I won’t deny having been pretty critical of Marvel Studios’ latest Disney+ offerings, so it may come as a minor surprise to some that I’m going the opposite direction here with the debut of She-Hulk. It has nothing to do with the “woke” debate — which is the dumbest debate I’ve ever seen — but instead has everything to do with the fact that the showrunners really narrowed down why people love the She-Hulk comics and then doing exactly that with the show. If we’re being honest, that’s where I’ve ultimately landed as to why some of their shows struggle while their movies tend to be runaway successes. It’s because the writers sometimes abandon what makes the comic so beloved to focus on their own stories with the problem being that if your story isn’t good enough, it’s going to attract attention for all the wrong reasons.
She-Hulk immediately starts off playing to its strengths. It initially makes you believe the show is going to be one thing before Jen Walters, played by the magnificent Tatiana Maslany, breaks the fourth-wall to tell the viewers she’s fully aware the only thing they care about is her origin story and will indulge them so they can focus on the rest of the show. Breaking the fourth-wall is something Jen Walters was doing long before Deadpool made it chic and trendy. It’s great that the series is choosing to embrace this, especially with Deadpool 3 soon to release as an MCU flick. The way they handle it here is perfect because it acknowledges the fickle nature of viewers and origin stories within comic properties. It’s not a one-time break either, as Walters does it throughout the show and each time to greater and greater effects.
There’s something else this show does very well and I think it may go unstated in many of the reviews, but all of the conversation feels very natural. In fact, it feels perfect. I won’t spoil the after-credit scene for the show but it’s probably the most stark example of what I’m talking about with fans. Watch that scene and then try to tell me these two following facts aren’t true; fans already have conversations like this about fictional characters and; if these were real people, others would absolutely have these conversations about them while drinking in a bar. You’re not being force-fed anything here, it’s all very natural.
This isn’t me saying that the show is the most amazing thing Marvel Studios has ever put out. There are some noticeable flaws with the CGI and the look of She-Hulk but those have been beaten to death and aren’t worth repeating here. You’ll draw your own conclusions as to whether or not it bothers you. I wasn’t bothered by it at all. I grew up in the era of really bad CGI in superhero movies. Watch the end of Spawn and then get back to me about her bad CGI. It’s not high enough on my list to let it ruin my viewing buffet, but your mileage may vary.
The show also has some practical effects problems, too. The ever-hilarious Jameela Jamil even sided with fans about her character’s hair and the way it looks. Jamil, who makes her MCU debut at the very end of the episode as the street-level villain Titania, definitely has some odd looking hair, but we’re talking about superheroes here. The idea that some of these people would fight crime in the outfits they do in the comics is already ludicrous beyond belief, so the hair isn’t something I’m going to let ruin my day but it’s pretty funny that even Jamil thinks her hair looks awful in the show.
Of course, the biggest name on this episode was Mark Ruffalo returning as the loveable Bruce Banner, AKA The Hulk. Banner spends most of the episode “teaching” Walters how to be a Hulk, but the reason I put that in quotes is because the entire montage is actually a meta-commentary on how men really will take any chance they get to explain how something works to a woman, even if that woman can already do it better than them simply because her very existence requires these things of her. Her very real admission to Bruce about what it’s like to be a woman has really resonated with fans because of the truth behind it. It’s also brilliantly balanced against the “why don’t you smile more” comments received by Carol Danvers in her film, which was also meta commentary. Only this time we have Walters very emotionally stating that she sometimes is forced to interact with men because they really could kill her if she doesn’t play the game. It really is a painful and poignant way to relay to the audience what it’s like being a woman on a day-to-day basis.
It’s moments like that which serve to illustrate my point about the conversations all feeling very real and very natural. The relationship between Jen and Bruce is brilliantly played out over the different acts of the episode, culminating in a hilarious Hulk-on-Hulk battle that ends with them drinking and fixing the bar they destroyed. It hits all the highs and lows of being a Hulk and a woman in a short 30-minute span. Showrunner Jessica Gao really found a great formula for this show, so let’s hope that it continues over the course of the series. The self-awareness of the show and the showrunners seem to be a strength for both and that could be a recipe for success for She-Hulk.
New episodes air every Thursday on Disney+ for a total of ten episodes.
Kane Webb covers video games, comics, and film/tv for BSO and The Marvel Report. He also covers the USC Trojans for Athlon Sports. He is an entertainment journalist and you can follow him for more on Twitter: @FightOnTwist.