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Lawyer show! Tatiana Maslany breaks the fourth wall & brings MCU connections in 'She-Hulk' series premiere
“What is the responsibility of those with power?”
Do you need a good lawyer? Don’t call Saul, call Jennifer Walters. The latest streaming show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here, and it is wastes no time in making connections galore while having a smashing good time. Welcome to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
Created for television by Jessica Gao, the series stars Tatiana Maslany (Emmy-winning star of Orphan Black) in the title role. The premiere functions as her origin story, letting us know exactly how Jennifer gained the Hulk abilities which derail her life as a lawyer. Can she find balance? Are her powers an obligation, or a duty? Are they a curse, or a gift? Who, truly, is her best friend? The premiere addresses all of these issues. Start that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Hulk out, because it's time for opening arguments, your honor.
**SPOILER WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead for Episode 1 of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. If you have not watched yet, then smash your way out of here.**
Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is a character who loves to break the fourth wall in the pages of Marvel Comics. The series wastes no time in adopting that technique, as Maslany delivers her first lines to camera: “What is the responsibility of those with power?” She’s not talking to us this time, she's practicing a speech for the courtroom; but the question lingers. Jennifer’s best friend Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga) teases her about Hulking out in court, but the only Hulking out that Jennifer is going to do is “in the legal sense.” As soon as Nikki is gone, Jennifer turns to the camera and talks to us for real.
“It’s true. I am a Hulk, and I’m guessing you’re not gonna be able to focus on this fun lawyer show until you know all about that,” she says. Time for us to get up to speed.
In this adaptation, Walters receives her Hulk powers after she gets into a car accident with her cousin, Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo charges back into the MCU, first appearing as Human Bruce thanks to an inhibitor device. The inhibitor is broken during the accident, and some of his blood mixes with Jennifer’s. She transforms and runs into the woods. After a rough time in a Sports Bar (and some catcalling from a trio of losers), we see Jennifer Hulk out for the first time.
Bruce finds her and takes her to his private hideaway in Mexico. Part resort/part lab, Banner built the place with the help of Tony Stark. It was here that he learned to fuse the two sides of himself into “Smart Hulk,” a title that he swears he did not give himself. He tells Jennifer that she has received a lethal dose of gamma radiation, but like him, her genetics allow her to synthesize it. In short, she can Hulk out too. He can’t fix it, and the inhibitor that he'd been using was a prototype. All he can do is teach her how to be a Hulk, which will take 15 years.
They discover that Jennifer doesn’t lose control when she turns; unlike Hulk, there is no alternate persona. She’s always Jennifer. Bruce warns her that the two biggest transformation triggers are anger and fear (not counting Bing Bong from Inside/Out), and Jennifer says those are “the baseline of any woman just existing.” She eventually asks Bruce’s help to teach her “how to Hulk” so they begin Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. There’s yoga mixed with other helpful tips, such as making sure all of her furniture is reinforced. Spandex is her best friend.
There’s some competitive boulder throwing (Bruce throws one into space, so he wins), some drinking (they can drink a lot and not get drunk... all buzz, no barf), and soon they are just brawling. Jennifer learns a different version of the famous Hulk thunderclap, and also learns that she can break the fourth wall and talk to us.
All she really wants is to go back to her life as a lawyer, but Bruce doesn’t think that is possible. As Hulks, they have to figure out how to live between what they want, and between what is. “Whether you like it or not, you’re now a superhero, and who’s gonna protect the world if it isn’t people like us?” Bruce says to her.
“Are you quoting a comic book right now?” she asks him in return. As far as Bruce is concerned, she does have a duty… and not just in terms of being a hero. Any small fit of anger that she has could cause mass destruction, but Jennifer has him on that one too.
Earlier in the episode, she shows that she can change in and out of She-Hulk mode at will. She all but laughs when Bruce keeps railing on about controlling her anger, because, she does it every day. Whether it’s over catcalling or condescension, if she shows anger she’ll be called emotional, difficult, or “might just literally get murdered.”
“I’m an expert at controlling my anger because I do it infinitely more than you,” she says. This is new ground for Bruce and his giant binder of how to be a Hulk. Having learned all she can, Jennifer soon drives off with best wishes from Bruce. He’ll be there if she needs him. She goes back to her life as a lawyer, makes sure that we’re all caught up, and then tells us that there hasn’t been a Hulk incident since leaving Bruce. “Lawyer show!”
In the courtroom, she’s beginning her closing argument when Titania (Jameela Jamil) smashes through the wall. Nikki encourages Jennifer to Hulk out, saying that it's her civic duty. Civic or no, Jennifer accepts her superhero duty. She transforms in the middle of the court and punches Titania out. After shifting back, she steps back into her shoes. With her suit in tatters, she says that she’s ready for her closing argument.
-The Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) now appears in the ever-evolving opening Marvel Studios banner.
-Jennifer eats Cheetos with chopsticks, much like Oscar Isaac (Moon Knight) does in real life.
-The spaceship that causes the car accident looks a lot like the Grandmaster’s party ship from Thor: Ragnarok, and that is because it is a “Sakaaran Class A Courier Craft.” Bruce is going to get to the bottom of why that showed up, perhaps we’ll learn more about it soon.
-Bruce lists off all of the different ways he’s changed back from being the Hulk over the years, mentioning falling out of a plane, getting knocked out by a robot, and getting stuck as the Hulk for over two years. He also mentions how Natasha Romanoff used to give him lullabies for a time, referencing Avengers: Age of Ultron. As Bruce says, “I don’t have a great explanation for it.”
-An Iron Man helmet is seen at one point, which makes sense because Tony Stark helped Bruce build his compound. It comes complete with a bar, which Bruce built while Tony sat around, drank, and complained about Steve. Tony and Bruce’s initials are carved into the bar, and Jennifer carves her initials there too before she leaves.
-For all of the complaining about the CGI in the trailers for the series, the finished product looks fantastic. The She-Hulk and Smart Hulk looks are effective, with Hulk possibly giving us the most realistic Mark Ruffalo expression yet when Smart Hulk’s glasses break during his fight with Jennifer.
-Mark Ruffalo himself is a constant delight in the series, playing every Hulk note in the binder. We get some insight into the character that we’ve never gotten before and it is most welcome.
-As great as Ruffalo is, this show belongs to Maslany. She’s one of the greatest actors working today, and the MCU is lucky to have her. We’ll say this a million times, we’ll say it until the sun burns out. The show wouldn’t work half as well as it does without her. From comedic to serious, from lawyer to superhero, Tatiana Maslany is the new Queen of Marvel.
-The ongoing discussion of Steve Rogers and his virginity is an easy highlight of the episode. Jennifer discusses it with Bruce early on, saying that she was pretty sure that Rogers never had sex. The post credits scene flashes back to more of this discussion happening at Bruce’s bar. Jennifer laments that he did so much for his country, but he never got to experience sex. “That ass did not deserve to die a virgin,” she says, referencing “America’s Ass.” Likely having had enough of this, Bruce tells her that Steve “lost his virginity in 1943 to a girl on the USO tour.”
-This leads to the last line of the episode, which happens to be our favorite. We cut away before we get more than a hint of the last word, but there’s no mistaking what is being said. Jennifer Walters raises her arms and shouts to the heavens, “CAPTAIN AMERICA F***S!”
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law tries new cases on Disney+ every Thursday. Lawyer show!
Looking for more sci-fi comedy? Check out SYFY's Resident Alien, which is rolling out new episodes every Wednesday and can be watched next-day on Peacock.