TV

‘She-Hulk: Attorney At Law’ Is The ‘Ally McBeal’ Of The MCU

Look, I get it, another entry in the MCU. I mean … they just keep coming. I do wonder if the onslaught of MCU stories is trying to make up time from the gap created by the pandemic. Though, whatever the reason is, it’s a lot. Which is why, initially, I wasn’t exactly stoked about She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. It’s weird: overall, I feel overwhelmed by the MCU. But on a case-by-case basis I do usually wind up enjoying each movie or series. Even Thor: Love and Thunder, which was polarizing, I found to be … fine. So, whether we like it or not, here comes She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. And, admittedly, because of everything I just said, I went into She-Hulk: Attorney at Law with kind of a bad attitude. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law won me over almost immediately. So far, at least through the first four episodes, it is a breath of fresh air. Also, it’s very funny.

(I’ve decided to get into some specific details of the series to make the case this show is something you will like. These aren’t the normal superhero-type spoilers – “there are three Spider-Mans!” – but more just some plot points that I found clever. Anyway, this is all “for your information.”)

Up front, Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer Walters tells us this is not a superhero show. I mean, she literally tells us because she often breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to us, the audience. (I do imagine, down the road, a future meeting with Deadpool as the two trade off breaking the fourth wall stories.) We are told this is a show about a lawyer. Okay, sure, it’s a lawyer who has the ability to turn into a Hulk, but, nevertheless, this is a show about a lawyer. So, yes, when the show starts, Jennifer already has She-Hulk powers, and she assumes we want to know how that happened, so we are given a flashback explaining all that, which involves her cousin, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is surprisingly meta for an MCU series. Outside of Deadpool (who hasn’t, officially, joined the MCU yet) this is the most self-aware entry into the MCU. Jennifer is quick to point out the show’s faults before the viewer even gets a chance to do so. After a third cameo from an MCU character we already knew, Jennifer swears to us this won’t be a show just about all the cameos every week, then starts listing all the cameos and realizes, well, maybe it is.

But at its heart, She-Hulk is a procedural lawyer show that owes a lot to Ally McBeal with the blend of law drama, comedy, and the frustrations of a woman trying to make it in a male-dominated field. And, on top of that, early in the first episode, she’s forced to reveal her powers during court in order to save some lives from Titania (Jameela Jamil) … which results in a mistrial; her being fired; the media dubbing her “She-Hulk,” which she hates; and all the bros of social media complaining that the new Hulk superhero is a woman. (“Um, I’m fine with a woman being a superhero, but why not just make someone new?,” was a personal, familiar, favorite.)

We meet her parents (finally, Mark Lynn Baker has joined the MCU), who seem happy with their daughter’s new powers because now she can do some tasks around the house. She tries dating, and no one seems to care much about Jessica, even when she explains she has superpowers, the men don’t seem to listen. She tries dating as She-Hulk, which gets her a lot of interest, but those people are not at all interested in Jennifer. Jennifer is not having a good time.

The structure of the episodes are interesting in that they do kind of follow a procedural. There’s the court case of the week – one of these involves a hack magician using trademarked sorcerer techniques, so Wong (Benedict Wong) sues – but then there’s the overarching case that spans multiple episodes. Jennifer is eventually hired at a white-shoe law firm to run the new superhero law division. And the first case she’s assigned is the release of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) from prison. You know, the guy who turned into Abomination in The Incredible Hulk and destroyed a good part of Harlem. This is interesting because from Blonky’s point of view, he was working for the government and thought he was on the side of good. He thought he was the hero. I won’t get into this further, but let’s just say Tim Roth looks like he’s having the time of his life in his return to the MCU after 14 years. (I asked him about all this a few months ago and, yes, he was surprised when they asked him back.)

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is coming at the right time for the MCU. Like I said earlier, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Look, I get it, every new MCU show we hear, “Hey this is completely different.” But, you know what? Love or hate Moon Knight, but is is different. Ms. Marvel and WandaVision are different. Though the problem is with a lot of these shows, the initial reviews are based on early episodes (like this one) and, by the end, even something like WandaVision kind of devolves into energy beam fights. (Ms. Marvel is the rare example of a show that got better as it went along.) Which is why I’m hoping She-Hulk just kind of maintains what it’s doing. Jennifer being a lawyer for superheroes opens up endless possibilities for cameos (sorry, Jennifer) and kooky storylines about the legal stuff that happens after we see the big battles. At one point Jennifer and her paralegal and best friend Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga) wonder if Avengers get paid or have benefits. Well, right there, that could be an episode: maybe an Avenger sues because he or she didn’t get health benefits? I’d watch that all day long. But it is setting up Titania as the “big bad” of the series, so I was a little wary of that. But there is a moment we think Titania is about to show up and challenge Jennifer to an all out battle … but, instead, she sues.

‘She-Hulk: Attorney At Law’ will begin streaming via Disney+ on August 18th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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