’s Steve Coulter), a senior partner at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (GLK&H), and is offered a job as the head of their superhero division defending superpowered clients. She accepts, with the stipulation that she is able to remain in her She-Hulk form when on duty.

Jennifer now has a corner office and brings her best friend Nikki on board with her. Happy she did not have to abandon her career, Jennifer is assigned her first case in representing Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk’s Tim Roth). Jennifer reluctantly accepts and represents her cousin’s enemy for his parole hearing. Throughout the rest of the series, Jennifer tries to find a balance between her career, social life, navigating a male-dominated world, dating, and the responsibility of being The She-Hulk.

Review

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has had its fair share of mixed reviews; however, many have agreed the performances of its talent are outstanding. From its series lead to its supporting cast, every performance is fantastic. Ginger Gonzaga’s performance as Nikki, Jennifer’s loyal best friend, is refreshing and realistic. The chemistry between Gonzaga and Maslany is palpable and absolutely believable. Their relationship as best friends is easy to buy into and anchors this fantastical series in reality.

Along with Gonzaga, Renee Elise Goldsberry perfectly portrays a stoic contemporary professional rival to Maslany’s Jennifer, yet simultaneously aligns herself with Jennifer as a minority in a predominantly male-occupied field. Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth reprise their roles as Banner and Blonsky. Whether the direction of their characters is appreciated or not, their performances are entertaining. Ruffalo continues to shine in his Smart Hulk persona, and his chemistry with Jennifer as familiar cousins is convincing. The competitiveness between the two during their training scenes will be familiar to anyone who has had competitive competitions with siblings or cousins.

Roth’s portal as a subdued, self-actualized, zen version of the Abomination is the polar opposite of the power-hungry beast we were introduced to in 2008’s Incredible Hulk. Nevertheless, his performance is comedic, relatable, and instantly charming. By far, the series’ standout is Tatiana Maslany’s self-aware She-Hulk. One major factor that has led Marvel Studios’ success is its stellar casting, and Maslany’s casting as Jennifer Walters is the latest slam dunk. Maslany brings a realistic charm to the role. She successfully exhibits a strong, confident woman, yet conveys vulnerability and insecurity simultaneously. In any form, whether as Jennifer or She-Hulk, Maslany owns her role and is extremely likable.

Where She-Hulk: Attorney at Law loses its larger-than-life green footing is in its story and pacing. Although there are great ideas and concepts the series attempted to tackle, it stumbles in its execution. The series pilot did an excellent job of establishing Jennifer Walter’s character, her origin, her abilities, and the world around her. The rest of the show struggles with the momentum of its storytelling.

Many of the episodes were generally enjoyable; however, others feel detached and grind the story to a halt. The pacing of the series is inconsistent and jarring. It seems it suffers dramatically from its 30-minute episode run time. Not enough time is devoted to propelling the plot forward. There are some episodes that make the viewer feel as if nothing happened.

Its runtime can be contributed to the genre of the show. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was to be the MCU’s first true comedy series for Disney+. Unfortunately, the show produced few laughs. There are moments of amusement, but as a series marketed as an Ally McBeal legal comedy, She-Hulk falls short. Characters who otherwise would be interesting to follow are left for their arcs to become loose ends. Although the dialog of the series is written well and the situations characters find themselves in are compelling, there simply isn’t enough room to flesh these ideas out, which leaves the viewer with a sense of incompletion.

Marvel Studios and Disney+ invested a lot into the series. With an estimated budget of $30 million, Marvel set out to pull no punches. However, despite its lofty budget, She-Hulks producers may have bitten off more than they could chew. Early in its marketing campaign, the series received backlash from critics and fans after the release of its first trailer. Audiences were dissatisfied with the CGI and effects of the She-Hulk. This backlash lead to the studio re-releasing the trailer with updated visual effects.

Audiences wondered whether the visual effects would meet the standards we have all become accustomed to with Marvel projects. Unfortunately, the series’ visual effects were just as inconsistent as the show’s writing. The writing team attempted to hide Jennifer’s She-Hulk form as much as possible. Although more Maslany is not a terrible thing, people logged on to Diseny+ to see She-Hulk smash in the streets and in the courtroom. Sadly, we didn’t get enough of either.

There are episodes of the series where the She-Hulk character looks fantastic, specifically in the pilot episode where she shares the screen with Banner’s Hulk. This episode’s visual effects are on par with its cinematic counterparts. The skin texturing, lighting, and compositing work seamlessly together, allowing the viewer’s brain to believe these two green hulking creatures are occupying space and feel realistic. However, in the majority of the other episodes, often times the She-Hulk model looks stagnate, rubbery, and lifeless. When interacting with the real world, the model seems weightless and pasted into the scene. At times She-Hulk’s eyes feel soulless and often look as if she is staring into a void. In these instances, these visual imperfections can take a viewer out of the scene, instead drawing their focus on how weird She-Hulk looks rather than the story being told.

Conclusion

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a fine addition to Disney+’s line of Marvel series and the overall MCU. The show does not break any new ground, but it’s still fun to watch. Plagued with inconsistent storytelling and questionable visuals, the series is not the best Marvel has to offer. In spite of its mishaps and shortcomings, She-Hulk is enjoyable enough and worth a viewing.

The series may be more enjoyable for a Marvel or MCU fan rather than a casual viewer. The show does not succeed as an entryway into the MCU, nor will it entice new audiences into its universe. Unlike series such as Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power or HBO’s House of Dragons which have drawn new audiences into their worlds, She-Hulk is just another brick in the MCU’s wall and does not stand out.

Where She-Hulk fails the most is in its potential. Audiences were expecting so much more from this fan-favorite character, especially with such fantastic casting. Some episodes hit it out of the park, while others barely make it over the finish line. What is refreshing about the series is its fourth-wall-breaking and meta nature. The series is self-aware of its flaws and uses them as plot points. Though the series did not meet the expectations placed upon it, the series is not a total failure. In fact, it’s a good watch as long as expectations are tempered. What’s most disappointing is She-Hulk: Attorney at Law isn’t bad; it’s just okay.

The Bottom Line

 

If you are a fan of Marvel or the MCU, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law may be more enjoyable than if you were a casual viewer. Although the series lead is a Hulk, it is not the "next big thing"; just the "next ok thing."

 

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Noel Davila

Noel is a writer, performer, and Podcaster based out of the New York City area. With a background in acting, theater arts, years of stage and screen writing, composing and scoring utilizing his skills as a singer song writer, Noel looks to be an all around creator in the arts. Many of the films Noel has written have been selected and featured at a number of Film Festivals including The New York International Film Festival, The Hudson Valley Film Festival, The Art is Alive Film Festival, ect and have gone on to be nominated and awarded for multiple awards including "Best Comedy Short" ,"Best Of", "Best make up", ect. Noel continues to perform live original music all across New York City

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