Episode Analysis She-Hulk: Superhuman Law
She-Hulk's second episode continues the fun even if it doesn't delve too much into details.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for She-Hulk through episode 2 and all of the MCU. Read at your own risk.
She-Hulk: Superhuman Law was another fun episode. Though, I’m realizing as I type this, one which really doesn’t tie in to its title well. Like yeah, the concept of superhuman law came up, but not in a way where it specifically was the focus of the episode. Instead the ep was about Jennifer Walters (i.e. not She-Hulk) trying to figure out where she could go next in her life. Not that I can come up with a pity title to tie in with that (She-Hulk: Next Steps sounds more like the header of a PowerPoint slide than an episode of must stream TV) but still.
Anyway! Point being that as a half hour of a sitcom goes the ep was good. Not ground breaking (heh) but it didn’t have to be. There were a few things that made me scratch my head but nothing that’s a deal breaker. So let’s chat about all that.
She-Hulk: Superhuman Law
I told you I wasn’t great with titles. But in truth this section is about the episode as a whole. Because another offshoot of how She-Hulk is a series of half hour sitcom episodes is that there’s not too much to dig into with each ep. There’s stuff I like. There’s stuff I question but as yet there’s nothing that’s requiring me to pull out my bulletin board with the red string as I take you on a deep dive to why the cuts in the Dear Evan Hansen Waving Through A Window opener aren’t necessarily as bad as people say.
(I’m working on that. By which regular readers of the site knows means no, literally, that article is being worked on. I will never work on trying to so-called correct my need to pull out the bulletin board and the string and I will fire any therapist who says differently.)
I don’t mean to keep harping on the title of the ep, really I don’t, but my sudden epiphany that the title doesn’t work is clicking with another feeling I had last night which was that the story needed to be tightened up a titch. Like one of the things that made me go hmm - again, not a deal breaker, just a head scratcher - is that the premise of the show is that Jen is such a kick ass lawyer that she’s a better lawyer than she is a Hulk yet when she gets a new job she doesn’t read the fucking contract first?
Like I get that she was desperate - and props to, well, props and set design for the great way they established how far down the food chain Jen was going in desperate search for a job during that interview montage - but again: Lawyer! Supposedly a good one! Even if she doesn’t care about herself she doesn’t check the contract that Nikki has to sign too?
It’s not a deal breaker for the show but when you only have a half hour to work with these tiny beats say a lot. Same with how later on Jen doesn’t bother to read the form she’s asked to sign when she goes to see Emil Blonsky. We don’t need this to be the half hour of Jen reading legal documents out loud (though I would watch the shit out of that if Tatiana Maslany was doing it, I won’t lie). But even half a second of her looking like she at least skimmed that release for anything that stood out among the boilerplate would’ve been fine. Likewise Jen discovering that her new job required her to be She-Hulk all the time could’ve been a scene with her and Nikki before they both showed up for the first day of work (and Nikki already quit her old job under the assumption that Jen wasn’t going to immediately walk out the door of the thing keeping them both in food and rent money).
As with last week I don’t want to belabor the Bruce and Hulk of it all. But like I said last week if you’re going to keep including Bruce in this show (and I can’t stress how much you don’t need to do that once you’ve established how Jen became She-Hulk) then the more he shows up the more it stands out that his lack of backstory on why he has a Hulk is a big gaping hole. Superhuman Law does a great job of showing how Jen’s happy and functional home life helped shape who she is and why she can control her Hulk so well. But a continued silence on Bruce means the MCU is likewise continuing to present a Bruce Banner who’s got uncontrollable rage for no reason whatsoever. In other words, Bruce is kind of a dick.
Much like having Jen quickly skim the release, Bruce could’ve been handled with a single bit of dialogue in episode one. “It meant so much being able to stay with your family when we were kids. Especially, you know, considering how things were for me at home.” Boom, done! Keeps the abuse mention well in the safety zone of a PG-13 while still establishing it was there.
(Or, again, there’s the option to just not show Bruce! Jen’s got his blood! We’re fine! Bye now!)
As I say, though, these are simply head scratchers and not episode ruiners. I’m going to go out onto what I assume is a sparsely populated limb, here, and say that the VFX on the show aren’t deal breakers for me either. Do I wish more time had been spent making She-Hulk look like she was actually in that bar instead of superimposed onto the footage like she’s Jerry in a scene with Gene Kelly? Sure. I happily volunteer the effort that went into giving Bruce individual hairs making up his five o’clock shadow as tribute. But given the horrible conditions Marvel’s VFX people have to work under (which are only just being thought about being improved now, well after She-Hulk is in the can) I’m not going to sweat it. Also I’ll be honest, when you cut your teeth on reruns of Land of the Lost as a child the bar for believable FX in a TV show is not that high.
Things that did work for me include, of course, Tatiana Maslany who continues to feel at home in any situation Jen is in, be it tiredly dealing with family, hanging out with her best friend, or suddenly drunk when talking to her soon to be ex-boss. I think they’re also handling the fourth wall breaking pretty well. I like how Jen addresses the audience like we’re friends of hers and she’s keeping us in the loop. It’s not a painfully forced narrative device telling us things that would’ve been better shown not spoken.
It’s also great to see Tim Roth getting to flex his comedy chops again. For those who are used to seeing Tim in more action roles, it’s worth noting that he came out of the gate in the comedy world and he knows how to hit the rhythm of good dialogue or sit back and let his silent facial expressions play a supporting role to someone else’s monologue.
(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: The far superior Shakespeare comedy and the one that actually accomplishes what Shakespeare in Love swans about claiming it did and I WILL DIE ON THIS HILL.)
So yeah. Fun ep, looking forward to how things go next week.
As always, things that don’t fit anywhere else:
- Jessica Gao talks about the show’s sex positivity, female friendships, the challenge of capturing Tatiana’s amazing acting in CGI, and more in this interview.
- As a heads up, there’s going to be a mid credits sequence for every episode of the show.
- Turning the title of the show from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law to She-Hulk: Attorney for Hire was cute.
- I liked how Jen may be a Hulk but to her parents it’s just a way to get her to help out when she’s visiting.
- I continue to be confused as to why they made a point of saying an amazing part of being a Hulk is that you can drink as much as you want when we’ve yet to see this have any benefit for Jen. Yeah I get the whole gag of different metabolism when she switched at the bar, but when you make jokes like that you’re raising the question of what happens if She-Hulk downs an entire Sicilian pizza single handedly and then turns back into Jen? Like don’t bring up specifics if you don’t want the audience asking the obvious follow up questions.
- I’d love to hear from the costume department on what it’s like to figure out outfits that look like they plausibly fit on weetiny Tatiana Maslany yet can somehow also fit on giant She-Hulk. You could see some details in this ep, like how Jen’s suit is baggy and her coat hits way past her hips while as She-Hulk it’s form fitting half sleeves and shorts. Still, it takes planning and you know how much I love thoughtful costuming.
- I liked the LA Law vibes when Jen started her new job.
- I appreciate the “Why is there a giant statue of a man sticking out of the ocean?” throwaway gag.
- Yes, I noticed the possible Wolverine shout-out as well and I don’t care.
- Related, it fascinates me how much a certain segment of the audience for the Disney+ shows only engages with them for the possibility of what the shows might launch. WandaVision was only interesting to them because it might bring mutants to the MCU. Hawkeye because it might introduce Daredevil and Wilson Fisk. Ms Marvel again didn’t interest them except for when it did a mutant mention. And Loki, of course, because to some people that show has quality because of what the final episode sorta kinda implied even though subsequent movies about that very topic strangely never fucking mention it. AHEM.
- Anyway, point being that the thing people freaked out about with regards to this episode of She-Hulk is the throwaway moment of Bruce on a spaceship which could maybe sorta kinda imply World War Hulk as a future MCU storyline. And hey if that ever happens, great! For those who care about it! But in the meanwhile could we maybe engage with the actual shows that are being given to us? Maybe?
- Speaking of Hulk, it amuses me how some so called fans are bitching that She-Hulk nerfed him when the blame for that falls squarely on the Russos and Infinity War through Endgame. They’re the ones that turned Hulk into an ineffective fighter and Bruce into a buffoon, then made a version of Smart Hulk where having Bruce’s intelligence meant Hulk didn’t have the same physical strength. But of course She-Hulk has a female lead and female director and writers so of course it’s the one that ruined everything. (Eyeroll).
- Related, for those who pay attention to such things we had Jessica Gao in charge of the script and Kat Cioro in the director’s chair again.
- I appreciate that Jen’s lockscreen is Steve Rogers’s ass but this does raise the question of who took that photo and shared it with the world? (I wanna say Darcy Lewis. I know it probably wasn’t, but I want to say it all the same.)
And that’s all for this week! Catch you next week, same She-Hulk time, same She-Hulk channel.