TL;DR – Three episodes in, and She-Hulk shows that Disney+ and Marvel have finally nailed what it is to be a Marvel TV Show.
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ service that viewed this film.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
She-Hulk Attorney at Law Review –
In the transition to MCU projects on Disney+, one of the big issues that have popped up in the past is that the stories may have been there, but fitting those stories into the TV format might not have been as successful. TV is a very different beast from a feature film, and you have felt that they have struggled to make that leap at times. However, after these first three episodes, I think we can be confident that they have nailed it with She-Hulk.
So to set the scene, during Superhuman Law, Jen (Tatiana Maslany) struggled to find her place in the world after being fired by the DA’s office. However, she is given a new opportunity when she is offered a job by Holden Holliway (Steve Coulter) at the law firm GLK&H. the only issue is that her first client would be Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) or, as he is more commonly called, Abomination, the guy that once attacked her cousin Bruce (Mark Ruffalo). Knowing she had a strong case for parole, she took the job just moments before footage of Abomination having his cage match in Shang-Chi was leaked to the press. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
One of the ways you can stamp your voice in a project is by finding a particular style that works for you and that you can use to support your narrative. She-Hulk uses two very different stylistic methods in combination, and what we get is greater than what they could have been separately. The first is a very tried and true method of narrative construction with a procedural. When you turn on the tv, you will find it inundated with police/law procedurals, from the serious Law and Order with its distinctive sound byte that just when off in your head as you read this, to the more comedic with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and everything in between. The reason why they are so common is that they work on a narrative level.
This week, we see this method on show with the A-Plot around Jen trying to get Emil Blonsky on parole after his actions in The Incredible Hulk. While the B-Plot revolved around Augustus “Pug” Pugliese (Josh Segarra) going to trial for Dennis Bukowski (Drew Matthews), who was defrauded by almost $200,000 by Runa (Peg O’Keef), a shapeshifting Light Elf from New Asgard who is impersonating Megan Thee Stallion (Megan Thee Stallion). So yes, this might have a Marvel sprinkle put over the top, but the format gives the episode the structure it needs.
The second stylistic choice that the show nails is the use of breaking the 4th wall. Directly engaging with the audience can be a fraught thing that filmmakers usually avoid, where looking straight down the camera crosses an unspoken line. There are shows like Star Trek that constantly gave you the same sort of information as a 4th-wall break in their Captain’s Logs, but the one time Deep Space Nine did it straight down the camera, it was genre-defining or ruining, depending on who you ask. But when you ground your show in that style, it can allow you to frame the entire show as a dialogue between you and the fans.
This week we got two good examples of 4th-wall breaks, with the first being Jen reminding us that even though there has been a special guest star each week, she is still the main character. Which was funny in its own right, but in retrospect, it became even better given their surprise Megan Thee Stallion cameo at the end of the show. Also, when Jen, Pug, and Nikki Ramos (Ginger Gonzaga) were out for drinks, the A-Plot and the B-Plot interweaved, and I was remarking how nicely they pulled that off when Jen popped into the frame to comment on the same thing. This provoked a genuine laugh out loud from me, not just a smirk or a chuckle, but a laugh.
While these two stylistic choices help, they are also supported by a cast that knows what show they are in and are going for it, and also writers that know how this would impact the real world. They knew the show would get review bombed before it even got onto air [which happened], and they incorporated that into the show. They knew how a 24-hour news cycle in America would approach this issue, and they nailed that. While also understanding the different people watching a show like this who would get a kick out of Phase-Wong (Benedict Wong) continuing and dropping The Wrecking Crew on us with no warning. At the core of all of this is a complete understanding of who those characters are, which means you can go for 100km an hour in that mid-credit scene, and it works. Also, I am sure that the following exchange just jumped into my top-10 in the MCU: “oh, you are way more fun than my last lawyer”, “I would kill for you, Megan Thee Stallion”, “….Dial it back”.
In the end, do we recommend She-Hulk Attorney at Law: The People vs. Emil Blonsky? Absolutely. This show was an absolute blast from start to finish. I’m just looking forward to next week to see where the show will go from here and if we will get a new guest star each week.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of She-Hulk Attorney at Law
Directed by – Kat Coiro
Written by – Francesca Gailes & Jacqueline L. Gailes
Created by – Jessica Gao
Based On – She-Hulk by Stan Lee & John Buscema
Production/Distribution Companies – Marvel Studios & Disney+
Starring – Tatiana Maslany, Josh Segarra, Ginger Gonzaga, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Benedict Wong, Tim Roth & Megan Thee Stallion with Steve Coulter, Nick Gomez, Justin Eaton, Drew Matthews, Peg O’Keef, George Bryant, Jason Turner, Mahdi Cocci & Maliah Arrayah